Holding up half the sky

GO NEGOSYO PILIPINAS ANGAT LAHAT! - Joey Concepcion - The Philippine Star

The phrase “women hold up half the sky” comes from a Chinese proverb which implies that women contribute equally to society and should be given equal opportunities and rights as men. Although it is commonly attributed to, and was popularized by, Mao Zedong to emphasize the importance of gender equality, it has become a common aphorism of women’s empowerment and a call for gender equality.

Women entrepreneurs have been breaking barriers and defying odds in the business world. Despite facing numerous challenges, such as limited access to funding and gender bias, women have been making remarkable strides and proving their worth as successful entrepreneurs. With their innovative ideas, determination and resilience, women entrepreneurs are contributing significantly to the global economy and inspiring future generations of women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

This is especially true of Filipina entrepreneurs. The Philippines is admittedly a matriarchal society. Filipino men generally defer to mothers, wives, even daughters, so it is no wonder we are a land of such strong-willed women.

But this does not mean that it has been easy for the Filipina to rise up the corporate ladder or successfully run a business. Consider that, for the longest time, equality, for women, meant that they had to go to work and come home to cook supper, look after the children and tidy up the house. It was equal work with unequal burden; such is the price of a society that relies so heavily on its womenfolk.

Successful women, especially those who had neither advantage nor privilege, must be celebrated. They had to overcome much, much more than their male peers, even in this day and age. To lift up women so they realize their potential, to bring up girls believing they are capable of being anything they aspire to be, translates to so many benefits to society. Because of its importance as a foundation of a prosperous and peaceful society, gender equality and women empowerment are among the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

For my part, in the 17 years that we’ve worked closely with MSMEs, I found that women make the most resourceful, creative and determined entrepreneurs. That’s why we make it a point, since early in Go Negosyo’s history, to always dedicate an event to honor women entrepreneurs. Two of our ongoing projects – the Women Summit and the Uplifting the IP Women of Davao – are dedicated to empowering women and giving them access to the necessary tools to become successful entrepreneurs.

Last Saturday, First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos joined other remarkable women leaders and entrepreneurs at our Women Summit. This would be the second time she would grace one of our events since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected to office. When she appeared in his stead at our KABAYAN 2022 event for OFWs, she was greeted with such enthusiasm that it was but a natural fit that she is to grace an event celebrating women achievers. As we all know, the First Lady is an accomplished lawyer and was part of a prestigious law firm before her now-historic role beside her husband.

It came as no surprise that the Ayala Malls Manila Bay was filled to the rafters, considering there are so many active and aspiring women entrepreneurs, as well as women who are leaders in the public and private sector.

The US embassy has been supportive of our endeavor, with no less than US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson joining Department of Trade and Industry Sec. Alfredo Pascual and Parañaque City Mayor Eric Olivarez in welcoming our guests.

We chose to adopt the theme “Celebrating Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs” this year as it is truly a celebration, considering how many accomplished women we were able to find to speak and inspire the women-led MSMEs who came to the event.

Among our speakers were women in tech, women championing social enterprises, beauty queens-turned-entrepreneurs, content creators, supermoms juggling celebrity and entrepreneurship, and even a mother-daughter duo who parlayed a family’s love of food into a well-loved restaurant chain.

As we have done in previous years, we gave out the Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurship Awards during the summit. The award is given to outstanding Filipina entrepreneurs who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made meaningful impact in their communities. More than 200 outstanding women entrepreneurs have already been given the award since its inception and this year, 15 more women will join their ranks.

The summit was also a sharing session. The women executives and entrepreneurs we invited shared their experiences, and some even presented successful business models that other women can venture into, inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs and leaders to pursue their dreams, build their businesses and make a positive impact on society.

In addition, we had close to 300 mentors who volunteered their time and knowledge to provide free mentoring to the almost 3,000 active and aspiring MSME women entrepreneurs who wish to grow their businesses.

Indeed, the sight of women helping other women is nothing short of inspiring. We must thank the heavens that we have them to hold up half the sky.

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