Women leaders or women who aspire to be leaders should boldly go for what they want.
"Don't be afraid to take up space. You have a unique set of things to offer the world, so go and share those gifts," says Pia Arellano, who knows whereof she speaks. She is the president and CEO of credit reporting agency TransUnion Philippines.
To those who have succeeded in the world of work, Arellano's advice is to "lead by doing what you love. Find the things that bring you joy and go for them. You never know just who you will be inspiring along the way."
But do not forget to make time for yourself and your needs outside of work, she adds.
Arellano says the Philippines is full of talented women with ambition and competence to thrive in whatever field or career they choose. Many Filipino women with vision are actively innovating and pushing boundaries across various industries.
"I have no doubts in the capability of women in leadership. Women have faced more barriers keeping them from occupying the spaces [they] find themselves in now," she says.
All the women leaders she admires, according to Arellano, led with the ambition to innovate, but remained compassionate and kept people's best interests at heart.
"It is good to be ambitious and, at the same time, empathetic towards others. I believe empathy should be a core value for anyone who aspires for a leadership position because it acknowledges how each person is different," she adds.
For women aspiring to be leaders or managers, what should matter are skills, knowledge, areas of competency and exemplary behaviors that reflect the values of the organizations they work for, Arellano says.
TransUnion is focused on helping businesses and consumers "learn the best ways to utilize credit efficiently and intelligently." It has been providing support to help Filipinos manage personal finances for more than a decade.
TransUnion has been running Unconscious Bias Training sessions to raise awareness, promote everyday acts of inclusion at work and empower people to let go of biases, Arellano says. Globally, TransUnion has pledged to bring about gender parity in senior leadership by 2030. This increase in the number of women in leadership can inspire a future generation of women leaders.
In the Philippines, some 50 percent of managerial and leadership positions are already occupied by women. She herself, Arellano says, wants to inspire women to embrace the idea that they have every right to a seat at the table.
The COVID-19 pandemic strengthened TransUnion Philippines' efforts to create parity in the workplace. The company will continue the hybrid working setup adopted during the pandemic to give employees, both men and women, flexibility to work from home or the office.
Through the work it does, TransUnion is also dedicated to help women other than its employees by advancing financial inclusion, a critical requirement for women to move ahead.
The modern economy, Arellano points out, runs on credit mostly. TransUnion helps women navigate this new reality. "Whether it is financial inclusion or credit literacy, it is not merely about understanding credit, but wielding the power to access opportunities made possible by responsible lending, and on a greater scale, building a nation of well-informed citizens—women included—confidently making sound financial decisions."
Digital banking and e-wallet services have created more opportunities for greater financial inclusion in the country, which used to be a major challenge
TransUnion helps the process along by leveraging the power of alternative data, such as telecommunication data and other public information, to help ease the access of new-to-credit and thin-file consumers to the formal financial system.
Digital technology has also made it easier for banks and lenders to better understand an individual's creditworthiness, including those with little to no credit history. This helps bring more Filipinos into the formal financial system, especially those who live and work in the informal economy where most of their payments are cash-based, Arellano adds.
The company she says, makes trust possible by empowering banks and lenders to make informed decisions and, ultimately, enabling consumers to have access to credit opportunities and achieve their life aspirations, be it starting a new business, or pursuing an education, she points out.
The wall of bias against women must be torn down. Ambition and assertiveness should be promoted as positive traits for women.
"When it comes to the willingness of women leaders supporting other women, I'm all for empowerment. I myself am an educator at heart, passionate about empowering people and helping them unleash their potential. I believe in aligning people with their strengths, and providing them with opportunities and support to succeed … I do my best to create an environment that encourages people to speak up and speak out. It is one of the most important things leaders can do to support their people and recognize the value and commitment that they bring to work," she says.
Arellano says the private sector is not the only place where female leadership is on the rise. "Data from the Global Gender Gap Index show that women in ministerial positions doubled from 2006 to 2022. The challenge lies in continuing to develop spaces and opportunities where women can best use their skills and knowledge to succeed and possibly inspire more women to pursue positions of leadership."
But she is quick to add that while the number of women in leadership roles is rising, so much work remains to be done to fully close the gender gap in the country.
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