MANILA, Philippines – For Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, the path to the vice presidency was not easy: She faces an election protest from a defeated candidate, plus harassment on social media and constant teasing by President Rodrigo Duterte.
But, Robredo told an international audience in Japan: “It is a great time for women to be alive.”
“In my country, the Philippines, in Japan, and all over the world, there has never been so much global recognition of the value of women than today,” Robredo said in her remarks at the opening ceremony of the Global Summit of Women in Tokyo, leading a delegation of 46 top Filipina government officials and businesswomen, mostly chief executive officers of major enterprises in the forum.
“When we watch the news, we see, among the world’s most powerful people, women who are making policies that empower the global economy, leading large corporations or changing the world through their work in development,” she added.
Robredo said women empowerment should be a mission for men and women alike – in all fields, including business.
Beyond “womenomics”, she stressed, accelerating access “is a timely and relevant discussion” amid the widening global gender gap.
“In many parts of the world, rape is still a method of warfare. Baby girls are still being killed. Women are still not being allowed to own land. Women are required to pay their dowry in full before they can divorce their husbands. Some women still cannot obtain education and are not allowed to drive,” she said.
“In my country, Filipino women are fortunate to live in an empowering ecosystem for women,” she said, adding that the Philippines is ranked 7th out of 145 countries in the global gender gap index. It is Asia-Pacific region’s highest ranked country and the only one to make it to the top 10.
Robredo said that Filipino women are in politics as senators, congresswomen, governors and mayors, and more than 37% of senior management and board decisions are held by women in the Philippines.
“But what is even more amazing about these powerful women is not their titles. Separate from their boardroom duties, they create movements that mentor women in their own small enterprises, support and refine laws for women empowerment, shine a spotlight at how women are paid and treated in the workplace, and ensure that the next generations of women and girls have better economic opportunities than those before them,” she said.
She cited the Philippine Women’s Network, a consortium of six women’s groups, which brings together leading private sector organizations in the Philippines to commit to gender equality goals and become role models in their fear.
In the international scene, Robredo said Tory Burch, namesake of the 3.5 billion dollar fashion empire, is an example of those who have not forgotten women at the bottom of the business chain.
Burch, she said, started a fellowship program in 2015 to help 10 women entrepreneurs with not more than 500,000 dollars in annual revenues to grow. She provided an education brand, an investment, and one year monitoring, among other things.