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Emerging Filipina Leaders in Technology and Innovation


Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz's gold finish at the Olympics was an achievement not just for the Philippines, but for women. In a society where men are usually the trailblazers in their respective fields, it is refreshing to see a woman being the first in her country to win something so historic -- especially that it was in the field of sports. For this time around, a woman gets to inspire not just her fellow female athletes, not just her fellow weightlifters, but all athletes in the country.

As a society, we've been conditioned to think that some fields are mostly for men, such as sports, technology and leadership. Miss Universe 2019​​ Zozini Tunzi once said:

Young girls should be taught how to become leaders and to 'take up space in society'.

Yet in digital leadership, there continues to be a wide gap between men and women. The perception that the tech world is meant for men still exists to this day.

It shouldn't have to be that way. Technology continues to touch every aspect of human lives, including how we work -- and everyone should be given the chance to contribute to the increasing changes, especially women. Imagine a world where there are no cultural and gender biases in leadership and digital transformation. There will always be more space for innovation and new ideas to thrive -- to better serve everyone.

The good news is: The Philippines ranks first globally when it comes to women in leadership positions, according to Grant Thornton. You probably know a lot of women who are executives and managers -- some of which are your own. We list down some of the most remarkable Filipina women and their contributions in the digital transformation space.

Katrina Rausa Chan, Executive Director, QBO Innovation Hub

If there is any Filipina whose work is devoted to digital transformation, it is Katrina.

Katrina is the executive director of QBO Innovation Hub (QBO, like Bahay Kubo). It's a public-private partnership seeking to support start-ups. QBO not only brings technology forward to startups, it also develops a local ecosystem for these small businesses. More importantly, it wants to open the doors for more Filipina startup founders. Only 20% of startup founders who responded in the 2020 Philippine Startup Survey by PwC were female.

Through QBO's Startup Pinay project, Katrina hopes women find more space in the startup industry.

Cherrie Atilano, CEO and president of AGREA

'Let's make farming sexy' is Cherrie's catchphrase inviting the youth to take the path to agriculture. Her company, AGREA, is a Marinduque-based enterprise seeking to eradicate poverty for farmers and fishermen, as well as establish food security in the Philippines.

Cherrie is in every sense of the phrase, a digital leader. On the third day of lockdown, AGREA kicked off its Move Food Initiative, an online ordering system allowing farmers to sell their produce directly to villages and households. While the rest of the country was still trying to make sense out of the new quarantine restrictions, AGREA was quick and agile on its feet to ensure the pandemic doesn't spur food waste and post-harvest loss. (Why is being agile important for organizations?)

AGREA knew what both producer and consumer needed: to bring the farm to the table through the crisis, and to have food despite not being allowed to go out. Nearly two months later, 7,400 families were able to ship over 160,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables to 52,000 families. Cherrie's business also delivered farm kits to nearly 1,000 women during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them a chance to plant and grow their own food.

AGREA believes that technology, education, and community empowerment can pave the way for farmers to gain more autonomy and realize how important their role is in the goods value chain. This includes women finding their space in the usually male-dominated industry.

Winnie Talosig-Rebancos, Chief Technology Director, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines

Winnie not only had to face the barriers to being a woman in tech, she also climbed her way up from poverty. In an article on Esquire Philippines, Winnie recounted her experience of being a computer science student… without a computer. She would write down codes on her notebook at home and materialize them in the school computer the next day. Eventually, her hard work paid off. She was able to buy her family a home at the age of 26, a far cry from when her parents couldn't pay rent and afford dinner other than sardines.

Winnie turned out to be the force behind Coca-Cola Philippines' digital transformation. The journey began in 2019 under her leadership. But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift.

Coca-Cola PH also bolstered its external presence through technology, especially with the rise of online delivery, e-grocery shipments, and meal kit subscriptions.

Because of her grit, determination, and contributions to the company, Winnie is determined to empower women to choose the world of tech. She converted 10 female professionals with other positions in the company to pivot to technology. "I believe that this is a very inclusive profession," Winnie told Esquire. "It does not require any gender.”

Marby Tabungar, Innovation and Digital Development Leader

Marby is an emerging Filipina leader, driving and supporting technology solutions and digital capabilities development. As the Digital Development Manager for the Youth Employment Solutions for Plan International, she works with digital experts that bring values-based technology to equip and empower girls and the youth. Recently, she spoke about Breaking Digital Divide during the World Youth Skills Day, where the team also launched a mobile application for Y! Hub, a knowledge sharing and social learning platform for practitioners and the youth.

Marby’s passion for innovation also led to the birth of her start up company, Prevo Design x Innovation. Prevo offers an eCommerce solution for digital assets made by Filipinos for Filipinos. Under her leadership, Team Prevo has been supporting innovation projects by developing digital learning programs that have impact on the sustainable development goals such as the digital transformation of the Department of Health’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program in partnership with the World Health Organization, and the development of Mobile-first Digital Reskilling and Upskilling for the Youth in partnership with the Philippine Business for Education.

Marby shares her skills and passion for tech and people development by facilitating training and webinars. There are courses on digital leadership, communication and collaboration, and many more which can be accessed for free through Prevo’s eLearning platform.

Marby believes in the power of technology to help in eliminating inequalities and in shaping a meaningful life for all.

Do you know other Filipina leaders braving the world of technology? Share them so we can add to this list!


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