5 trailblazers, innovators and triggers of change embodying the spirit of Babaeyanihan

Published April 12, 2021, 9:03 AM

by Edgard Hilario

The Filipina leaders of today continue to redefine “leadership” in the workplaces of the various industries they belong to. Be it mobility, transportation, urban planning and development, the environment, public administration, information technology, or the arts, these inspiring Pinay movers and shakers agree that the only way to succeed is to build a sisterhood of women—putting “Babaeyanihan” in action.

Their competence, excellence, and confidence evidently show as the Philippines ranked in a list of 32 countries with the highest number of women executives holding senior management positions, according to a 2020 report by Grant Thornton. As we celebrate them this International Women’s Month, we pick their brilliant minds while understanding their perspective on women empowerment, striking the stigma around it, and underscoring the significance of a strong female support system.

The Shell Women’s Network leaders who generously shared their insights are (from L – R):
Rolyn Mae Tomarong, Non Fuels Retail Manager, Pilipinas Shell; Marvi Rebueno Trudeau, Deputy Executive Director & Director for Externally Funded Programs, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.; Sankie Simbulan, Country Social Performance and Social Investment Manager of Shell Philippines; Randee Latonio, NBS Business Development Advisor, Pilipinas Shell; Angel Castillo, Corporate Controller & Investor Relations Manager, Pilipinas Shell.

Striking the Stigma

Oftentimes, when people hear the words “women empowerment,” misconceptions arise such as putting men down or emasculating them, taking power from the other gender, or females positioned as unworthy superiors.

“People think that women want to be given preferential treatment—that is far from the truth. What we want is an equal playing field for women to compete in and be allowed to work in the careers that seem to be male-dominated,” shares Marvi Rebueno Trudeau, Deputy Executive Director and Director for Externally Funded Programs, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.

As women all over the world demand fairness in their professional careers or in their socio-political space, the Philippine scenario remains optimistic in this aspect as the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 mentions the country as the top Asian country in terms of closing the gender gap. This was measured through economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

In relation to this, Pilipinas Shell’s Non-Fuels Retail Manager Rolyn Mae Tomarong underscores that women empowerment is simply about “how women are given the opportunity and the environment to contribute significantly and positively to society, contribute to progress, and have the right to live meaningful lives as their own self-worth is regarded positively and promoted by the society.”

Forwarding the Lessons

The strong Filipina leaders’ journeys to the top position were characterized by highs and lows. The hardships and struggles that they have faced along the way are equivalent to life-long lessons they intend to share to younger females of today.  

Randee Latonio, Pilipinas Shell Nature Based Solutions Business Development Advisor, says that if she were ever given a chance to speak to her 20-year-old self, she would remind her alter ego that “your work is not your life. In an effort to become someone successful, we might tend to be fully consumed by work, forgetting other priorities in life such as family and health.” A good Filipina leader knows how to balance her professional career, outside-of-work activities, and personal life.

Pilipinas Shell’s Corporate Controller & Investor Relations Manager Angel Castillo, on the other hand, has learned through the years that one must not permit others to determine their weaknesses, strengths, and—as a result—their destiny. “One of the significant learnings I can share is to never allow anyone to dictate your limitations on what you can become but be open to accept and reflect on constructive criticisms. The possibility to develop yourself and achieve your aspirations is limitless if you put your heart and mind to it,” Castillo reiterates.

With the intent to leave a positive impact on the Filipino Millennials and Gen Z of today, these She-EO’s declare the ways on how they can galvanize the “Babaeyanihan” spirit among ladies belonging to the youngest generations.

The Significance of a Community

Meanwhile, Sankie Simbulan, Pilipinas Shell Country Social Performance and Social Investment Manager, underscores the importance of being a part of a women’s group since it serves as an avenue for sharing experiences, receiving encouragement, and even networking to support each other’s common or related goals. “I am part of the Shell Women’s Network which has been active in inviting inspiring women to talk about their journey to success and how they have overcome personal challenges. I am also part of the aerial dance arts community of women, who encourage each other to be fit and strong–regardless of age–while also exploring their artistry and creativity,” Simbulan, who began her aerial acrobatics dancing at age 40, shares.

Pilipinas Shell has been engaging women leaders and women’s groups to plan initiatives under the Babaeyanihan spirit. Its Shell Women’s Network currently supports women in the workplace, celebrating female leadership in an evolving, empowering platform that inspires women to enable other women to succeed.

As the stories of the ladies above show, women can rise to the occasion and lead, given enough encouragement, equipping, and peer-to-peer community bonding, upheld by a structure and system designed to bring out their gifts and mature them to positions of authority in the long run.