Women empowerment | Leonie Garcia

Women, by nature, are vulnerable. But behind this seemingly fragile framework hides a force that emerges as the need arises. During the pandemic, more women have taken on the burden of care at home while doing their part financially to support the family.

The pandemic and school closures have added to the already heavy burden of domestic work for women, affecting their mental and physical health. Women are losing their livelihoods as they are overrepresented in the sectors and jobs hardest hit by COVID-19. The International Labor Organization and UN Women said 41% of women work in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic – hospitality, real estate, business, manufacturing and retail.

UN Women also revealed that women’s mental health has also suffered. 57% of women have been reported to suffer from stress and anxiety, compared to 48% of men. Rising unpaid care and domestic workloads, anxiety over loss of income, and the effects of movement restrictions on gender-based violence have all been contributing factors.

Indeed, women have faced unique challenges during the global health crisis. However, the few women who have been given leadership roles during the pandemic have performed better than their male counterparts. A case in point was the resounding re-election of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last October following her successful response to COVID-19.

From the academy to the hospital industry

On the home front, our female industry leaders have performed well during the pandemic, exceeding even their own expectations and bringing about remarkable changes and experiences in the lives of others, including their peers, colleagues and staff. .

From taking charge of the production of institutional publications (newsletters, manuals, reports, etc.) and the creation of communication, public relations and marketing/branding strategies, to establishing links with the media, donors, government agencies, donor institutions and other institutions for the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute (DLSMHSI) of the city of Dasmariñas, Haydee Abayan-Sy, director of institutional communications of the DLSMHSI, s suddenly found herself doing something totally different. She was appointed Deputy Director of the Cavite De La Salle COVID-19 Diagnostic Center at the height of the pandemic in May 2020.

Abayan-Sy has suddenly become a medical front line within the crisis response team where there is no room for the established work-from-home. She had to be out in the field, tending to the needs of others when deep down she also needed help and care from this deadly disease.

“It was a life-changing experience as I needed to know how to protect people, especially the frontline doctors I work with directly. At that time, we didn’t know what COVID-19 was and how we could really protect ourselves from the virus. Among other things, I took on the task of providing shuttle services for frontliners, providing dormitories to stay in, and even the food deliveries we received from donors and individuals,” Abayan-Sy recounted during The Coffee Club. from BusinessMirror on March 28.

At times like these, Abayan-Sy said it was an opportunity for women to rise up, take up the challenge and find the solution. All she needed was to focus and protect the people around her.

“Even though I kept asking God why I landed here, which is not my job, I held on to my faith and trusted that He has a bigger plan for me. And that He is allowing this to happen in my life now to make me a better person. This belief has calmed me down a lot and convinced me that I am being taken care of,” she added.

The Blessing and Gift of Being a Leader

For Cleofe Albiso, Managing Director of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, it takes courage, resilience and love for women to shine in the workplace. As such, Albiso handles the largest local hotel chain in the Philippines with 4,000 room keys and 11 hotels. She was surprised that a Cebu preschool teacher with a Bachelor of Science in Education majoring in Mathematics would eventually find herself in the corporate world and part of the country’s largest telecommunications group and hotel brands. international.

She joined Megaworld in the last quarter of 2019 as Group General Manager. Her mark of leadership – the will to persevere and carry on with passion – served not only her clients and guests, but also the people she worked with. For this, she was recognized and promoted to become the first Filipino General Manager of a Marriott International branded property in the country, the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo.

During the pandemic, she said, her realignment of priorities became intentional. Her first priority was to be a servant of God. “It was the only way to survive. Declaring it’s not your confidence to get through this, it’s not your talent, your creativity, it’s God,” she said.

She also embraced a new role, that of grandmother to her first grandchild. “My first apo in 2020 now calling me lala is bliss beyond explanation,” she said.

On top of that, she accepted the evolving role of a housewife. “Our children grow up and have different needs year after year. They have different requirements and they become more expressive. They know what they expect from us and what we use as excuses while we’re in the office no longer applies,” she said.

Albiso added that women should be grateful for “the blessing and the gift of being a leader at work. Because that role, no matter what we say, juggles our time being a mother or a housewife. which is really big on our hands. This role is also a gift that we have a chance to shape or change lives and create opportunities that will change the direction of our people’s lives.

“We are the fruit of opportunities that our former leaders had in front of us. We need to pass on the same opportunities to these associates and employees. It would be the greatest blessing to know that if we become servant leaders, people see God through our actions,” she said.

From the corporate world to the full-time entrepreneur

Michelle “Mitch” Garcia-Arce has nearly two decades of professional experience managing marketing and communications specifically for hospitality and restaurant brands before deciding to become a full-time mother to her three-year-old son. while pursuing another entrepreneurial role.

Before becoming CEO of Salmo Trading and Distribution Corp. and Storytellers Marketing Communications, Arce was the Marketing Communications Cluster Director for Marriott International in the Philippines, overseeing marketing communications strategies across five properties and three distinct brands – Marriott, Sheraton and Court. She uses her expertise in integrated marketing programs, public relations, advertising, brand management, e-commerce, social media and events to generate business demand for Marriott, build a positive reputation for the company and develop strong relationships with stakeholders and the community.

Arce said she was grateful for Marriott’s culture that embraces women and their needs and empowered them to change and align their skills during the pandemic to continue earning a living.

“Every woman has the ability to lead even if she takes care of the children and manages the household,” she said. “Health and wellness was then a top priority at Marriott at the height of the pandemic. But you still have to make people happy. We get creative, we find reasons to celebrate. And social media was a big help in sending our messages back then.

With her own businesses, she believes stories have the power to influence and shape positive customer perceptions of brands. The brand, the styles of its communication and the customer are at the heart of its know-how to weave together the beautiful stories that have defined its campaigns and programs.

The three ladies agreed that women should make their health their top priority so they can also take care of others.

Arce encouraged women to keep learning, even simple things. “You get rich when you learn. And always be thankful for what you have,” she said.

Meanwhile, Abayan-Sy discouraged women from comparing themselves to others. “We have a different setup and are unique in ourselves, she said. “Surround yourself with people who bring the best of you,” she said.

“Get rid of so many unrealistic expectations, even from ourselves. What’s important is really the simplest of all things. I hope the pandemic has shown us that we just have to focus on important things such as our relationship with family, with God, with people, with nature and above all with ourselves. Let’s be ourselves,” Abayan-Sy concluded.

Mara R. Wilmoth