Women in technology is not an oxymoron.
Four successful and tech savvy Filipino women debunked the notion that women were less able to handle technology, just as stereotypes about women being less able to handle science, mathematics and engineering were far from accurate.
In a session during the recent World Fintech Festival, Pebbles Sy-Manalang, chief technology and operations officer of Mynt that operates GCash; Ces Rondario, Impact Hub’s Asia Pacific regional lead; Josephine Romero, Apptitude’s chief investment officer; and Rosanna Llenado, founder of AHEAD Education Technologies, indicated that the gender divide that specified what women and men could or could not do was arbitrary, even imaginary.
No boundaries Manalang said, just as she never thought she had limitations as a woman, millennials also did not feel there were boundaries they could not cross.
“I don’t think gender inequality is a big issue in the Philippines,” she said, as she pointed out that Filipino women had held leadership positions, including in government.
But she conceded there were still misconceptions about women’s roles that had to be corrected as early as possible. “There is the misconception, for instance, that women are not techie enough.” At Mynt, however, women were proving that even in technology they could succeed. Women just needed to overcome their own mental barriers, she said.
Rondario said she did not think there was any barrier to women going into technology. She pointed out that “millennials were (already) so immersed in technology” so “it is just a question of having mentors and role models.”
Given the opportunities and the encouragement, she said, Filipino women would rise to the challenge. Mentors and role models could provide the encouragement and inspiration for them to pursue that interest.
Role models Romero said she had “wonderful (women) role models” who were pioneers and were successful in the field of technology in the Philippines. “I was in IT (information technology) before it became a buzzword,” because of her role models, she said.
Llenado, who said “education is a great equalizer,” talked about how her school was starting children, including girls, young in technology. “E-learning is relevant” during a pandemic.
She said her school began the shift to e-learning in 2007 so it was ready to deal with virtual classes when the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic occurred.
Romero said “people should no longer think there is a gender divide” when it comes to occupations. “They should just do what they want to do.”
She stressed, “Mentorship is very important.” While some still talk about breaking the glass ceiling, that imaginary limit to how far women could go, Romero said that ceiling had already been broken in the Philippines in the 1980s.
She also encouraged women to be more assertive in establishing their identities. “Sometimes women are too quiet. They are not communicating properly so misconceptions arise.”
Mentors needed Rondario expressed confidence that “women can succeed in anything.” They just need people to advocate for, mentor and support them. “They need to know what’s possible and hear from others what they can do.”
Manalang echoed the need for women to have advocates. She encouraged other women to find time to mentor and guide their younger sisters on how to face challenges. “Sometimes, that’s all they need—someone they can talk to and (who will) encourage them and offer advice.”
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