Fragile, subservient, and meek are words with which today’s Filipino women wish not to be associated. Instead of fragility, they value strength. Independence over subservience. Confidence, not diffidence.
Or as one 21-year-old woman from Visayas puts it, “A modern Filipina [doesn’t] rely on men, I can do things my way.”
While some may argue we are just putting ourselves in another box, it is a different box; one that opens up to more opportunities and a bigger world. A world where Filipino women, most of whom now value financial independence, can be who they want to be.
A 2021 study conducted by marketing communications agency Wunderman Thompson Philippines, entitled “Filipina Forward,” reveals a shift in Filipino women’s priorities. From “reaching a higher level of spiritual awareness” as number one goal in 2017, four years and one pandemic have changed it to “being financially independent” with 33 percent of respondents shooting for this goal.
The aforementioned priority is in fact either the top one or two across four generations surveyed: Gen Z (16-24 years old), Millennials (25-44), Gen X (45-54), and Boomers (54 and up).
“I think the shift to financial security as primary need was either brought about by the recent pandemic or by the fact that women also realized that financial security gives you a sense of control and power,” opines Margot Torres, managing director of McDonald’s Philippines.
Following financial independence, Filipino women’s second, third, and fourth priorities are “starting a business” (24 percent), “making money” (23 percent), and “keeping healthy and fit” (22 percent).
The prime position of finance and health, the agency believes, is “a reflection of the pandemic’s impact” that include fear of the virus and mass unemployment.
“The pandemic weighs heavily on their feedback this year,” says Wunderman Thompson Philippines chief executive officer Golda Roldan. “But we are proud to see the strides that Filipino women are making based on the roles they play at home and at work, and how they see their personal self.”
Confident and career-driven
Confidence plays a huge role in Filipino women’s outlook. A whopping 94 percent are certain they will be able to achieve their goals, a rise from 80 percent in 2017; while 84 percent strongly believe that they are more capable than what is expected from their gender.
Working hand in hand with confidence is the independence many women enjoy or work hard for. Majority or 78 percent rely on themselves for motivation. “I am a strong, independent woman. Hindi naman sa hindi ko kailangan ng iba, but I can do it on my own,” a 26-year-old respondent from Luzon shares.
With confidence honed and independence attained, many Filipino women are forging a path of their choosing. For instance, 52 percent chose the college course they took based on their interest.
“My mother wanted me to be [in] medicine. Ayoko, so nag-nursing ako,” relates a 56-year-old respondent from Luzon.
Filipino women’s increased involvement in the workforce (Asia Pacific is expected to have the largest female workforce by 2030) also means that career has become a pivotal life aspect, with 27 percent of respondents saying that they are willing to delay marriage or having kids if their career requires it.
Taking care of the family or being a good mother are no longer the only markers of success for women, with 32 percent defining success as having the job or career-related to their passion.
Despite the openness to delay marriage or being childfree, the study found Filipino women still believe that taking care and being with their families are indicative of a life well-lived. In fact, it goes full circle for the younger folks (Gen Z and millennials) who consider work crucial to help them support their parents and gain financial independence to start their own families.
Maria Clara, who?
Gone is the reign of Maria Clara, or the belief that she is the scale upon which Filipino women are measured. Instead of “Maria Clara,” 86 percent of respondents identify themselves as “modern Filipinas” who defy tradition.
Filipino women (56 percent) are putting premium on having a female mentor or role model to look up to, saying that it has helped them take risks that they otherwise would not have taken (56 percent), be more ambitious (52 percent), and leave an abusive relationship (26 percent).
Even in the media, they prefer to see more films with strong female leads (59 percent) and multi-faceted female characters (e.g. a career woman who is also a mom).
“Brands and other players in the communication industry can either shed a spotlight on notable female figures or create strong female characters,” says Roldan.
Better representation of all women – size, color, and gender, notwithstanding – is now valued more than ever, with the study discovering that Filipino women patronize brands whose products are deliberately made inclusive. Those that develop products that make women’s lives easier are also preferred.
Graphics courtesy of Wunderman Thompson Philippines
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