Celebrating women who transform businesses and communities

Because when women rise, everyone benefits

By Ella Mangubat

Happy Women’s History Month! 

Across the world, we at Microsoft are holding a month-long celebration of women. Honoring and recognizing extraordinary individuals who are driving innovation and positive impact for their employees, customers, stakeholders, and communities.

In my role as a senior leader and customer success lead at Microsoft Philippines, I work closely with our customers and partners across the nation to help them maximize the capabilities of our technology. I am passionate about what I do, synergizing digital solutions and human ingenuity to solve real-world problems. It’s one of the reasons I joined Microsoft, because that belief in the role and responsibility of technology to be a force for good in today’s world is a driving force behind our organization. 

On a daily basis, I come face-to-face with innovators and leaders and work hand-in-hand with them to create solutions to drive lasting, impactful innovation. I consider myself blessed to so frequently collaborate with brilliant and extraordinary individuals, even more so because so many of them are women.

In this piece, I am privileged by the opportunity to tell their stories. Tales of inspiring, strong women who are using their platforms in society and the workplace to build a better world for those around them.

Cherrie Atilano, president and founding farmer of AGREA Philippines

Cherrie is the president and founding farmer of AGREA Philippines, an agri-business she started in 2014 to make the Philippines agriculturally sustainable. She describes herself as a radical optimist and a true believer that Filipino farmers are world-class.

“I started the Move Food Initiative (MFI) to connect farmers who lost their markets with people stuck at home in need of fresh and affordable food,” Cherrie said. “To reduce food waste, we also set up the AGREA Rescue Kitchen (ARK), where we convert excess produce into jams, pickles, and meals that we donate to homeless and poor people in Metro Manila.”

As a response to the Luzon-wide lockdown in March 2020, AGREA launched the MFI, an online ordering system that allows farmers to sell their produce directly to villages and households. To date, MFI has helped almost 30,000 farmers sell 200 netric tons of their produce to 78,000 households. The company also helped make meals for 4,600 frontliners and provided 1,000 grow kits to urban poor communities to start their gardens.  

She advised young women to know and own their why. “I believe that understanding your passion, reason for being, what keeps you alive, and sets your soul on fire is critical to achieving success and significance. Still, while dreaming of success is free; hustle, hard work, and courage are sold separately.”

Yoly Chua, head of Information Technology at Jollibee Foods Corporation

Yoly is the head of Business Technology for one of the nation’s most beloved brands, Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). She has held this position for the Philippines and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) since 2019, supporting the IT needs of 15,000 employees and 3,500 stores in 16 countries.

In early 2020, Yoly and her team enabled  JFC Philippines employees to work from home in a matter of days, despite almost 1,000 employees not having laptops ready. They also migrated the company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) landscape to the cloud to strengthen security and enable scalability.

“Our goal is simple. JFC Philippines will continue to bring the joy of eating to everyone, in whatever channel or mode of operations," she said. "Business technology will continue to enable the business to thrive and deliver, pandemic or not."

When asked for advice for career women, Yoly said: “Don’t wait to be 100 percent ready before taking on new challenges. Let your voice be heard, it can change the community you are in.” 

Shirin Hamid, chief information officer of Asian Development Bank (ADB)

As director general and CIO of the ADB, Shirin is responsible for the Bank's IT infrastructure, operations, and talents spanning across more than 30 countries. Prior to that, Shirin was the chief technology officer of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York from 2005 to 2016.

The bank implemented 50 new digital products in the last year. About half of these streamlined processes for various Bank operations such as loans, private equity, centralized reporting, and budget monitoring. The other half helped ADB employees stay productive in their remote work arrangements.

“In 2020, ADB was able to commit a US$29 billion COVID-19 assistance package to help address the urgent needs of the sick, the poor, and the vulnerable in the region,” said Shirin. “Our solid digital agenda strategy was instrumental in making the bank resilient and effective in delivering this assistance while working remotely.”

Her tip for future trailblazers? Aspire to inspire and always give back to your community. “Empowered women are said to be great at multitasking, versatile enough to take on additional responsibilities in various areas of our lives. We are also strong—like glue—holding families, organizations, and communities together.”

Fides Ricasa, chief partner officer of Microsoft Philippines

My colleague and friend, Fides is the chief partner officer of Microsoft Philippines. She also leads our Diversity & Inclusion and Accessibility (DI&A) initiatives.

Her favorite DI&A initiative is Codess, a community for female coders that promotes gender diversity. DigiGirlz, a program under Codess, introduces high school girls to possible career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Here in the Philippines, we just concluded DigiGirlz 2021: #STEMHERoes that ran every Saturday in March. 

“More organizations are taking their diversity and inclusion practices more seriously,” she said. “There are more equal opportunity roles and women getting hired for roles traditionally given to men. Nowadays, skills are given more weight.” 

Fides said women should be brave and negotiate. “If you know what you are worth and what you can contribute, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Whether what you get is higher or lower than a peer or what a man would’ve received doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable with what you’ve been given.” 

These are four stories among many, and you don’t have to look far to find more. Across nations, industries and communities, women everywhere are changing the world. Even at home, making households work while balancing careers and helping kids with their homework is nothing short of superhuman. 

We at Microsoft celebrate that strength and courage not just this month, but every day and every month after it. For Microsoft, women empowerment is more than just something we celebrate, it’s how we operate. 

Because when women rise, everyone benefits. And when it’s her, it’s all of us.