As part of the National Women’s Month celebration, the Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) of University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) conducted a hybrid forum entitled “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: A Forum on Women Pioneers in the Tech Startup Ecosystem in the Philippines” last 22 March 2023 at the Centennial Center for Digital Learning Auditorium, UPOU Headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna and was streamed via UPOU Facebook page, UPOU Youtube channel, and UPOU Networks. 

Hosted by Assistant Professor Leanne Angelico Depante from the Master of Public Management Program, the forum was attended by participants from the government sector, incubator and accelerator sector, venture capitalists, and startup sector. The program started with the opening remarks of Dr. Joane V. Serrano, Professor and Dean of FMDS followed by the presentation of the invited resource speakers. The first speaker was Prof. Ted Fuller from the University of Lincoln (UoL) who discussed how women pioneers can change the future for good. Prof. Fuller shared the approaches used by the UoL and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to their projects. He also presented the UoL’s contribution to the facilitation of research and learning to support the activities of its affiliates, such as UPOU, who are experts in their own fields. 

To provide a better understanding of the existing legal frameworks that can push for the rights of women in livelihood and technology, Dr. Maria Lourdes Jarabe, Assistant Professor and Program Chair of the Diploma in Women and Development Program, highlighted the background and context of the Magna Carta of Women (MCW). Dr. Jarabe presented the rights of women in all aspects of employment including the technological sector provided by the MCW. She also talked about the challenges faced by women in technopreneurship and how to promote women’s participation in that field. After her presentation, Dr. Leo Mendel Rosario, Assistant Professor from the Diploma in and Master of Research and Development Management Programs discussed the involvement of women in the Philippine startup ecosystem and of women sectoral representations. He mentioned the present data on women’s involvement in the government sector, incubator and accelerator sector, venture capital sector, and startup sector. 

The discussion of Dr. Rosario was followed by the presentation of Ms. Russell Pili, Chief Technology Transfer Officer of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, Emerging Technology Research and Development. Ms. Pili discussed the Women-Helping-Women: Innovating Social Enterprises, also known as the WHWise Program which is a public-private partnership initiative that brings together government agencies and private organizations to seek out and prepare women-led social enterprises for growth, scalability, and subsequent venture capital funding. The Program aims to bring partners that support women entrepreneurs, partnership with government and other women organizations, provide early stage grants for development of women and incubate growth. She mentioned that the goal of the WHWiseProgram is to prepare women entrepreneurs to become investible and scalable in the future.

Finally, Engr. Aisa Mijeno-Labastilla, the co-founder of Sustainable Alternative Lighting Corporation (SALt) shared the story of how this social enterprise was inspired by the tribal community after living with them for weeks, learning how kerosene and moonlight have been the source of their lighting at night, and the challenges they have encountered during their journey of making this concept possible. She also shared the breakthroughs and success that their organization has reached as women innovators that aim to help marginalized communities. 

An open forum was held after the presentation of the four speakers which was participated in by the onsite attendees and online viewers. The forum concluded with the closing remarks from Dr. Finaflor Taylan, Director of the UPOU’s Office of the Gender Concerns and Program Chair of Diploma in and Master of Social Work Programs.

This event, in coordination with the UPOU’s Office of Gender Concerns, hopes to contribute to the fulfillment of the goal of ensuring and supporting the capacity of everyone and removing barriers that hinder women’s full participation in fields such as tech startups. 

Written by: Gabriela Andrea Evangelista • Edited by: Mr. Larry N. Cruz and Dr. Finaflor F. Taylan

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