Built to lead
There are certain advantages to being one of the few women leaders in what is deemed a male-dominated industry.
And while the road is far from easy and the challenges would surely test one’s mettle and grit, the rewards could be far greater and even more fulfilling than one can imagine.
Rosemarie B. Ong, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Wilcon Depot, is one who indeed typifies a career woman’s quintessential success story—having to learn the ropes of the business, rising from the ranks, and eventually helping steer the company to a successful growth expansion.
“I remember before that I must be well-rounded in every aspect of the company and store operations. I worked hard to learn more and grow faster to cope with the construction industry, where women haven’t been given much opportunity to establish ourselves,” Ong recalled.
“I confidently and efficiently managed my career progression until I successfully reached the leadership management position. I consistently helped the company to cast a vision and draw up strategies on how to continually develop and grow the business. Every responsibility was a great opportunity to showcase my skills and capabilities as a woman,” Ong said.
Going the extra mile
According to Ong, working in the home improvement and construction supply industry is both challenging and exciting.
“We have this perception that building and construction are for men only, but women are also capable of bringing to completion the tasks that are labeled as manly. For women being surrounded and placed in a company operated mostly by men results in an aggressive response that they need to make double effort and go the extra mile in doing a better job. There’s a need to motivate yourself that you have these deeper layers of skills to accomplish a specific work,” Ong said.
“For me really, there is not much difference between men and women in terms of leading or working in a particular industry. Women can work and thrive in any industry, as long as one is driven and passionate in what she does. And vice versa. There should be no stigma too, if a man works in a female-dominated industry,” she added.
If there’s one advantage of having a women executive at the helm, it would be the fact that women are naturally nurturing, according to Ong.
“In our homes, women are expected to take care of the house chores, children and cooking, but our good management at home will reflect the level of our ability to manage our work and address all the needs of the company we are working for,” Ong said.
“In the retailing industry, women represent the perspective of the customers. Women are often the ones deciding which products or brands to buy for the households. Women know what the consumers need and want, which products would work, and know how to capture their interest and desire to buy,” she explained.
In her case, Ong was able to help steer Wilcon Depot towards growth, enabling a successful expansion for the company.
She recalled that when she entered Wilcon, the company then had only two stores that offered a few selection of finishing and construction materials. She then realized that in the construction industry, innovation is key.
From that time on, Ong held a strong desire to succeed, envisioning Wilcon as the top home retailer in the country. With that vision, they crafted a strategy not only in promoting products, but also in providing customers an utmost shopping experience.
“I humbly claim that I am instrumental in building the company and consider myself as a pillar in the growth of Wilcon. Right now, as the senior executive vice president-chief operating officer of Wilcon Depot, I really enjoy the scopes of my work as I am responsible in the overall operations of the company. Monitoring and directing several departments and managing employees nationwide are also part of my tasks,” Ong explained.
Today, Wilcon Depot is regarded as the leading home improvement and construction supply retailer in the country. As of end 2018, Wilcon has a total of 51 stores nationwide, and the target for this year is to open nine more Wilcon branches in Iloilo, Batangas, Bulacan, Davao, Rizal, Quezon City, among other locations. This year’s expansion will bring the company closer to its goal of building a network of 65 stores by 2020.
Indeed, much has already been achieved and important lessons have been learned. And Ong, seeing how far the company has gone, now finds fulfillment in the way Wilcon has been positively affecting the lives of many homeowners—when they are able to help people and make them happy as they build and improve their homes.
Ong further finds satisfaction in seeing Wilcon continuously growing, knowing that she has significantly contributed to the company’s success.
“Achieving this is a big challenge for us. We worked hard in turning Wilcon from a small company way back 1977 into the top giant home retailer that it is now,” Ong added.
For other women starting to carve their rightful place in the corporate world, and aspiring to be just as successful in their workplace, Ong advises: “For me, we have to learn new things everyday. As women leaders, we have to be unstoppable. We must always remind ourselves with our strengths—we are more detailed, more organized, and we can always come up with innovative ideas. At the same time, we must develop our own weaknesses and turn them into our strengths, which will propel us to higher grounds.”
“Every woman evokes love, care and affection. Encouraging and empowering women around us will mean a lot. Words of appreciation and gratitude go far. This International Women’s Month, we must acknowledge the great success of women across the globe as well as those who contributed in shaping our future,” Ong concluded.
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