It is oftentimes said that while men work hard in the workplace, women have to work harder. For many, this statement maybe a debatable issue, but for Gina Lorenzana, the statement has little bearing. Women are natural multitaskers, she says, and are thus able to juggle tasks and have everything done at the same time, be it in the workplace or at home. She should know.
Lorenzana is vice president for the personal care division of global consumer brand Unilever. As the head of the largest division of Unilever Philippines, Lorenzana deals with the everyday issues today’s modern woman faces—from her family’s needs to how she presents herself to the world. Much of the company’s success, she says, lies in truly understanding who their market is, and the uniqueness of today’s Filipino consumers, as against their counterparts in other parts of the world.
Lorenzana describes Unilever Philippines as a “truly multilocal company.” Its vision of creating a better future everyday, she says, is a testament to how the company has evolved through the years, faced the challenges and emerged even stronger.
Unilever Philippines started as an oil milling business and was known then as the Philippine Refining Company (PRC). It was established in 1927, and had always been known as a manufacturing leader introducing new technologies into the country. It started with margarine production in the 1930s, which expanded into nonsoap detergents, shampoos and toothpastes. In the 1990s, the company started focusing on environment-friendly products and introduced the first 100-percent biodegradable detergent bar in the Philippines. During its peak the company produced nearly 100,000 tons of coconut oil annually. In the 1990s, the company officially changed its name to Unilever Philippines Inc.
Today, it is a leading manufacturer of laundry detergents and soaps, shampoos and hair conditioners, toothpastes, deodorants, skin care products, household cleaners, and toilet soaps. It also manufactures food and ice cream. Its roster of brands include Axe, Best Foods, Block & White, Breeze, Clear, CloseUp, Creamsilk, Domex, Dove, Eskinol, Master, Pepsodent, Pond’s, Knorr, Lady’s Choice, Lipton, Rexona, Selecta, Sunsilk, Surf, Tresemme and Vaseline. According to its official corporate documents, the company is also one of the top 20 taxpayers in the country, even as it employs over 1,800 people directly as well as provides for jobs for 10,000 more as distributors and suppliers. It is also one of the few companies in the industry that has succeeded in keeping majority of its manufacturing base in the Philippines.
To say that managing the number one personal care company in the country is a daunting task, is a huge understatement. Lorenzana knows this only too well, that is why she has become an expert in managing her schedule, so she can be on top of all the activities happening in her workplace, wherever she maybe. “I i usually check my emails at 7am to get a head start, understand the issues I need to tackle, and my meetings start by 8:30am.” Like most companies, she says they have also moved to a more agile work environment where they are able to work from anywhere because of technology. It also helps, she says, that she started with Unilever as her first job, as a marketing management trainee. Over the years, she developed a solid career in consumer marketing and strategy development, having worked her way up through various marketing roles.
Today, Lorenzana describes how their business in the Philippines has evolved.
“One of the great things about the Philippines is that the Filipino has a very open view about the world and that has enabled us to have high standards for ourselves, and that inspires me because as they have higher standards, they also look at ways to improve themselves.” One of the differences of the Philippine market, she points out, is that “she not only wants to be prettier and better, but the inner confidence that allows them to go for what they want or aspire for in life. This is different from other more developed markets, where beauty or hygiene is the end-all.”
Unilever, she says, has also developed more depth and social awareness into how they market their products, while at the same time contributing more help and giving back to the communities through sustainable programs such as their recent TeenWeek, which aimed to help develop 1 million teens to be more confident and future-ready through positive reinforcement, pushing them to be the best teens they can possibly be.
They also implemented a nationwide “sachet recovery program” to collect millions of sachets for recycling or reuse into construction materials. Lorenzana says to date, they have successfully collected 15 million sachets. Of these, 4.7 million were shredded and converted into 44,000 cement pavers and hollow blocks that now form pavements and pathways in 30 public elementary schools.
For Lorenzana, the challenge in being a female executive lies not so much in the workplace alone, but in balancing career and family. But nowadays, there is a growing number of female executives who are successful in doing so. According to the World Economic Forum, women in the Philippines rank among the highest in the world for their participation in the economy and politics. If anything, this is certainly one of the best signs that women in the country are stepping up to the challenge, and winning the game.