Celebrating GREAT women
Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach recently crowned Miss Universe, the beauty of the Filipina has yet again been put in the international spotlight.

“I believe that the Filipina woman is not only beautiful outside but more so in the inner self, in their heart. They are compassionate, warm, endearing, hardworking, patient and God loving,” says entrepreneur Myrna Tang Yao, CEO of five corporations, including RichPrime Global Inc., the official distributor of another international beauty icon – the Barbie doll.

“Our company, being run by women, practices these characteristics not only through our employees but with our customers. We care for them like a true Filipina and we believe every child deserves a happy childhood, like a true mother,” says Myrna, who is also a women’s rights advocate.

The CEO adds, “Barbie is the only doll or possibly the only toy that is still popular after 57 years. It has evolved to become an aspiration of what you want to become – from being a career person of different nationalities, to fairy tale princesses and even women power.”

Through the years, Myrna has been part of the diversification of Barbie. “We already have a diverse doll selection, from fashionista to spy, and a Filipina doll which I created with (noted designer) Patis Tesoro in the 90s.” In 2012, a Filipino doll was also included in the brand’s Dolls of the World series.

Incidentally – and fittingly – Mattel introduced a limited edition Mutya Barbie in February 2015, a Filipina pageant queen, as part of its Global Glamour Collection. “Our country is known for the talent and beauty of the Filipina… it is very relevant to winning the Miss Universe because this was the concept when the Filipina Barbie was produced in 2015,” Myrna says.

Myrna also collaborated with Ballet Philippines – headed by former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo – for a series of Barbies dressed up by noted local designers. The one-of-a-kind collector’s item dolls were auctioned to benefit the dance scholarship program of Ballet Philippines.

Out of the dollhouse, Myrna entered the male-dominated world of commodities trading, working for her father’s copra business. She set up RichPrime Global with only 10 employees, and steadily grew the business to a toy empire, which now markets and distributes children’s toys, clothes and shoes from many of the top international brands. The company now has some 1,400 employees.

Even when she was just starting her business, it was Myrna’s dream to be able to help the underprivileged through her work. Now that she is a successful entrepreneur at the helm of numerous companies and organizations, she considers it her responsibility to be a mentor for other women entrepreneurs as well as an advocate for women’s rights.

“My responsibility is to mentor and guide upcoming entrepreneurs,” she says. “I admire Go Negosyo headed by Joey Concepcion III for spearheading entrepreneurship in different sectors, including the women and youth.”

A Go Negosyo mentor herself, Myrna says, “Successful entrepreneurs should embrace mentoring and sharing their experiences to guide other entrepreneurs to become successful. There are many young people with potential who are willing to be guided. Their success will benefit our economy and our people.”

Myrna is the founder and chairperson of three national women nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and also served as chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) for six years. She was instrumental in the enactment into law of the Magna Carta of Women, a law that protects women’s rights and aims to eliminate violence against women and ensure equal opportunities, among others.

For her work in both the field of business and women’s rights, Myrna received the International Entrepreneur Award from the Global Summit of Women, the Gold Prize Award for Women’s World Excellence and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2006, she was granted the Presidential Merit Award.

Beyond all the awards and recognition, Myrna says she is most inspired by “the children and the women of our country, especially my grandchildren, my daughters and employees.” They are what motivate her “to pursue our business and expand it, to develop and grow the business with them.”

In line with her advocacies, Yao launched The GREAT (Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of) Women Project under the PCW, in partnership with the Canadian government. The project aims to uplift the economic conditions of women on the local level by empowering women micro entrepreneurs with business skills and knowledge; increasing their participation in economic decision making in their areas; providing better work conditions, social protection and better income opportunities.

“I was a micro entrepreneur myself and grew to become a big enterprise. So I am confident that it is my responsibility to share my experiences in growing other micro entrepreneurs,” says Myrna.

In a book entitled The Gift of a Dream: The GREAT Women Project launched in September last year, Myrna shares her own journey as an entrepreneur, the inspiration behind the project and how the project has benefitted women entrepreneurs all over the country.

She says, “I wrote this book to continuously share my vision that our women cannot only think micro, but to show them how to become a medium enterprise, to even aspire to be a global enterprise.”

From the playground to a toy enterprise, it is important to keep on aiming higher. In the first chapter of her book entitled We are Born to Dream, Myrna writes: “All I knew then was, there had to be a way to empower women. Maybe I was being true to the meaning of my name, which is ‘beloved.’ I dreamed of being the ‘beloved’ Myrna who can reach out to women and inspire them to create their own vision.”

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