APEC business leaders urged to help increase number of women entrepreneurs

Kathleen A. Martin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno has asked business leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies to “restructure” economic and business models to increase the number of women entrepreneurs.

Speaking at the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Women’s Luncheon on Saturday, Sereno stressed how women’s work values should be accepted as part of the norm and be rewarded with incentives.

“More flexibilities must be built in the way we do our economic models. Philippine labor laws for example are modeled on a very rigid, manufacturing type, hierarchical system of management,” Sereno said.

“Women, on the other hand, use relationships very intensely and want a team effort philosophy to govern the way businesses are run and present laws in our country do not sufficiently acknowledge that distinctive characteristic of many women-run businesses,” she added.

She stressed women leading businesses usually view their firms as an extension of their families or communities and thus, employ an “intuitive, consensual, and integrated” management style.

Such should be recognized and also be rewarded through incentives, Sereno said. Lawmakers should consider amendments to the Labor Code and even the Tax Code to take into consideration women’s work values, she said.

“We have to increase the incentives for businesses that are family-friendly to their own employees and therefore… substantive law must also respond,” Sereno said.

“We need to make the playing field more transparent, fair, predictable, with open information that is Internet-friendly and with simpler rules. We encourage incentives for networking that does not destroy family ties and willing heavily against corruption-tainted,” she added.

ABAC leaders, having the power to do so, should be able to address the glass ceilings still being felt by a lot of women in a number of societies, as the region still see few women rise in government and businesses, Sereno said.

The glass ceiling refers to an invisible barrier keeping women and members of the minorities from rising to power despite their qualifications.

However, Sereno said there also exists a glass cliff phenomenon, in which women have been preferred to solve and turn around businesses from going under.

Considering these two points even though they are only her “tentative theories,” Sereno said women’s style of management should be looked into and recognized by mainstream business literature as situations indicate women may even solve crises better in some situations.

“I think women can develop consensus more easily… because when can make the employees feel that the enterprise is a family and you’ll do anything you can to save your family,” Sereno said.

At the same time, women should also not be penalized if they choose non-economic goals over maximizing profits as these objectives support a long-term growth for the businesses.

“A woman business owner would prefer to forego maximizing profit in order to maintain a work-life balance because for the women, it is very clear that some non-economic goals are more important than maximizing profits such as being better in what she does, helping people, maintaining her family,” Sereno pointed out.

Sereno said business owners should not take it against a woman candidate applying for work the number of interruptions in her career because she had to take time off to care for her children, or care for an ailing family member.

“I think (ABAC) as a group is powerful enough that you can shake traditional norms of thinking, and start the out-of-the-box thinking so that we can have a fairer world where women’s unique abilities are firmly recognized for what they are: institution builders, business builders, consensus builders, problem solvers, crisis managers, while at the same time always being driven by the desire to help others, their communities, and most especially, their loved ones,” Sereno said.

The Philippines is this year’s host to the APEC summit and meetings held in Clark (Pampanga), Iloilo, Bataan, Boracay, Cebu, Davao, among others. The meetings culminate in an Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Nov. 18 to 19 which will be held in Manila.

APEC, whose members include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam, promotes sustainable growth and prosperity among its member economies.












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