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Women can build the future of PH

/ 05:25 AM March 10, 2019

Gender balance is not only a women’s issue, it is a business issue. A recent study from the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that women in Asia-Pacific, if given equal opportunities at work, would create additional gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to an economy the combined size of Germany and Austria each year. But looking beyond economic gains, when women lead, they are also active role models of change and progress for their communities.

Take the story of Catherine Taleon, a retired school teacher in Cabatuan. She had the idea to take the town’s chocolate-making traditions and turn it into a source of livelihood. For generations, her family and the community had been turning cocoa beans into chocolate using unique traditional methods to roast and crush cocoa beans. She invested her savings into setting up Sunbursts Balay Tablea in 2014.

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Affirmation

She received a steady stream of orders and affirmation through her Facebook page. Balay Tablea now supplies more than 20 retailers and hotels throughout the Philippines. Catherine said that to build a business with heart, it takes a spirit of collaboration and life-long learning. For her, the biggest reward has been the ability to preserve Cabatuan’s chocolate traditions while providing livelihood for her community.

Hurdles

As we celebrate women like Catherine and their achievements on the occasion of International Women’s Day, we also have a duty to recognize the hurdles women still face and find the pathway to a more gender-balanced world.

To gain a deeper understanding of the differences between male and female business owners, their experiences, and their needs, we mined the Future of Business Report*—a collaboration between Facebook, the World Bank and the OECD to survey the 90+ million small businesses on Facebook around the world. It is one of the widest, most global survey of SMEs ever conducted.

The latest report shows that in the Philippines, women business owners on Facebook still face significant funding challenges, with over 4 in 10 stating that they started their business with personal savings. Among the women entrepreneurs surveyed, only 1 in 5 have a bank loan or a line of credit. We know this is consistent with the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs across the region. Apart from finding it difficult to raise external funding, they often need to work twice as hard to balance professional and familial demands and they are more likely than men to run businesses out of their homes —which can deprive them of the networks needed to grow and scale. Women’s leadership potential can also be stymied by the lack of role models and support systems in which they can receive mentoring and guidance.

Yet there are many reasons to be optimistic. The flexibility offered by digital technologies is leveling out the playing field. It has enabled a new generation of women entrepreneurs and even one-woman businesses that can go global by tapping into the power of community and conversation to grow their businesses. Around the world, a substantial proportion of small businesses on Facebook are owned and led by women.

In the 95 countries surveyed, we found that nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) of people identifying as owners or managers of small businesses on Facebook are women. The report also shows that female business owners on Facebook report the usefulness of social media to their business at a rate that is statistically higher than their male counterparts.

In the Philippines, 9 in 10 female business owners on Facebook said that social media was useful in growing their business. Filipino women business owners on Facebook said also they benefited from the role of community and mentorship, with 8 in 10 saying that they have a woman role model. Mentorship

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Connection and mentorship can often make the difference between having a dream and realizing it. This is why we continue to invest in #shemeansbusiness—a global initiative designed to help women take the next step in their business ventures. The program provides financial support, advice, training and a supportive community of mentors and peers. As of this year, we have trained over 130,000 women in digital skills across Asia Pacific.

It is exciting to see this vibrant community of women-led businesses on our platform and be part of their growth story. When women entrepreneurs can access the funding, technology and skills needed to succeed, it also enables them to share knowledge and build the future of business together. Truly when women succeed, we all win. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: economy, gross domestic product (GDP), McKinsey Global Institute, Women
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