President's Message
Ma. Victoria C. Españo Message from the President:

Ma. Victoria C. Españo


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Year 2018 is indeed a special year for FINEX: it marks our 50th anniversary as a leading organization of finance professionals. Through the able leadership of our past presidents and the multitude of members who have actively participated in and supported our different initiatives, we have made significant achievements in supporting the professional development of finance executives,

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ASEAN Women
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Mr. Benel D. LaguaBy Mr. Benel D. Lagua
MANILA TIMES(FINEX Files)
September 8, 2017

ASEAN Women

FINEX Files is a rotating column of members of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines appearing every Friday in Manila Times, business column section.

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”

- Hillary Clinton



In the recently held forum on “Mainstreaming ASEAN Women in trade of goods and services toward AEC 2025”, this writer felt very honoured to be one of the chosen few men to grace the event and be given the opportunity to share contributions at work for women in the micro, small and medium enterprises.

The administration of more competent women owners or managers have generally resulted to higher returns in investment, in sales and in equity. Three of those ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs inspiration cited in the forum are Malaysian Hooi Ling Tan, co–founder of Grab which is now valued at $3B, Indonesian Nabilah Alsagoff, founder of Doku, an online payments firm in Indonesia and our very own Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, the co-founder of Rags2Riches, a social enterprise that helps women to directly access consumers and retailers with their unique “upcycled” products.

However, there are still barriers in the economic participation of women. Some of these are capacity to take full advantage of socioeconomic opportunities and limited access to resources such as technology, finance, factors of production, information or government support. Women have to confront their control over resources including the freedom of decision making and accountability. One of the top exit reasons from an entrepreneurial venture by women is personal in nature, specifically pertaining to balancing work and family life, defying social expectations and coping with the fear of failure. It cannot be denied that indeed gender is a factor.

Based on a study by the International Labour Organization, the global female labour participation rate has decreased from 52.4% to 49.6% between 1995 and 2015. The gender gap has declined only marginally. Globally, 37% of business establishments are owned by women based on IFC Banking on Women 2013. That means 224 Million women contribute in the global economy of which 126 Million women are in business, a result of women reinvestment of 90 cents of every additional dollar of income in “human resources”. In the U.S. and Europe, women are recognized for their higher level of innovation and an analysis from 350 micro finance institutions across 70 countries indicated that lending to women have lower write-offs and lower portfolio-at-risk. In the ASEAN Regional Entrepreneurship Report of 2015-2016 among the 627M total population, 61.3M or 9.8% are women entrepreneurs.

The forum opened my eyes to various initiatives in the ASEAN perspective. Brunei has its action plan on women, Cambodia, a five year strategic plan for gender equality and women’s empowerment 2014-2018, Indonesia, a roadmap to accelerate achievement of the MDGs. In Lao PDR there is a national strategy for advancement of women 2006-2010, Malaysia the national policy on women, Myanmar, a national strategy action plan for the advancement of women 2013-2022, Thailand, the national development plan for women 2012-2016 and Vietnam, a national strategy on gender equality for 2011-2020.

In the Philippines, we have R.A. 9710 or Magna Carta of Women Act of 2009 that paves way for equal access to credit and capital as well as employment opportunities and R. A. 7192 or the Women in Development and Nation Building Act which states that in all contractual situations where married men have the capacity to act, married women shall have equal rights. As a matter of fact, in 2015 and 2016, the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report ranked the Philippines as the only Asian country to beat other economically advanced country closing the 78% or the total gender gap. In all government agencies, there is a Gender Awareness and Development budget that requires 5% of their budget to go to gender-related activities and for 30% of official development assistance and soft loans to be spent for GAD projects.

As I have previously shared, the Development Bank of the Philippines has adopted a strategy of investing with a gender lens through its pioneering Inclusive Lending for Aspiring Women Program (ILAW). The ILAW initiative has fostered the growth and diversification of women enterprises and entrepreneurs. This is initially through an increased access to finance via program participation and subsequently an improved market and supply-chain linkages with the assistance of and access to a network of top women business leaders and experts.

ILAW initially started from our observation that in the micro enterprise sphere, over 90% of proponents are women or “nanays”. However, we observed that the graduation from micro to small enterprise needed some push. Luckily we found inspiration from the leadership of Women’s Business Council, specifically Ma. Aurora “Boots” Garcia and Pacita “Chit” Juan. In true development by partnership mode, we conceived and put into motion the seeds for the ILAW program.

To back up the program’s social impact claim, the ILAW Program targets a sub-sector generally perceived to be as “risky” and “pre-bankable”, enterprises that are women-owned, managed, and/or controllled. Using a gender lens for financing, we aimed to help remove barriers facing small women entrepreneurs in the Philippines. This likewise demonstrates DBP’s concrete support to women empowerment and gender equality. Today, ILAW has supported 101 proponents with P713M worth of loan approvals all over the country. We join hands with AWEN (ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network) in empowering the passion in every woman across the world to opening more opportunities for them, in helping them fix challenges they face while doing business and in making them globally competitive and successful. As DBP is now under the leadership of a seasoned woman banker, President and CEO Cecile Borromeo, we expect the ILAW program to receive further boost and refinements so that it is more responsive to the needs of women-led businesses. #

(Benel D. Lagua is Executive Vice President at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.)

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