I am still a work in progress. I can consider myself successful when I see my children
contributing to society.
HOW does a top lady executive strike a balance between family and the highly demanding work of leading a major multi-national company?
“I’m no ‘super mom’ but I strive to maintain a very strict schedule in dividing my time as a career woman and a wife and mother,” was the straightforward answer of NEC Philippine president Agnes Gervacio.
“I never miss any of my daughter’s volleyball games and I still bring my young son to school,” she added with much deserved pride.
Gervacio is the first Filipino and the first woman to lead the NEC Manila Branch Office of Japan’s renowned telecommunications and Information Communication Technology (ICT) company. NEC Philippines employs some 7,500 staffers and workers across its manufacturing, software development, and sales and marketing offices in Cebu and Manila.
Indeed, Gervacio needs extra special skills to juggle her attention between corporate issues and family obligations. And impressively, according to friends and colleagues, she gracefully succeeds in both.
Nevertheless, the woman remains self-effacing, saying, “I am still a work in progress,” when asked if she personally considers herself as a success.
“I can consider myself successful when I see my children contributing to society,” she explained, revealing the depths of her family- and socially- centered mind.
This and more were the very interesting and inspiring ideas The Sunday Times Magazine gathered from one of the country’s corporate power women following her keynote speech at “Breaking Down Barriers,” the first of The Manila Times’ Women’s Circle series, gathering the crème dela crème of Philippine lady executives at the Marco Polo Ortigas Manila.
A woman of great strength, confidence and intelligence, Gervacio is also a woman blessed with humility as she gratefully acknowledges how she gets through her life’s many challenges with the love and help of those most important to her.
Mother and wife
Gervacio is a loving and disciplinary mother of the two and laughs as she describes herself as a “reasonably” conforming and cooperative wife.
“I am indeed fortunate that my daughter is now in law school besides forming her own volleyball venture with her friends,” Gervaco said of 24-year-old Angeline, nicknamed Dzi ( pronounced Zee) a 2013 Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Lady Eagles volleyball utility spiker, and formerly a member of the “Fab 5” with Ailysse Carol Nacachi, Fille Cainglet, Jem Ferrer and Gretchen Ho.
Meanwhile, she describes the ten year old boy Josh, as the joy of the family. “Witty and charming,” she says.
During the question and answer portion of the Women’s Circle forum, Gervacio was asked, “And how does a strong woman take care of a husband?”
Her off-the-cuff riposte had the audience in a mix of amused and envious giggles. “I am fortunate again. My husband is very good-looking.”
And indeed, a quick look at Gervacio’s Facebook photo gallery confirms the claim. Not is only is her husband Joey handsome, but he seems very personable too.
“Isn’t she worried other women may run after him?” another lady asked, joining in the fun.
“I’m fortunate yet again because my husband doesn’t have an ego,” she replied. Gervacio then searched the crowd and asked if Miss Universe Margie Moran was around. When she did not find the famed lady achiever, Gervacio struck a pose as if she were a beauty pageant candidate and declared herself first runner-up.
“He would have second thoughts about losing me,” she declared to a thunderous applause.
“I am a go-getter but my hubby is very relaxed,” Gervacio continued. “He enjoys watching me succeed and does not feel threatened at all.”
The lucky lady further shared that her chosen partner for life is a very understanding husband. She related one time when he was home sick, and she had to stay late at the office, he called her up not to ask her why she was still at work but if she has had her supper.
To top it all off, Gervacio’s husband shares in the household chores.
Woman on top
Gervacio is a graduate of Electronics and Communications Engineering degree from the Mapua Institute of Technology in Intramuros, Manila, a male-dominated school. She remembers male classmates relegating the writing tasks of group projects to her all the time.
“Kasi ikaw ang babae (because you are the girl),” they would often reason out.
“Bakit, komo ba babae eh hanggang sa pagsusulat na lang at assistant ang role namin (Do girls have to be relegated to the role of merely writing and assisting),” she would counter.
The culture of the male-dominated workforce in the Philippine setting, however, failed to stop this young lady from Cuenca, Batangas from pursuing her ascent to the top.
Diploma in hand, Gervacio became a programmer at the Eastern Telecoms Company and was asked to handle sales. She left the company a decade later, after a massive company downsizing. She had reached the position of vice-president for sales.
Moving forward, BayanTel hired her as head of national sales, which she handled for less than a year when Asia Global Crossing set up a Manila office where she won one of the coveted corporate awards.
With an impressive credential that spans 15 years of executive and sales management experience in the telecommunications field, it was no surprise when in February 2013, Gervacio was named president of NEC Philippines, Inc.
At that time, NEC Japan was looking for someone to take charge of their Philippine branch when Kiyofumi Kusaka was promoted to lead NEC Asia Pacific.
“I landed the position, and for me, it spoke volumes. To be the first Filipino at the helm, and a Filipina at that,” she beamed.
Gervacio is thrilled even more today as she continues to lead NEC Philippines through a new administration, which has promised changes in the political and economic arenas.
Gervacio is confident that NEC Philippines will be a part of the country’s transformation in the promised new economy of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, even as she says that her company is looking forward to expanding its products, services and coverage in the telecommunications field via a fresh inflow of tools and solutions.
“I am hopeful that we can help the economy as NEC is on a continued growth,” she added
In a later interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Gervacio urged President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to appoint more women in his cabinet because she believes that “when more women work, economies grow.”
“The key word here is contribution,” she explained, noting that when more women work, more women contribute to the socio-political and economic development of a nation.
“I hope Duterte succeeds in his governance with more women in the service,” she expressed, hinting that contribution and talent knows no gender.
Gervacio then quoted a report by the United Nations World Economic Forum citing the Philippines as 7th in ranking overall for Global Gender Equality in 2015, two notches higher than the 9th place it occupied in 2014.
“We have been consistently among the top 10 globally with regard to women empowerment and the number one in the Asia-Pacific region,” she said, noting that there are more women in the Philippines today who are legislators, senior officials, professionals and even women in ministerial positions.
According to Gervacio, the great equalizer and the key to breaking through the glass ceiling is education. She believes that improving women’s education contributes to higher gender diversity in corporate boardrooms, senior management realm and other high-ranking positions.
“I challenge more Filipina career women to join the ranks of CEOs and presidents in their respective companies,” she urged.
When asked about competition among empowered women, she dismisses the issue as a no-brainer.
“I don’t see my fellow women as a competition but as someone I can hold hands with,” Gervacio said with confidence.
As a matter of fact, she is active in coaching and mentoring fellow Filipina executives at the Filipina CEO Circle (FCC), an exclusive group founded by a group of women executives focused on inspiring, mentoring and empowering Filipino women in business to achieve the top leadership posts in their respective industries.
The FCC believes, as stated in its mission and vision, that “work-life balance may be a tough juggling act but perhaps what’s most important for the women of FCC is creating harmonious synergy between their roles as leaders, mothers, daughters and friends.”
Agnes Gervacio may indeed be the closest to perfecting that example of harmonious synergy.