In the Philippines, women have long played a central role in nation-building. Perhaps unlike anywhere else in the world, the etymology of the Tagalog/Filipino bayani (“hero”) is traditionally rooted in the leadership and strength of women—uniting two words: bayan, meaning community or village, and babayi, a woman.
Today, women are leading the way in Philippine business, industry, and trade. In a global report surveying 4,812 businesses across thirty-two countries in 2020, the Philippines ranked highest in the number of women occupying senior management and top leadership positions—outranking the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, and France.
Here are five inspiring female business leaders from different Philippine industries paving the way for women everywhere.
Founder & CEO, Angkas (Transportation & Logistics)
With more than 4 million downloads, 27,000 accredited bikers, and an impressive 99.997% safety record, Angkas has rapidly emerged as the Philippines’ first and largest motorcycle ride-hailing platform. It’s also an innovative solution to the country’s massive traffic congestion problems.
Before she founded Angkas in 2016, CEO Angeline Tham worked as a banker for JP Morgan. It was her firsthand experience of Manila’s heavy traffic—getting stuck in a six-hour gridlock—that led her to establish Angkas.
Tham is no stranger to the tech industry, having launched sold.sg, one of Singapore’s top online auction platforms. A fan of video games, she also cofounded Gamers.PH in 2013—the Philippines’ first online marketplace for gamers offering bundle deals and bargain prices on video game titles and gear.
In the Philippines, motorcycles are synonymous with unregulated colorums, urban congestion, and vehicular accidents. Driven by her advocacy for motorcycle taxi safety and inclusive mobility, Tham is pushing for the legal recognition of motorcycles as public transportation vehicles in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Transportation.
By professionalizing the motorcycle taxi service, regulations can be further introduced to improve rider safety and job creation—in a country where more than 99% of motorcycle owners belong to low income households.
Cofounder & CEO, MFT Group of Companies (Finance & Investment)
A Filipina pioneer in venture capitalism, Mica Tan started trading stocks at the Philippine Stock Exchange when she was just thirteen years old. In 2009, at the age of nineteen, Tan cofounded The MFT Group, a private equity firm that operates in nine countries and eighteen cities worldwide with assets of approximately US$61 million as of March 2020.
With the help of Tan’s friends, family members, and mentors, The MFT Group began with purchase order financing for manufacturing companies before expanding into angel investing for start-ups. The firm distinguishes itself today as a strategic partner for long-standing businesses transitioning into Industry 4.0.
In April 2020, the firm collaborated with WTA Architecture and Design Studio and donated emergency quarantine facilities to three government hospitals through its healthcare arm, Mondial Medical Technologies, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.
Cofounder, The Moment Group (Food & Beverage)
Filipinos love to eat. Food holds an almost sacred place in every Filipino’s heart (and stomach), synonymous with the comforts of home, family, friends, and deep-seated cultural traditions. Its strong influence on the psyche is one that Abba Napa, cofounder of food and beverage operator and developer The Moment Group, knows well.
Despite growing up around her mother’s bakery and her father’s chain of restaurants, Napa wasn’t interested in the food business at first. Having cofounded the retail company that introduced famous Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas to Filipino consumers, Napa moved into food in what began as a passion project with friends in 2012.
Carrying wholly home-grown and distinct restaurant brands such as 8Cuts Burger Blends, Manam Comfort Filipino, and Ooma Bold Japanese, The Moment Group has grown into a company of 2,500 employees and twelve food brands. Its rapid rate of expansion reached an impressive pace of one restaurant opening every 45–56 days prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apart from a joint venture with award-winning Chinese restaurant Din Tai Fung, The Moment Group recently launched a cook-at-home line of food called Moment the Grocer and an in-house delivery website called momentfood.com.
Cofounder, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle (Sustainability & Social Entrepreneurship)
A woman of many talents, Jeannie Javelosa approaches business in the same multidisciplinary way that she lives her life: driven by passion and purpose. An advocate for sustainability, culture, and gender—as well as an award-winning artist, art critic, and author—Javelosa cofounded ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle in 2008 with two female business partners looking for eco-friendly and sustainably sourced natural products that also promoted local craftsmanship.
The first tri-concept store, market, and cafe in the Philippines built around the idea of green living and sustainability, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle offers eco-friendly and fair-trade natural products made by women and other marginalized communities. Organic raw ingredients, fruits, and vegetables are sourced from ECHOmarket Sustainable Farms to be served in ECHOcafe’s freshly cooked dishes.
Apart from being a regular newspaper columnist for the Philippine Star, Javelosa was also the Asia-Pacific finalist for the 2012 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award held in Paris, France.
Cofounder & CEO, eCompareMo.com (FinTech)
Born into a Filipino-Chinese family that owns the country’s largest manufacturing companies, Stephanie Chung was driven by the desire to help people manage their money better through financial literacy and inclusion. She cofounded C88 Financial Technologies—the parent company of eCompareMo.com, the Philippines’ largest online financial marketplace with more than 20 million customers served since 2014.
From personal, housing, business, and auto loans to health and travel insurance, eCompareMo.com offers 100% free online application with increased chances of approval. The website provides side-by-side comparisons of different products, rates, and features from more than fifty top banks and insurance companies.
An advocate for women’s empowerment, Chung is also a public speaker in industry forums and roundtable discussions on fintech, financial inclusion, and financial literacy.
With one-third of businesses in the Philippines run by women, research shows that the rising number of female entrepreneurs in the country has the potential to increase the rate of both paid and formal employment among Filipinas.
We can only hope for similar initiatives in other countries around the world!