At almost the same time last year, I bought a book at a bookstore in Singapore entitled LEAN IN. I’m sure a lot of you have heard or even read this book, where Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, shares her struggles of being a woman in an industry dominated by men. I loved that book, simply because I could relate to most of the scenarios she had relayed. In the book, she encouraged women to support each other and help each other get to the top.
I often wondered after that how I can offer support to other women. The only way that I know how right now is through the workshops that we have that help these women to live their dreams. Just to share, 80%-90% of our workshops are attended by women. Manila Workshops’ aim is to help people achieve their dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and to pursue their passion, and i’m glad that there are more women who have decided to use their talents, their strengths and their skills to lead happy and successful lives.
When I was invited to speak at the S.T.E.A.M. Ahead in ASEAN: A Forum for Women and Technology, I wasn’t sure if I could talk in front of great women. I felt that I wasn’t worthy. What could I possibly say to help these women?
Thinking about the things that inspired me to push myself, I realized that it was because I heard stories from other women, and was inspired by them. So stomped over my fears and insecurities, and I said yes to sharing my own story.
I was in a panel of truly inspiring women to and most of these ladies I know have undergone heartaches and challenges in being a “woman in tech”. The tech startup world in the Philippines, much like Silicon Valley, is dominated by men. In Taxumo alone, I am the only female in a group of 5 founders. But you know what? I think we, ladies, are very much capable of starting our our business, leading a team, or studying and applying skills (like coding, flying planes, etc.) that were previously thought to be only for men.
As Atty. Kristine, our moderator, went through the questions, a lot of things were going on in mind, which I wanted to share. After the event, I wrote it down. I apologize that I only got to post it now. Here are some of my thoughts on the things mentioned:
Our generation is unique, born before and living through the 4th Industrial Revolution of digital automation and cloud computing. Can you recall a time before the internet? Before you started your tech companies? How was your work and company like?
Well, my first job was working for an advertising agency, so my perspective is from a marketing angle. Comparing how they do this today is definitely faster from how things are done today due to technology. Exchange of data is faster. Before we used to have to send huge files via CD or tapes if it were videos, since big data that huge can’t be transmitted via email alone. For huge files like Movie ads, I used to go to the movie house offices to submit tapes. To get client’s approval, I personally had to go to their office to show them the artwork and get approval. For market research, we literally had to talk to a lot of people just to get their feedback on things. A lot has changed. Now, with technology, large data can be transmitted real time. Feedback can be given to you via social media. These giant players like Google and Facebook can actually give you accurate data and statistics that can help your research.
Do you think there is a difference in the treatment of women in your workplace then? What are the challenges you faced? Do you have any stories of failure you can share?
I think a challenge is balancing time for family and balancing time for the business. It’s a daily struggle, but what I have learned in the 4 years of struggle is that we can do it. It’s about accepting that it is indeed a challenge, develop a system that would work and then work around that system that you because for sure, there will come a time that you will need to work around it.
What urged you to start your tech business?
The software that we developed is called Taxumo. Taxumo is an end-to-end software as a service that helps micro-small business owners, freelancers and professionals prepare, file and pay for their taxes. The reason why we created this is that I personally felt the pain of having deal with the process of filing taxes for my small business. It was so time consuming and I couldn’t concentrate on fixing and growing my business. A lot of my precious time was spent on taxation. And even if I had a freelance accountant during that time, it was still a tedious process for me AND my accountant. When we automated it locally (since my husband is an “IT” guy), we cut the time spent almost in half. This is what inspired us to continue this project and help the small business owner file the 16 forms that they need to pay every year.
How do you think technology acts as the great equalizer?
For me, technology acts as an equaliser in a way where opportunities are laid out where it can get to as many people as possible, where ideas can be shared and commented on and where resources are available to make your life easier. For example, for moms like me who would want to spend as much time as possible with their kids, they can do so now because of the available platforms that allow them to work from home. There are tools like Skype or Facebook Messenger that will help save you the time and effort of going to another place to meet with a client. There are more efficient ways to collaborate with a team using Google Drive, Trello, etc. All of these resources are available for us to us and we can use it in a way that would best compliment our lifestyle.
Does technology help in creating a gender neutral playing field?
It definitely helps in creating a neutral playing field. As I mentioned, all of these technology based tools, resources and information are now readily available to anyone. At the end of the day, it’s how a person uses and optimizes technology that would make the difference. It’s how one uses technology to compliment their own personal strengths that would make them succeed.
I think our greatest enemy, though, is still ourselves. We, women, need to stand up for what we believe in. We need to voice out our opinions and pursue our greatest dreams while letting go of our worst enemy — fear. We need to stick together and help one another. We need authenticity, empathy and love as we lean in and we push each other up to where we can be leaders in our fields and the light of our homes.