Press Release
November 25, 2016

Sen. Grace Poe's speech at the Women in Business Breakfast Forum
organized by the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce
Makati Shangri-La Hotel
Nov. 25, 2016

Good morning, everyone.

Today, you have asked me to share with this select group my thoughts on women in leadership roles and influencing change.

It is often said that the 20th century is the "Century of the Woman." This is because in the last 100 years or so, so much has been achieved in the advancement of women's rights and gender equality than in any other period of history. Indeed, during the last 100 years, women secured our right to vote and to hold public office; the right to own property and equal compensation, but not always. The right to education; and the right to reproductive choice, and many more.

Women in the Philippines have steadily made inroads in sectors long considered the exclusive domain of men. Well, we had our first woman president. Today, our Vice President is a woman, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, our country's chief graft-buster--the Ombudsman--all of them are women.

At the Senate, I am one of six female senators. In our local governments there are many female governors, mayors and local leaders who are quietly working to improve the lives of people in their respective communities.

So in the Philippines, there is a considerable number of women participating in political institutions. Apparently, we are doing even better than New Zealand and Australia. I'm quite surprised that this year, in Australia for example, there are only two CEOs. And you are one of two. We are privileged to have you here. According to the recent studies of the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, the Philippines is closer to the top at no. 7, then New Zealand ranks no. 9 and Australia at no. 46.

But not everything is as rosy as it seems. According to the Philippine Commission of Women, though developments for women in Philippine politics have been promising, growth has been slow. And, the proportion of women and men in politics is still far from equal and I can tell you that even in the Senate. The Civil Service Commission estimates that the overall proportion of women to men holding top positions in the government is one is to two, in favor of men.

What obstacles prevent women from taking on bigger roles in politics and decision-making? These obstacles include gender stereotyping, multiple burdens. Women are expected to take care of domestic chores and discouraged.

In recent political events, we watched in dismay and anger as powerful male leaders uttered derogatory pronouncements objectifying and ridiculing women.

Just yesterday, during a Congressional investigation, a lot of the questions were geared towards voyeurism--national voyeurism as opposed to 'in aid of legislation.' And this is quite upsetting....We understand that a lot of things have to be investigated but I think that the details of certain personal affairs should not have been discussed.

...Women empowerment and gender equality would actually benefit society as a whole. When all members of society are productive and fulfilled, the community can only progress in leaps and bounds.

In the Philippine corporate sector, the number of women leaders is steadily rising, although business is still very much a male-dominated field today.

A recent research study (by KPMG R.G. Manabat and Co.) found that out of 770 corporations, only 68 are led by women. This means that only about 9% of the top 1,000 corporations in the country are led by women.

Still women are turning out to be very creative entrepreneurs. Who of you here today have tried GrabTaxi? The brains behind GrabTaxi, and now GrabCar, is a woman - a young lady named Natasha Bautista.

Who of you here today have tried online dating? Never mind. You don't have to admit it. Well, you may want to check out the dating site Peekawoo, which was started by a woman - Valenice Balace. Peekawoo is our local version of Tinder and its tagline is "online dating with an Asian twist."

GrabTaxi and Peekawoo provide solutions to two challenging problems encountered by single working women on a Friday night: how to find a taxi, and a suitable date.

I am a Lee Kuan Yew fellow, and I would like to share with you the findings of a paper produced by the Lee Kuan Yew Policy Center entitled "Rising to the Top: A Report on Women's Leadership in Asia." The paper discusses why corporations should appoint more women to leadership positions in the corporation.

It found that "companies with a significant number of top female managers not only perform better in terms of profit, but also in innovation." This is because:

Women tend to bring a skill set that promote better team work and office harmony such as empathy, flexibility, better communication and collaboration among co-workers;

Women tend to be more meticulous... and more "risk-averse" than men - women therefore then to be more prudent and they usually steer corporations away from excessive risk-taking behavior;

Women also contribute to social sensitivity and collective intelligence by bringing varying perspectives, opinions and expertise that would otherwise be absent in all-male management teams.

Another study, conducted by McKinsey and Company in 2007, reports that corporate firms with women occupying at least 30% of senior management positions regularly outperform firms with an all-male management team...

Relations between RP, New Zealand, Australia

Before closing I would like to point out that the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia have enjoyed a healthy trade relationship for the past decades.

For instance, in 2015, the total trade in goods between New Zealand and the Philippines, amounted to $766 million US dollars. Exports to the Philippines was $643 million, and imports from the Philippines $123 million. We need to fix the trade disparity.

Apparently, the Philippines is the sixth largest market of New Zealand dairy products. Today, more than 40,000 Filipinos live in New Zealand making them one of the largest ethnic groups in the country.

On the other hand, total trade between the Philippines and Australia was valued at $4.1 billion Australian dollars in 2014. Australia's top service exports to the Philippines in 2014 were education-related and personal travel while the Philippines' top service exports to Australia were professional and personal travel.

We have a long-standing relationship with Australia. In fact, 2016 is a special year because it marks 70 years of our bilateral relations. Today, there are about 250,000 Filipinos living in Australia.

Australia and New Zealand's trade relationship with the Philippines is supported by the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).

I think that beyond economic opportunities, our countries have much to gain and learn from each other. And it is my belief that if women lead the charge in furthering relations between our countries, we can come out with more agreements that will be fair and advantageous to both parties; one which will allow us to be genuine partners in development.

According to our economic managers, the Philippines has been growing rapidly over the past six years. Gross Domestic Product or GDP was averaging 6% growth per annum.

Sadly however, poverty has not been addressed as effectively. Poverty incidence among Filipinos in 2015 was estimated at 21.6 percent. Meaning, one out of every five Filipinos lived below the poverty line.

We need to provide more attention and effort to creating decent jobs, improving access to education and healthcare, increasing the productivity of farmers, investing in research, innovation, and technology.

...Business need not be a zero sum game. In fact, it has been found that economic inclusion is strongly associated with longer and stronger periods of growth. A vibrant economic environment will certainly benefit any business.


I believe women understand these concepts more. And I hope and pray that the women corporate leaders here today will take the initiative of investing in projects that will lead to inclusive growth in the Philippines. Creating transformational change in the lives of millions will certainly be a legacy you can be proud of.

Thank you very much and a good day to all!

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