LA Asks: Female Achievers On Leadership, Empowerment, And The Future of Women - LA Lives

Sharyn Wong, Charmaine Lagman, Roxanne Farillas, and Janina Dizon share their thoughts on female empowerment, overcoming stereotypes, and the future of women.

From the first International Women’s Day more than a hundred years ago, women have indeed come a long way. Occupying positions of leadership in industry, culture, and government, women continue to shine despite the many challenges they have to overcome. The accomplishments of women and our inherent value in society could not be further underscored. And as we continue to celebrate the positive strides achieved during Women’s History Month this March, Lifestyle Asia speaks to women who are beacons of inspiration.

Sharing their insights are trailblazers like Sharyn Wong, who is the Country General Manager of Estée Lauder Philippines. Globally, the Estée Lauder group’s workforce is comprised of an estimated 80% women, with 59% occupying VP positions and above. On the other hand, Roxanne Farillas founded the clothing brand Plains & Prints, which continues to be a household name. Charmaine Lagman is a formidable force in construction and IT, sectors normally dominated by men. Furthermore, jeweler Janina Dizon continues to honor her family’s legacy while charting her own creative path.

READ ALSO: Championing Inclusivity: How Did International Women’s Day Come to Be

What traits do you think women can develop in order to become more effective leaders, and help in breaking their respective glass ceilings?

Sharyn: To be an authentic leader, I think the most important thing is to always be true to yourself, especially as women. I believe a lot of women possess the skill of emotional intelligence but don’t see it for what it is – a superpower! Practicing empathy and understanding, and fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment leads to stronger teams, a positive work environment, and more impactful leadership.

I do believe that women need to get more comfortable promoting themselves. Women are often told to be humble, which often involves minimizing our achievements. But we should advocate for ourselves, celebrate our accomplishments, and champion our ideas. This is crucial for career advancement and gaining recognition in the workplace. Yet, it can be a real challenge for people, and women in particular.

Charmaine Lagman

Charmaine: Women can cultivate traits like confidence, resilience in the face of challenges, assertiveness in decision-making, and  communication skills. These attributes not only enhance their leadership effectiveness but also empower them to shatter the barriers of the glass ceiling. 

Roxanne: There are a number of traits that can be developed for women to become effective leaders and break glass ceilings. These include confidence, by believing in what you can achieve. And assertiveness, by standing up and communicating your views  and ability to empower others 

Janina: I believe that women should feel more confident in their power and own it. We are empathetic and brave when it comes to family, what more with business? 

Sharyn Wong

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in terms of leadership? 

Sharyn: The best piece of advice I’ve received in terms of leadership is to never compare myself with others. Because everyone has their unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. Instead of comparing myself with others, I compare my present self with my past self. Have I used my strengths to achieve my goals? Have I learned something new recently that I have used in my day-to-day work? Am I a better leader today than I was yesterday? This advice completely changed my approach to leadership and helped me become more mindful and growth oriented.

Roxanne: I consider each advice as significant. It might not always apply at present but you can surely learn something from it and can carry it out in the future. However,  I would say that one of the most notable ones is to lead by example and be an inspiration to others.

Janina: To lead with your heart by being honest and standing up to what you believe in. Everything is attainable if you put your heart and soul in it. 

Roxanne Farillas

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced as a female leader? And how were you able to overcome this? 

Sharyn: My biggest challenge is something that I think almost all female leaders can relate to – juggling my career with all the other hats I wear as a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a friend. This is the biggest challenge I face daily. But I’m often able to overcome it through a strong support system and healthy communication. I can’t do it all by myself. My family, friends, and colleagues are there to help me. Seeking support is not a sign of weakness.

Charmaine: One of the biggest challenges I faced as a female leader was overcoming gender bias and stereotypes. I overcame it by staying true to my abilities, proving myself through hard work and results. And seeking support from mentors and allies who championed my skills and potential. 

Roxanne: I think that gender stereotypes remain to be one of the biggest challenges, as women are always expected to play a certain role in society. But over the years, through competence and a strong support network, I became stronger and able to succeed in my chosen field. Through this success, I was also given  a  purpose — mentoring, which has allowed me to share my wisdom and knowledge to others.

Charmaine Lagman

What do you see as the future of women?

Sharyn: The only way is up! The future holds immense potential for women to experience further advancement, and to take up more space in leadership roles across all industries. With global movements advocating for equal rights and an upward trend in women holding leadership positions, more women are gaining the confidence to see strength in themselves. We will only get more confident and emboldened. This is not to say that the challenges have disappeared. Issues like internalized gender biases and unequal access to education and healthcare persist. But I am hopeful that we are moving towards a future where women have even greater opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential.

I feel lucky to work for a company that is committed to advancing women both within our organization and around the world. We believe all genders should have equal access to job opportunities and positions of leadership. And believe all genders deserve equal access to health, education and economic participation, and should be presented an equal playing field regardless of their circumstances or backgrounds. 

Sharyn Wong

Charmaine: The future of women is bright, with increasing opportunities for empowerment, leadership, and breaking barriers across all sectors, leading to greater gender equality and societal progress. 

Roxanne: Our future remains to be bright and hopeful because we continuously excel and exceed expectations. We have known to be fearless and stand our ground at all times. 

Janina: The future is bright as long as we value education and honor side by side. 

Roxanne Farillas

How are you able to accomplish your many roles? As a business leader, or wife, or mother?

Sharyn: It’s not easy and can be a real challenge to juggle the many hats that I wear in my day-to-day life. But I am fortunate to have strong support from my family, friends, and colleagues as well as from ELC who supports employees to succeed, especially mindful that women often carry outsized burdens. It’s also vital for me to know my priorities and to always uphold open and honest communication with everyone around me to help manage expectations and strengthen relationships.

Charmaine:  Balancing my roles as a mother, wife, and a business leader require meticulous time management, strategic delegation, and a steadfast commitment to priorities. Additionally, nurturing a robust support from my family, and trusted employees have been instrumental in managing the demands of each role with diligence and grace

Roxanne: Being able to wear many hats is a challenge but balancing each role requires time management, prioritization and being able to work with a good team member and partner have played a vital role. I also learned to always give time to take care of yourself.

Janina Dizon

Janina: Thru balance and organized prioritizing. This is why I think we have an edge because as women we are natural multitaskers. And we are able to handle life with its success and hardship as they come.

* Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Banner photo of Charmaine Lagman from Lifestyle Asia’s August 2019 issue.

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