Rapid technological changes set the pace in the telecommunications industry, and research shows companies with an inclusive workplace culture are more likely to be innovative.
Within the leadership ranks at the Philippines’ largest integrated telco PLDT Inc. (PLDT), inclusivity is evident in the number of women working in a company operating in vastly diverse communities.
The women leaders of PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) recently offered advice to female employees on how to navigate a workplace considered a man’s world. The sharing was arranged by the company’s Human Resources Group and billed, “Yes, She Can!”
The internal campaign also ran webisodes featuring female employees of various persona and a digital activity wherein employees shared posts of appreciation and gratitude to women colleagues. PLDT and Smart’s Chief Sustainability Office also organized a webinar with the Philippine Business Council for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) to discuss workplace gender equality and its importance to the business, as well as what women’s economic empowerment means and how it can be supported and practiced in the workplace.
Heart and desire
The company “is cognizant of what women are capable of and allows women leaders to provide a different perspective,” said PLDT and Smart Chief Financial Officer Anabelle L. Chua in her “Yes, She Can” feature. Fifty percent of the PLDT and Smart’s Top Management Team members are women, while 40% of the officers are female. Women leaders face challenges on their way to making their mark and being heard, Chua said, and she is “proud to be leading alongside empowered women who have the heart and the desire to make a difference.”
Echoing her view, PLDT and Smart Chief Legal Counsel Marilyn A. Victorio-Aquino said she has always believed that “the only limit to a woman’s success is how hard she is willing to work for it and how steadfast in holding on to her dreams.” Success and recognition are not borne out of opportunity freely given by society, but rather achieved through hard work and circumstances they created for themselves.
Balance and support
Finding balance is second nature to women, observed PLDT and Smart Chief People Officer Gina P. Ordonez. “We naturally extend themselves for the benefit of others, as mother, wife, daughter – nurturing, organizing, integrating,” she said. The women in the company can always be counted on “to provide the magical, feminine touch.”
Jane J. Basas, SVP and Head of Consumer Wireless Business at Smart, attested to this. The mother-of-four underscores the importance of a good support system for working mothers, as well as the accountability and the freedom to accomplish their goals. The woman behind Smart’s major marketing campaigns said that the company values competence and performance.
If it is any indication of how conducive the workplace is to working mothers, company records show that 99% of female employees who had gone on maternity leave stayed on in PLDT and Smart.
Smart’s women leaders held their own, even as the COVID-19 pandemic tested the limits of telco service as a lifeline.
“To excel in this highly competitive ‘man’s world,’ one has to focus on what one wants to achieve. To me, it is to serve our millions of customers,” said Debbie Hu, head of PLDT and Smart’s Network Operations. Her team ensures customers get the best services they need 24/7, rain or shine. As head of a predominantly male team, Hu said she keeps communication lines open and shows interest in her staff’s work.
Grit and grace
Know your purpose and rise above the challenges with grit and grace. That’s the advice of PLDT and Smart Chief Procurement Officer Os Dela Paz. “Our resilience will be constantly tested, and it is our ability to weather storms and be strong in the face of adversity that makes us special,” she said.
Having been with the company for two decades, Kat Luna-Abelarde has survived the company’s trying times in various roles. She is currently the head of PLDT and Smart’s International Carrier Business and concurrent Head of Strategic Partnerships. Her advice: “Be bold. Your dreams must be bigger than yourself. You will be surprised that you’re actually stronger and better than you think.”
There will be good and bad days, but one just has to keep going and growing. “Every day is an opportunity to learn. The bad days are, honestly, life’s best teachers. But no matter how dark and hard the situation may be, it is important to always get up and show up,” she said.
PLDT and Smart are registered as a Participant of the United Nations Global Compact Network (UNGCN). A notch higher than Signatories limited to local engagement, participants are committed on an international level to integrate the renowned organization’s Ten Principles, such as those on human rights and labor.
PLDT and Smart’s push for women empowerment underscores the company’s commitment to making the UNGCN principles part of company strategy, culture, and day-to-day operations, in order to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSGDs), such as Goal #5: Gender Equality.