CEO of AirAsia Inc. Philippines and Chair of AirAsia Zest
What is the global impact of your work? Through my leadership, AirAsia is able to provide safe, low-cost, high value air transportation services to enable those on a limited budget to fly and explore other cultures.
What have you done to alleviate suffering in society? After super typhoon Haiyan, we ferried rescue workers, relief goods, survivors and stranded passengers on our humanitarian flights for free.
Most difficult workplace challenge as a Filipina woman and why: To aspire for the top position means you have to be aggressive and think and oftentimes act like a man…. And be prepared to suffer the consequences.
Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it? Most Filipinos are uncomfortable with confrontation. During one television interview where I relentlessly grilled an interviewee who I believed was a fake psychic, I thought I had done a great job, only to find out that audience reaction showed a great majority of callers thought I was rude and “un-Filipino”. I have since learned to punch with silken gloves and use a more polite tone even as I strive to remain frank and honest. The problem lies not in WHAT you say, but in HOW it is said.
Michelle Joyce Florendo
Founder & Principal, What if You Could LLC
Oakland, California, USA
The best part of being a Filipina woman leader is... Being able to join this fabulous group of Filipina women leaders that is Filipina Women's Network (FWN). I still remember the very first FWN Summit I attended: it felt like I was at a family party with kind, laughing, women who felt as close as aunties and cousins, yet every woman present had impressive professional accomplishments. Never before had my familial and professional worlds collided, but in FWN, I enjoyed a happy mix of both.
What is the most significant barrier to female leadership from your experience? I think the most significant barrier to female leadership is this silly notion of “women who have it all.” The problem I have with that phrase is that so many women stress themselves out trying to live up to someone else’s definition of “it.” I’ve had clients who burned themselves out trying to satisfy this expectation that success means you must maintain a high-powered, well-paying job, show your dedication to your kids by cooking dinner every night and handcrafting birthday party favors worthy of Pinterest, and somehow still find time for extended family, friends, and self-care. The point is, I’d like to see more women take time to define for themselves what having “it” all means for them, so that they can spend more of their time thriving in their own definition of success instead of striving for someone else’s. That’s part of why I do the work that I do, empowering clients to make good career decisions according to their own terms.