By Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo
In March, employees at Lighthouse Indonesia held management meetings almost every day. The result was a surge of innovation, with the chain of weight management clinics producing 10 new products and services in five months.
“I spent 70% of my time doing business as usual; 20%… browsing, reading news, thinking of what to do next; 10% coming up with crazy ideas,” said Dr. Grace Judio-Kahl, Lighthouse Indonesia founder, during the Philippine launch of EndeavHER, a resource and networking platform for women entrepreneurs.
The pandemic also pushed businesses to evaluate their operations. “Some of the processes that we had put in before were moved to the side a little bit just to be able to move very agilely,” said Alexandria Gentry, co-founder and chief product officer of Sprout Solutions, a payroll and human resource solutions platform.
The Philippines has been constantly recognized by different institutions for its fair representation of women in the workplace. According to The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, women comprise 52% of business leaders and 58.2% of professional workers. However, factors like traditional expectations on responsibilities may cause women to put their careers aside.
“It’s always opened up a question in my mind with the decisions that women have to make. When you’re pregnant, you give up a chunk of your life. … Your work is part of your life. It’s what inspires you,” said Abetina Valenzuela, founder and president of Equilife Medical, a medical equipment and services company.
“My mom told me that, as a girl, it’s okay for me not to learn to cook, as long as I learned to make money,” said Dr. Judio-Kahl, who exemplifies how norms are changing.
Realizing the full potential of women entrepreneurs requires a strong support system. This includes mentors from their industries, even their partner, children, and friends. Talking about her husband, Dr. Judio-Kahl said: “He definitely knows that I cannot function well without work, so he supports me in that he just lets me do what I want to do.”
Companies can explore how to make their policies more inclusive for women beyond legal stipulations. Flexible work hours, for example, allow women to better balance their responsibilities.
“We have to be very conscious of what kind of environments we build for our organizations, because there are so many women who have to make these tough choices. If they’re not in certain positions, they can’t make these rules,” said Ms. Valenzuela.
The local launch of EndeavHER was organized by Endeavor Philippines, an organization that provides support for entrepreneurs.