They say women are a natural when it comes to multi-tasking. Judging from the hustle-and-bustle that went on in the area where key officers of the Women’s Business Council Philippines (WomenbizPH) were meeting to plan for their 3rd Women’s Business Summit, there is no doubt women are experts in managing multiple tasks. At the helm is the chairperson, Ma. Aurora “Boots” Geotina-Garcia. Indeed the excitement and the thorough planning contributed to the success of the recently concluded Summit which was held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City.
Garcia attributed their event’s success to the careful planning and dedication done by their members and key officers. She added that it was also the result of a great set of speakers that truly served as an inspiration among today’s modern Filipino women. The theme “Women Empowering Women: Enabling Success, Enabling the Future,” was quite timely, especially amidst the backdrop of the looming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration. In fact, the whole day activity included a special session on this topic. Garcia said that this is because they are the official private sector partner of the 2015 APEC Women and Economy Summit, and as such they need to highlight the need for businesses to be aware of the impact of the coming Asean integration for businesses in the Philippines and how to be prepared for it. “We try to do things which would respond to the needs of the women in business, which includes access to finance, access to markets, networking, and access to data and information,” Garcia explained.
The Women’s Business Council Philippines is an advocacy organization established in 1997 through the endorsement of then President Fidel Ramos and former Trade and Industry Secretary Ernesto Ordonez to provide a platform to hear about women’s issues in business. The Council was also mandated to provide and discuss possible policies that could be endorsed to government bodies to help women in general, through business-focused solutions. Garcia said that they are composed of the country’s top women business leaders and entrepreneurs who are of the same vision in actively looking for solutions to challenges women generally face in the course of their business.
In discussing about the constant challenges today’s women in business face, oftentimes, Garcia said that she draws from her own experiences in climbing the corporate ladder. An accountant by profession, she is an alumni and former partner of SGV & Company for 27 years. She is currently the president of CIBA Capital Philippines Inc., the Philippine affiliate of CBA-Asia, which is a regional multi-disciplinary professional services organization, providing business advisory and corporate finance services. She also sits on the board of the government-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and several of its affiliates since April 2011.
One of the key factors they consider in mentoring women she said is the involvement of the men in their events and activities, such as the recently concluded summit. “For women’s issues to be fully addressed, the men have to be also invited for them to understand why. We do invite men legislators, some from the Cabinet, in the hope that they understand where women are coming from, and would hopefully result in reforms or policy changes to improve the interests of women in business.”
Personally, she said that another issue that she would want to push is “procurement from women-owned businesses, starting with the government agencies.” Garcia explained this further by saying that government should consciously buy products from women vendors, which is currently one of the things promoted in the US by Fortune 500 companies. “For example, Accenture, Nestle and other big companies have a program to buy from women vendors in the US, and I’ve been talking to as many Cabinet secretaries as I can, especially the Department of Budget and Management and the Philippine Commission on Women.”
While there are still many challenges that today’s women have to hurdle, Garcia said that in general the environment and society especially here in the Philippines are now much more favorable to women in business and those in the corporate world. “I myself have been fortunate to have a supportive husband who did not have any issues about me having a career and raising three children at the same time. But when I go out to the provinces, I see that women there have less opportunity and they need to be more empowered. But my belief is until women are economically empowered, then they will continue to be battered, that’s why I chose my advocacy to be more on economic empowerment.” At the end of the day, Garcia said that she is only too happy that a good number of women continue to excel in their own fields, be it in business, corporate or even in public service. They serve as shining examples that women can achieve whatever they want, and be a co-equal partner in economic development at the same time.