Lady Bosses Share Secrets on How to Thrive in Business and in Life

Let these women inspire you to take charge of your start-up and be the best you can be

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 16 Apr 2019

secrets of lady bosses

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

What is it like to be a woman entrepreneur in Southeast Asia?

“Southeast Asia is not too bad [for women entrepreneurs],” says Ria Lu, Executive Director of Game Development Association of the Philippines (GDAP). “Or even in East Asia. [In the] Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore—it’s not so bad. You can navigate [and are freer].”

The Philippines, according to various reports, is a country where it is relatively easier for women to have a career. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) says in a policy note that the country is doing well in gender equality in the workplace where more women take on higher-paying positions compared to men.

The country also climbed to eighth place as the most gender-equal country in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum. The report says that there has been improvement in economic participation and opportunity in the Philippines since wages increased for women’s estimated income, as well equal pay for similar work.

After the Philippines, which took top spot as the most gender-equal country in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh and Mongolia take numbers two and three, respectively. Bangladesh is 48th in the global ranking and has closed almost 72% of its overall gender gap. The country made specific advances in legislator, senior official and manager roles, as well as professional and technical roles. Lao PDR, ranks 26th globally, eliminated the gender gap in labor force participation for another year.

In the region’s gaming industry, Lu says it is easier for women to enter the male-dominated industry. “Unlike in the West, we don’t have problems like girls being paid less in the tech space than boys,” she says.

Along with Lu, three other women entrepreneurs and leaders in the creative field shared their tips and insights on how to thrive in business in a forum, “Asia Society Conversations: Turning Passion Into Action,” held in Manila last March. For these four women, here are ways entrepreneurs can debunk gender stereotypes and overcome challenges:

1. Women leaders can be perceived as terror bosses, but this can be changed

Just think of Meryl Streep’s iconic character, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, and immediately, there’s that notion that women bosses are impossible to deal with. Even women tend to shy away from their fellow females, and actually prefer male superiors. A Gallup study showed that even though both genders prefer a male boss, women have this preference more than men (39 percent compared to 26 percent).

Kakki Teodoro, owner of food business Diet Diva and professional theater actress, admits that women can be more emotional when dealing with subordinates.

“Sometimes, I also observe that with myself,” she says. “I feel myself getting angry at work or scolding one of my staff.”

Teodoro says that women can be better at controlling their tempers at work when they remind themselves that the cause of their negative feelings is due to a professional nature, and that reprimanding others can be done without getting personal. 

Another solution is by having employers make an effort to show talented women that they’re valued. This is because as Olga Khazan writes in her The Atlantic article, women who are optimistic when it comes to their career are less likely to pull each other down.

2. Beat burnout by going back to your purpose and asking for help

Leading your own start-up and being your own boss aren’t easy feats. Ice Idanan, award-winning director of indie films, took a break after making her first film. After that experience, she says that there was a time she just wanted to get married and become a housewife.

“You go back to why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for,” she says, referring to her craft. “I’m always inspired whenever I see people who appreciate my work.”

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, president and founding Partner of Rags2Riches, a fashion and design house empowering community artisans in the Philippines, had to beat burnout, as well. There were many challenging points in the 11 years of her business, but the most challenging was in 2016, when she gave birth to her son while the company was going through difficult times. This was the day she was running around the city and going to different banks to meet payroll; the next day, she gave birth. Right after delivering her son, she was back on her phone and scheduling meetings.

“It’s okay to take those breaks, but it’s also important to ask for help,” Fernandez-Ruiz shares on what she learned.

3. Sustain your enterprise by doing something you’re willing to fight for

Do what you love sounds like a cliché, but for these entrepreneurs, your cause must run deeper than that so that you can run your enterprise for a long time.

“Identify what you’re willing to fight for,” says Fernandez-Ruiz who has been running her enterprise for more than a decade, despite it having “near death experiences.”

“Doing what you love doesn’t mean you won’t work; in fact you’re going to work for it harder,” Fernandez-Ruiz says.   

For Idanan and Teodoro, it’s about working with issues that are close to their heart, and knowing what drives them.

“Eventually, you’re going to do it because you enjoy the creative process,” Teodoro says.


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