Unlimited: Celebrating women who #BreaktheBias and the communities that empowered them

 |   Microsoft Philippines Communications Team

By Fides Ricasa, Chief Partner Officer, and Country Executive Sponsor for Diversity, Inclusion & Allyship, Microsoft Philippines

“It takes a village to raise a child” is an age-old proverb many of us often hear. It speaks of the effort that goes into child-rearing, but also of the important role a community has in creating an environment that empowers children to become the best version of themselves.

In my years as a professional, I’ve come to realize that not only does this proverb apply to organizations, but that it is critical they embrace it. An organization that encourages its people and celebrates differences offers unlimited opportunities for growth. A “village” that promotes diversity and inclusion produces leaders, achievers, and innovators – regardless of their gender.

At Microsoft, we believe that diversity is borne out of empowering employees to share their unique perspectives and experiences. Ultimately, by holding space for these nuances, we’re able to better fulfill our mission and improve the ways we operate as an organization—positively impacting both our employees, and society at large. This belief is part of who we are globally and takes form in many ways around the world.

Here in the Philippines, we’ve taken on a three-pronged approach built for local context: Equip, Engage & Exchange, and Upskill.

  • Equip is focused on transforming our people into catalysts of diversity by creating and enforcing mindsets and behaviors through professional development talks, allyship training programs and workshops, and learning circles.
  • Engage & Exchange aims to cultivate strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, allowing us to learn from each other and scale our collective impact.
  • Lastly, Upskill aims to democratize digital skills by bringing it to the communities we work with and advocate for.

We’re very passionate about this at Microsoft and we work proactively towards driving inclusive empowerment not just for ourselves and our people, but for all our stakeholders and communities in the country. One thing that constantly drives us forward are the many organizations across the Philippines that share this commitment—and the incredible and inspiring women leading their efforts.

I have the great privilege of working closely with many of them and today, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to share some of their stories.

Winnie Talosig-Rebancos
Chief Information Officer, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines

Winnie spearheads the technology strategy of Coca-Coca Beverages Philippines. With more than 20 years of experience and expertise in the industry as well as recognized contributions in technology, culture and new ways of working, Winnie looks back gratefully to all the opportunities that opened and brought her to where is she now.

“I was very fortunate to be in a profession where there is no bias on gender and anyone can become who they want to be. I have been part of leadership teams that are not only multinational but also, privileged to share the seat with a group of CIOs and C-suite executives,” said Winnie, who was part of the top 25 distinguished senior technology executives across Southeast Asia and Hongkong awarded by IDG global awards program.

She was also honored in the World CIO200 Awards for two consecutive years for her transformative leadership driving organizational excellence.

Winnie shared that Coca-Cola is taking diversity and inclusion seriously through initiatives that empower women and other underrepresented groups to be confident about their achievements and celebrate them. They also provide support systems through open female networks, systematized upskilling and personal development programs available to all associates across all functions. In addition, nearly 50% of their plant managers are female leaders.

Recalling her journey, Winnie shared that it is important to be bold and be brave to ask and commit mistakes. “Anchor yourself to something that is greater than you. This gives your life direction, yourself a focus, and a reason to wake up every day with excitement and purpose,” she said.

“Surround yourself with different kinds of women. Having them in your circle gives you different perspectives on survival, career, family, love, and happiness. Get mentors, identify leaders who you hope to emulate when it’s your turn to become one.  Look for the good traits and tie them up with what you value the most. Lastly, be happy for the success of another, no matter the gender. Be an ally.”

Abba Napa
Co-Founder for Creative Development, The Moment Group

Abba leads The Moment Group’s Creative Development Wing and drives the incubation and innovation of its brands, concepts, and products. She acquired her interest in the food industry scene from eating in restaurants owned by her father – where she discovered how “romantic” the world of restaurants is.

Abba co-founded The Moment Group together with her partners Eliza Antonino and Jon Syjuco in 2012, building a portfolio of 15 brands and 48 restaurants in and outside of Metro Manila. The Moment Group cemented their name in the industry through their wholly owned home-grown brands and their creative approach in opening one restaurant every 57 days since its inception 10 years ago.

“Growing up my parents never made me feel I couldn’t do anything I set my mind to and there was never any distinction between my brothers and me. So, I do believe that has really helped shape my outlook,” she said.
As an advocate of sustainable restaurant practices in the Philippines, Abba shared that The Moment Group ensures that everyone has a seat at the table.

“It’s the people that philosophically make The Moment Group what it is, and one of the challenges is keeping everybody on the same wavelength as the organization grows,” said Abba, who attributes their sense of community to the origin and purpose restaurants.

“Restaurants were first built as stops where travelers could “restore” themselves on long journeys. I hope that in the times we find ourselves in, as well as far into the future, we can continue to mutually nourish one another in this spirit, and from time to time, take a moment to nourish ourselves—whether as members of the restaurant industry serving warm meals to those in need of “restoration” and also as women and as human beings serving in our own fields and spheres of influence.”

Elizabeth Pangan
Director for Small, Medium & Corporate Business, Microsoft Philippines

My colleague Beth is the current Director of our Small Medium & Corporate Business and is incoming Director of our Enterprise Commercial Business. She is a veteran in the information technology industry, with over three decades of experience across various companies.

“It was in IBM that my fascination for tech grew and where I realized that I wanted to be in an industry that will really drastically change the future,” she recalled.

 Her stint in IBM led to opportunities in Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, and Google Cloud to name a few. She also served as General Manager of Technopaq/Thakral Infotech and President of NEC Philippines Inc. These companies, who welcomed her skills and celebrated her experiences and expertise, became instrumental in her growth in the industry.

But Beth had many challenges to overcome to get to where she is now – from perception, age, to physical biases—but these did not deter her from pursuing her passion and interest in technology.

 “I was confident about my gender and did not see that as a hindrance in my career.  I did feel though that there were situations where there were apprehensions about my skills as a woman.  Sensing these apprehensions challenged me positively to show that I am an equal and I can be better too,” said Elizabeth.

She shared that she was able to do all of these by “making things happen” and continuously striving to “be the best version” of herself. 

“You are limitless.  But you can also be self-limiting.  Do not allow your fears and the noise around you to affect you.  I have lived my life with this in mind and my career journey is a testament to the possibilities.”

Three individuals with three entirely different journeys. But while their experiences and backgrounds are all very varied, they all created incredible outcomes.

Stories like theirs can come from anywhere and every day, millions of women all over the world live out their own inspiring journeys for others to follow. But to affect lasting, and truly inclusive empowerment—as the saying goes— “takes a village.” It takes all of us.

When there is a collective effort among members of community, along with individual determination and perseverance, the opportunities for growth and success are unlimited. We at Microsoft are committed to doing our part in that greater effort.

Learn more about Microsoft’s Global Diversity & Inclusion efforts here.