Co-Founder, Mano Amiga | She Talks Asia
I became the leader of a nonprofit organization at a very young age, and a big aspect of my role involved fundraising and meeting C-Suite leaders from big companies.
I remember receiving unsolicited advice from an older male friend about trying to seem more meek in meetings, since the people I deal with might get turned off by an outspoken woman. He had good intentions and wasn't fully wrong either – there are many published studies on how women who display traditionally male-associated traits (like assertiveness) are viewed as less likeable by BOTH men and women. Hearing that definitely made me second guess myself, but what helped me was going back to my personal WHY, and the faith that as long as I live and act according to my values, I would attract the right kind of partners who authentically share Mano Amiga's mission.
This year, we're celebrating Mano Amiga's fifteenth year. I am grateful that I did not allow my fear of other people's judgment to get in the way of assertively advocating for the welfare of the families and communities I work with.
Since women have traditionally taken on the role of caregiver in the household, there are certain descriptive and prescriptive beliefs of how a woman should act. For example, some long-held biases about women are that they should be nurturing and avoid dominance, and that femininity means being soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and very agreeable. This has always been foreign to me because I grew up with women who are very dominant, strong-willed, and opinionated – to the point of being argumentative at times. But even now, I feel uncomfortable highlighting that contrast because it may come across as implying that one set of traits is better than the other – it is that kind of thinking that has led and reinforced prescriptive biases in the first place.
More than just broadening its definition, I'd like to reframe the idea of being feminine – not as something that could be encompassed by something as arbitrary as personality traits – but as how women could use their unique experiences, skills, and insights to contribute positively to society.
For example, several studies have shown that female managers tend to outperform their male counterparts in soft skills like empathy and emotional self-awareness. These competencies help promote employee well-being, and in turn, a more positive and productive work environment. Does this mean that women are naturally more caring than men? I really don’t think so.
Perhaps girls and women have always been encouraged to practice and strengthen their care and empathy muscles more frequently than boys and men have. Prescriptive biases are disadvantageous for all genders.
To me, being #FeminineandProud means using our unique perspective, talents, and strengths to uplift others and contribute towards a more just and equal world.
It’s time we stop limiting women with boxed descriptions of how they could and should act. Women can change the world while being soft-spoken or loud. We can change the world from both the home and the boardroom.
Being #FeminineAndProud means making our voices count, and helping to create a world where justice, empathy, and equality are the norm.
In 2017, I co-founded a women's empowerment platform with four friends, She Talks Asia, with the goal of elevating the discourse on gender-based issues, and to hopefully serve as a catalyst for more programs, policies, and grassroots initiatives focused on addressing gender-based discrimination.
By amplifying diverse female voices and creating safe spaces for respectful dialogue, we could raise awareness and engender empathy — making it easier for people from different sides of the issue to find common ground and co-create actionable solutions.
I have so many female role models: My Mom, Gregoria de Jesus, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Frank – they come from diverse backgrounds but what they have in common is their courage to be their authentic selves, their consistency in living their values, and their commitment to make a difference within their sphere of influence.