The Filipina Women's Network (FWN), a global community for empowered Filipinas, is changing the rules of the game. Their gameplan? "A Filipina woman leader in every sector of the global economy" by 2020. Sounds too radical?
Well, it is! That's actually the the point of it all -- for Filipinas to radically disrupt the system, to break the mold, to refuse to keep silent, and to claim the leadership roles that's rightfully ours.
To achieve this, FWN gathers, empowers, and recognizes 100 Filipina leaders, CEOs, visionaries, and movers from all over the world through their yearly FWN Global Summit. This time around, the city of Cebu hosted it and the four-day experience was nothing short of awesome. Governor Hilario Davide III even graciously received all of the FWN members and showcased the warm hospitality of the Cebuanos, their rich culture as well as the growing potential of their local industries and economy. The summit was packed with learning activities for everyone to build up on each other's strengths and experiences. For four days, I was surrounded by wonderful people, learning so much about owning my own story and identity as a Filipina leader, entrepreneur, and mother. Here are the top three things I learned and would like to share to our young Filipinas.
It's our time.
Filipinas are often stereotyped as docile nannies or blue collar laborers. In worst places or by worst people, sometimes, we are all branded as mail-order brides and sex slaves. My professor in college opened up this discourse by asking us to do a Google search of the word Filipina. To this day, top results still lead to online dating sites.
At the summit, global Filipina millionaires, CEOs, lawyers, top officials, artists, technopreneurs, teachers, and changemakers shared their successes in rejecting the negative generalizations about our gender and our race.
After meeting these women, it became easier for me to imagine a Filipino generation soaring above the global stage. If these women were able to do it, what's stopping us from pursuing our passion, perfecting our craft, or speaking out our minds?
Femtoring is a thing. No, it's a really big thing.
Susie Quesada, the president of FWN, briefly introduced Femtorship as this, "We changed Mentoring to Femtoring because why does it always have to start with the men."
If we move beyond the word play here, there's a bitter reality to it. Women are often pitted against each other. Do the terms 'Who wore it better', 'cat fights', b!tchslap, and even Taylor Swift ring a bell?
Perhaps this is one of the reasons most women prefer men as their mentors. What if it's not because there's a gender thing? What if women are just not used to the idea of asking an alpha-female for advice? No, not all strong women are catty that they'd claw your eyes out when you ask for help.
So, in Regina George's voice, let's start making "femtoring" happen. In fact, femtoring should happen.
During the speed femtoring we had, young girls came to us to ask questions about their careers and life choices. I was quite shocked to find out that we have the same insecurities and fears that hold us back.
Now, if this was called mentoring, I might have advised my femtee to not be overly sensitive. Why not? This was the advice I often receive from my dad, husband, and male collegues.
Since it was called femtoring, however, I told my femtee this: Be kinder to yourself and give yourself the space to grow and breathe. It was an advice I believe she needed. It was also an advice I needed for myself.
Lead like a girl.
Before the summit, I saw a commercial on how we could change our understanding of "running like a girl" or "playing like a girl."
After the FWN summit, I was convinced that I want to lead like a girl. It's simple. I've met from the group many who were soft-spoken but can command respect. There were those who chatted and laughed with everyone and still got the job done. Some confessed to crying when faced with an adversity but tears didn't stop them from overturning the challenge.
This is exactly what I want to teach my daughters. Our feminine qualities that most societies see as the opposite of becoming a leader are not the things we should change in ourselves. I learned from FWN that what we need to change is our willingness to accept that what the society thinks about us Filipina women is the only thing that we should think of ourselves.
The summit's theme was Influence. Accelerate. Action. As a Filipina, I've learned that you can only do this if you are fearless. Fearless to be you.
News story from The Rappler