AGI women leaders speak up

by Samantha Manuel

“It takes a great woman to spot greatness in other women.”Veronique Vienne, The Art of Being a Woman

The role of women in our current society has evolved through generations and has become one of the key elements in the United Nations’ 17 “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving gender equality and women empowerment is integral to each of the SDGs, because ensuring the rights of women across all the goals will help create a thriving society with a shared environment now and for future generations.

A recent study by Grant Thornton International’s 2020 Women in Business reports that the Philippines now has the most number of women occupying senior management positions. About 43 percent of the Philippines’ top leadership roles are being held by women, highlighting the fact that yes, there is room for women in the boardroom and they are paving the way for the younger generation.

“Currently, about 94 percent of Philippine firms are stepping up and making an effort to increase gender diversity and remove gender parity at senior levels.”

(Source: “Data Proves the Philippines Has the Most Women in Top Business Positions,” Preview.ph)

Here at Alliance Global Group, Inc. (AGI), we have our own share of empowered women leaders, each having their own unique style of management, priorities, passion and motivation. For most of us, we look up to them for inspiration, most especially during these challenging times.

Lourdes Gutierrez-Alfonso

Chief Operating Officer, Megaworld Corporation

Ms. Lou believes that the single most important turning point in her career was joining Megaworld Corporation.

“It was then that I truly appreciated the vision, passion and hard work of our chairman Dr. Andrew L. Tan. It was very inspiring for me to see firsthand how he navigated Megaworld out of numerous hardships, how he uplifted his people, and how he put the company in a position where we could be better and grow stronger, year after year,” she shares.

Eventually becoming the Chief Operating Officer of Megaworld Corporation was indeed a pivotal period in her career: “I was afforded the honor and privilege to contribute even more to the company, and to make things happen,” she adds.

She describes her leadership style as collaborative and participative. She believes that cooperation is very valuable to what Megaworld stands for as a company. “For me, it is vital that we make our people feel that they are part of the team and that they have different opportunities to contribute to the growth and progress of the company. When you allow people to have an active role in the company’s endeavors, you get the best out of them,” she emphasized

These are, indeed, very powerful words of advice from a woman who herself had her share of humble beginnings and worked through the corporate ladder with passion, grit and determination. “When I was still starting out in Megaworld, our chairman, Dr. Tan, told me: ‘Lou, wherever you are, whatever you do, always be the best you can be.’ I have never forgotten that.”

With this in mind, she now poses a challenge to all women—and even men—within the organization who are striving to excel. “Whatever position you hold right now, be the best at it. Be the best that you can be.”

As an empowered woman, she values work-life integration more than it just being a balance between two equally important priorities. “We can’t simply treat our professional and personal lives separately,” she tells Imagine.

For her, work and life are constantly interconnected, and she believes it is more productive if we find positive and appropriate ways to integrate the two. “Of course, there are certain situations when we have to be truly focused on either work or family. But if I have to attend to work matters when I’m in the company of my family, I gratefully do so. After all, at the end of the day, I’m doing this for them,” she explains.

Finally, as a woman and as an individual, Ms. Lou considers that giving glory to the Lord by fulfilling His purpose is her most important role in life.

Ms. Margot Torres

Managing Director, Golden Arches Development Corporation (McDonald’s Philippines)

As a woman leader of a world-class fast-food brand franchise, Ms. Margot has always been guided by honesty and radical candor when leading the many teams she manages and works with.

“Being a leader, I have always embraced the principles of excellence, continuous learning, authenticity, and empathy.” All these – backed up with passion and determination to succeed – were evident in all of the significant turning points of her career.

In 1994, Margot had the opportunity to work in the telecom industry where she handled over 100 people in sales and marketing. It was during this time when she learned more about effective leadership and now considers this experience as one of her professional highlights. “I follow a situational leadership approach to find a balance for the organization, allowing the teams I work with to be flexible and find proper ways to adapt and address what needs to be, in any given situation.”

In 2003, she moved to McDonald’s where she was able to challenge herself as a marketing lead. Through the years, Margot was able to evolve and take on roles beyond marketing. Now, as a Managing Director, “it is my responsibility to continuously lead the transformation of the organization to ensure that it remains relevant and sustainable in these uncertain times.”

She is also passionate about helping communities. “I sit on the board of a charity (Ronald McDonald House Charities) which is committed to make a difference in the lives of Filipino children.”

As a woman, Margot is very proud to be a mother to two digital natives and a husband to an unbelievably patient and understanding spouse who has supported her in every step of her career. Aside from these – she also mentor people she gets to work with or meet in the industry. “I take my time to help future marketers and leaders hone their craft.”

A word of advice for other women, she adds: “Women should recognize their unique strengths and embrace them, rather than consider them as a liability or use them as an excuse.” Furthermore, “I believe you are only truly empowered when the labels do not matter. It should be about skill and competence.”

Monica T. Salomon

President, Global-Estate Resorts, Inc. (GERI)

Ms. Monica T. Salomon always viewed herself as a leader without the word woman.

“I grew up hanging out with male friends and colleagues, preferring to discuss politics, history, and ideology. But I do realize that motherhood has cultivated in me unique values and attitudes such as foresight, a strong spirit of sacrifice, a deep understanding of people, and a desire to bring out the best and the good in people,” she says.

For her, collaboration is vital in establishing a culture that values the idea of innovation. She believes that only when people challenge opinions and beliefs can great ideas prosper.

“My leadership style is democratic. I encourage people to participate in the decision-making process and hear out their inputs and opinions. I value teamwork and I like people who challenge my views and offer alternative perspectives on an issue,” she explains.

One secret that Ms. Monica would like to share with other women who would like to establish and enjoy a successful corporate career? Take care not only of your family but also of your household staff. “Apart from having a loving and supportive family, strive to maintain a competent household staff and take care of them. You won’t survive the demands of corporate life if your household is unstable,” she shares.

She says that the most important part of the journey towards success is finding and embracing your purpose. “Focus on mission and vocation, not your career. Mission or vocation is that something you are called to do, the reason for your existence. You can switch careers, but your mission and vocation should stay the same,” Ms. Monica tells Imagine.

Deanna Jean Claveria

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Suntrust Properties, Inc.

Ms. Deanna believes that “every woman is called to be a catalyst for change and progress.”

“One of a woman’s strengths is her nurturing nature which is to be a mother to all and guide the younger ones in the organization,” she says.

She strongly imbibes “leadership by example” such as practicing excellent work ethics, like compliance to policies and being productive the whole day.

Work-life balance also gives her a sense of fulfillment and motivation at the same time. Her typical workday starts at 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. with the aim of leaving a “clean desk” every day and resolve issues as soon as possible. Yet despite her work demands, she sees to it to find time for her other priorities such as going to Mass before work, quality time spent with the family, and monthly me-time to relax.

Her advice to other women who wish to excel? “Women (and men) can succeed in life if they follow the 3D formula: Dream, Decide, and Do. Success is not a trophy but a journey where one should not forget that other people are there to help or in need of help.” More importantly, she reminds everyone to stay humble and not to step on other people’s toes. “For all you know, those are the same people you will meet at the top,” she adds.

Cleofe Albiso

Group General Manager, Megaworld Hotels

According to Ms. Cleo, “Each phase of our lives plays an important and distinctive role in what we become in the future.” From her humble beginnings as a ghostwriter for a City Councilor during her College years, to becoming a pre-school Teacher, entrepreneur, eventually moving on to the corporate world as a Head of Trade Marketing for a major telecommunications company, her talent, skills, passion, and character were honed through each aspect of her life taking her to even greater heights in her current professional career.

Three years after transitioning to the hospitality industry as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Cebu Marriott Hotel, a rare opportunity opened up with her appointment as the General Manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, making history by being the first Filipina GM in Marriott Philippines in 2017.

Currently, Ms. Cleo is the Group General Manager for Megaworld Hotels, Consistent to my passion of rallying Filipino talents who can do great in any industry, the Megawold Hotels resemble a lot of my personal values. Proudly homegrown. Innovative and driven. Imperfect but a lot of room to grow and flourish.”

Her leadership style is both empowering and inspiring. “I lead with the goal of creating leaders in my team. I enjoy mentoring and each possible opportunity to share my own learnings. One of the best wonders in leadership is our chance to mold people, inspire them, and provide opportunities for them to achieve their goals. I personally find leadership as a chance to pay it forward by believing in our teams at the same time empowering them to achieve their dreams.”

Finally, Ms. Cleo is proud to share this inspirational message to fellow women, “I am an open book and with humility, I share my stories of failures and successes with other women. I encourage other women to do the same. It’s liberating to be very open. Then surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and avoid those who pull you down. Choose to be a blessing to others and after all is done, nurture that strong faith with our Creator.”

Anna Vergara

General Manager, Sheraton Manila Hotel

With 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry under her name, Ms. Anna is a true woman of excellence, having been the first Filipino woman general manager of a five-star international branded hotel in the Philippines. “When I became a General Manager of Sheraton Manila, I knew the immense responsibilities at stake, but what drove me was the opportunity that came with this role to make an impact on the lives of the people I work with,” she says.

She describes her leadership style as democratic. She follows a coaching style approach and sees to it that everything she does is guided by strategy all the time. She also believes that her most important role as a woman—whether at work or with her family—is to give motherly love and guidance to the people she encounters each day.

For those who wish to strive for excellence, Ms. Anna challenges everyone to go for it and go all out. “We should not put a glass ceiling on the things that we can and want to do. We need to believe in ourselves!” she shares.

Today’s women have come a long way because society has recognized that they have voices as well as men do. It is not about competition nor a question of stereotypes. Rather, it is about promoting equal opportunities, fair recognition, and more importantly shared rights to achieve a common goal.

Indeed, a woman’s true essence is a combination of gentleness and strength. It is in her nature to show care and it is her strength that will allow her to survive in the real world.

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