Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Pinay Pride: Women in tech trailblaze digital Innovations

With women’s influence in decision-making being wielded across more platforms of power, the Philippines has made huge strides in this direction. The country ranked 2nd in the Asia-Pacific region and the 17th globally to close the gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report.  

In celebration of Women’s Month, industry executives shed light on how women’s game-changing roles in pushing for digital transformation have bolstered gender equality: Kimstore’s CEO Kim Lato (e-commerce); OFBank’s President Leila Martin (banking); Etiqa’s Head of Strategy and Transformation Gladys Pascual (insurance); and AdSpark’s CEO Gretchen Largoza (digital marketing). 

Q: How would you describe your leadership style? 

Kim: Affiliative, coaching, and democratic. We have two-way communication with managers and our rank and file.  They bring in ideas based on their real-time, firsthand experience and I share my plans with our kimmunity. Our office culture and environment is designed to breed leaders who inspire inclusivity and innovation.  

Leila: A leadership style that values the individuality of every team member within a working environment that embraces diversity and encourages inclusivity. I treat my team fairly and provide equal opportunities for career growth, regardless of gender, race, and social status. I recognize every member’s hard work and contributions to OFBank’s success. 

Gladys: Flexible and adaptive because I view each of my team members as unique. I invest time to know them personally, assess their styles and needs, and give them the appropriate guidance to help them succeed. I oversee high-performers, while I coach those who need closer supervision. As a leader, I subscribe to the principles of leading by example and productivity-based culture. 

Gretchen: Leading by example with a strong emphasis on the Participative Leadership style, I provide the team the opportunity to participate in the decision-making and give their suggestions. I only lay down clear-cut directions when needed by the leader and/or team. 

Q: How do you support women’s empowerment and gender equality in your field? 

Kim:  Many women who were interested in STEM as little girls were discouraged and boxed into choosing more “feminine” courses. Worse, some of them internalized this, and continue to regurgitate the falsehood that women don’t belong in tech. It’s important that we open channels and networks for mentoring. 

Leila: We promote a safe, fair workplace for all employees of all genders. Women receive an equal amount of pay for their work, and there is equal representation in management and executive roles. On top of implementing the standards for women’s working conditions and welfare, our company policies protect women from workplace harassment and invest in their growth through professional and personal development training. 

Gladys: I have always valued authenticity and diversity.  At work, I provide a “psychologically safe space” for my team to express ideas and opinions, regardless of gender identity and orientation. I take pride in the fact that I am 1 of only 3 women leaders in a male-dominated Management Committee and I celebrate that to encourage more women leaders to step up and aspire for leadership. 

Gretchen: Mentoring the women in our organization, and building a development program for all leaders, not just women, so that it’s not based on gender but on capabilities. Be a part of programs for women internally and externally and the example you want to see in the world. 

Q:  As a woman in a male-dominated industry, please share personal accomplishments that broke the glass ceiling for you. 

Kim: I have been breaking the bias since 2006 when I founded and established Kimstore.com as the CEO/President. We are both the first woman-led e-commerce company as well as a pioneer of e-commerce in the Philippines. 

Leila:  Becoming the first President and CEO of the OFBank, the official digital bank of the Philippine government. To be able to lead a financial institution and create pioneering digital banking solutions for Filipinos abroad is a success I celebrate with all Filipinas and women all over the world. 

Gladys: A few years back, I was assigned the daunting task of leading the set-up of a tech-heavy data warehouse project to integrate various legacy systems. Armed with 20+ years of CRM and marketing expertise, plus loads of business acumen, I led a cross-functional team of IT professionals, operations people, and statisticians to complete a major IT project in a Marketing role within record time and budget. I consider this the tech project that truly broke the glass ceiling for me. 

Gretchen: We have a data management platform and audience targeting companies/ventures inside our 917 Ventures portfolio where we are doing proof of concepts that’s pretty exciting because we are giving the market new platforms. 

Q:   What recent innovations that you’ve spearheaded in your company have put you on the tech map?

Kim: A very hands-on and excellent customer experience that sets us apart from other e-commerce companies. We’re planning to explore more omnichannel selling or automated customer experience design, chatbots, AI, and process automation in online selling and physical stores. 

Leila: Digital technologies that provide our clients with reliable and secure financial and investment products and services through their smartphones.  We have onboarded clients from a total of 116 countries and territories already and it is a privilege that we are able to reach out to Filipinos anytime, anywhere utilizing the digital platform that we have that allows our clients to do various banking transactions from account opening supported by artificial intelligence, to fund transfer via ACH, bills payment to more than 700 merchants/billers and even invest in peso and/or dollar-denominated government securities, all via their mobile phones.  Any of these transactions can be completed in 5 minutes or less providing the ease and convenience of digital banking. 

Gladys: A new portal that allows simpler, faster, and automated requisition of Letters of Guarantee (LOG) for our group medical insurance clients. This digital initiative allowed our customers to directly access our service without having to email us, download an app, or call the hotline. It has resulted in 91% customer satisfaction after only two months of pilot implementation. 

Gretchen: sparkED, our proprietary Training Program, helps us improve our craft and utilize our platforms like GCash and KMD to our advantage. We have and are adding Creatives and Online Media to our roster of Training. 

Q: Which aspect of tech-driven industries needs more advancement in gender equality?

Kim: The corporate culture that assigns certain jobs as “male” and “female” still exists. Technical aspects are automatically assigned to men, while communications and customer service are handed to women. We’re proud to have both men and women in those fields at Kimstore, but the reality is we worked hard for that because that’s an ingredient to our success. 

Leila: Workforce diversity, especially in executive or high-level positions, would be a good place to start. Stop propagating the idea that tech-driven industries are more suitable for males. We must also provide women training opportunities, actively recruit them in the workplace, and encourage a more women-friendly culture with an inclusive and collaborative working relationship. 

Gladys: While women’s participation in STEM education has been increasing, the gender gap remains high in employment. In ETIQA, we make sure that hiring is gender-agnostic and that one’s sex is not a barrier to employment and recognition, particularly in the Digital and Technology department. 

Gretchen: Across all tech-driven industries from ICT, Finance, Ad, Martech, Education, Ride-hailing, we need more role models paving the way and start tech education very young.

Kimstore’s CEO Kim Lato: “The misconception is that it's a requirement for women to act like men and be more masculine to succeed in business. In fact, that’s what we are trying to defeat.”  


OFBank’s President and CEO Leila Martin: “Creating a safe, balanced, and collaborative workplace for women is necessary for advancement because it stimulates a diverse exchange of ideas and leads to improvement in productivity.”

Etiqa Philippines’ Head of Strategy and Transformation Gladys Pascual: “Women in the workplace can show assertiveness and authority while celebrating their femininity/womanhood.”   

AdSpark’s CEO Gretchen Largoza: “Women are born problem solvers and have a great ability to multitask. It’s the integrated way of thinking and doing that we bring that is needed in every workplace.” 

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