from by Flor G. Tarriela

“Is there a case for ‘Womenomics’ in ASEAN?”  Ma. Aurora “Boots” Garcia, Co-Chair of ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) asked at the PH-Australia Forum with the theme “Women’s Empowerment, The Next Driver of Success.” The Forum encourages collaboration between government, the business community and women entrepreneurs achieve women economic empowerment goals of ASEAN. It was a timely opportunity to reflect on gender equality.

ASEAN population/market is more than 600 million, a third of the world’s labor force and an economy with GDP of $2.4 trillion. Women account for 50.1 % of ASEAN population and 43% of the ASEAN workforce. Yet the women potential is not maximized.  “The ASEAN is not harnessing all its strength. Studies show that ASEAN stand to lose about 17%of GDP due to untapped women potential and persistent gender gaps in the labor force and entrepreneurship.”

Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Dr. Sharman Stone, (yes, Australia has a ministry specifically for Women and Girls) said that based on the McKinsey Global study, “If there is equal participation of men and women in the workforce, it will boost the GDP of the ASEAN economy by 30%.”  BTW, there are only 3 countries with this ministry: USA and Norway are the two other countries.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba says that women balance the yin and yang of a company with their instinct and logic. He says this is the “secret sauce of the company.” Boots says “Okay! NO more excuses… time to move forward.”

Chit Juan, co-chair of AWEN says that AWEN is connecting the power of ASEAN to the rest of the world. She says “when we are connected, we realize the true potential of women to contribute to family incomes.”

At the ASEAN Women Business Conference with the theme “ASEAN Women: Leading Change” held last Thursday, there were so many interesting topics and panelists:

Leaders Converge: ASEAN Women… Transforming, Leading Change

(Amb. Delia Albert, USEC Nora Terrado, Mr. Joey Concepcion, Ms. Dorothy Tembo, Intl Trade Center and Dr. Nagesh Kumar, UNESCAP)

The ASEAN Women Extraordinaire: Leading, Transforming, Innovating

(Dr. Wandee Juljarern, Solar Power Co.; Dr. Evelyn Taboada, San Carlos University; Ms. Mo HomLokhamieng, Rose Gold Mountain Trading; Ms. Helianti Hilman, JAVARA)

ASEAN Women Breaking the Glass Ceiling and Gender Pay Gap

(Ms. Ambe Tierro, Accenture Philippines; Lorraine Parkin, Grant Thornton Singapore; Julia King, Sapphire Group; Dr. Chonchanok Viravan, Pathanasomdoon Co. Ltd.)

Linking ASEAN through Trade and Inclusive Business

(Ms. Shuyin Tang, Patamar Capital; Ms. Seng Takakneary, SentoSaSilk and Ms. Win EiKhine, Maple Trading)

HE stands for Gender Equality

(Jonathan Yabut, JY Consultancy; Max Loh, Ernst & Young Singapore; Christopher Buono, UPS Philippines and Roman Militsyn, PMFTC )

The Case for Womenomics in ASEAN

(Richard Tan Kok Tong, Chair, ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW); Ms. Noni Sri Ayati Purnomo, Blue Bird; Clair Deevy, FaceBook and Armie Jarin-Bennett CNN Philippines)

The ASEAN Youth Disrupting for Change

(Ms. Sorita Koung, Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs; Raeesa Sya, OrkidCosmetics; Chan MyaeKhine, Amara Digital) among others.

Very refreshing were the millenials and the businesses they started, all arising from a need but with social impact. Siramsom Borisutsuwan was very concerned with Thai people going to parties and meeting accidents on the way home.  She founded “U-Drink, I Drive” which has resulted in less accidents.  This service has now expanded not only for drunken party goers but even for simply taking a day off from driving.

Esther Wang worked in a hospital and felt the fear of kids seeing the doctor.  She created a doll that a child can play (like give injections, dextrose), making them feel at ease thus removing the anxiety.  ING’s Zondy Garcia immediately bought a doll for her neighbor’s son who is sick.

UPS Philippines Managing Director Christopher Buono said that “people is the most powerful asset. The future of global economy and the future of global trade is the female.”

Some practical advice from the women leaders, to wit: Build influence. How?

  1. Increase your visibility. Learn to network. Build purposeful networks.
  2. Watch and learn from other women role models, how they behave.

Look for a good mentor.

  1. Use targets to drive change. If it’s not measured, it doesn’t count.
  2. Continuously improve yourself by training. Always try to learn something new.
  3. Be digital, the world is the market, so think BIG! And it’s gender neutral.
  4. Act and Execute on your idea and dream.

It looks like women empowerment is very visible in BSP.  Two out of three Deputy Governors are women: Chuch Fonacier for Supervision & Examination and CydTuano-Amador for Resource Management. With Governor Say Tetangco’s former chief of staff Edna de Villa, now an alternate Executive Director at IMF, the new chief of staff is another competent woman Jane Chiong. Winnie Santiago heads the Treasury, Lyn Javier is with Policy, Judith Sungsai and Lorna dela Cruz-Sombe of SES, Atty. Florabelle Santos-Madrid of AMLSG and Evie Medina-Navarro of Corporate Affairs.

Is gender equality intentionally practiced in BSP? The greatest tribute is what Gov. Nesting said: “They are there not because of gender affirmation action but because they have displayed outstanding competence.”


Ms. Flor Tarriela is the Chairman of Philippine National Bank and PNB Capital. She was formerly Undersecretary of Finance, former President of BAIPHIL and the First Filipina Vice President of Citibank N.A. She is a board member of FINEX, TSPI, and the Philippine Bible Society.

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