Women residents of Pasay City do the Zumba workout in celebration of National Women's Month. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan) 

MANILA – It could not be denied that gender stereotypes are still pervasive, thereby affecting women’s self-esteem and career progression. But Janicka Cristine Mendoza remained unshakable and proved that women, just like men, can also take the lead.

Mendoza, a 27-year-old business development officer, said she had experienced discrimination from her past employer who prefers men over women to look after the company’s projects.

When the door opened for her to lead one of the projects in her previous workplace, Mendoza said she had given all her best not just to meet but to exceed the expectations of her former employer.

“Sad to say, one of [my former] bosses was looking for a male employee who will lead the project. As I was the one assigned to do the post, I did not get discouraged but rather showed how we, women, can deliver results with excellence and quality. Fair enough, I was able to accomplish and exceed his expectations,” Mendoza told the Philippine News Agency.

Being a licensed dentist at a young age, Alissa del Rosario’s ability to do dental treatments was once doubted by her patients.

Despite that, del Rosario stayed optimistic and made sure that her patients would be satisfied with her dental work.

“I usually encounter patients who underestimate my age and capabilities as a lady dentist, but I always try to look on the brighter side of life and I always prove to my dear patients that I have so much to offer. I have had a dilemma before because I have low self-esteem, but I've learned to show my skills by treating my patients with their dental concerns and helping them have good oral health. Being a lady dentist means that girl power should stand out amidst all odds,” del Rosario, 26, said.

Sherenade Anne Gonzales, crowned as San Rafael Festival Queen of Youth 2019, expressed dismay that some people have belittled her because of being a member of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) community.

“Bias, struggles, challenges and discrimination are common acts that you will encounter in our society if you are a woman. People tend to categorize women as the ‘weaker sex’. So, imagine the weight if you come out as a bisexual cisgender woman. In my case, I tend to figure out the reality when I proudly admitted that I belong to the rainbow community. I've encountered numerous situations wherein people degraded my capacity, on how I will normally live and love,” she said.

Gonzales tried her luck at Miss World Philippines 2021. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old beauty queen failed to win a title in the national pageant.

She admitted she was hurt by comments that she lost because of her sexuality.

“It is really painful when people look down on you and judge you based on their wrong perceptions about you being a part of LGBTQ. But life must go on. I've conquered this by working diligently and developing a greater trust in myself,” Gonzales said.

Seek growth

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2021, the Philippines has ranked 17th among 156 nations in closing gender inequality.

The Philippines, based on the report, has remained the top-performing country in Asia after closing 78.4 percent of its overall gender gap.

Mendoza said women should be confident in empowering themselves and showing off their skills, despite the apparently still-prevalent gender prejudice and discrimination.

“Empowering one's self is nurturing the needs of the soul. We are masters of multi-tasking,” Mendoza, who also serves as an online entrepreneur, said. “Whatever that bothers you, just do it. Period. Second, learn new skills and master those so you will always exceed expectations.”

Gonzales, who is also a student leader and an active advocate of gender equality, said women should continue dreaming and not let anyone dictate what they should or can do.

“In this world, no one but you can fully believe in you. I am well aware that I do have my flaws and I am far from being perfect,” she said. “But this will not deter nor stop me from being me. I use setbacks and rejections to better and empower myself on a daily basis. I am transforming my failures into hopes to have strength in order to try again, to continue dreaming until it turns into reality and to believe in the power of fate and have faith.”

Welcome change

Del Rosario also advised her fellow women to welcome change, saying it would help them stand out in everything they do.

“Empowering myself as a woman means to never stop changing for the better. Always be open for growth,” she said.

Mendoza said there is nothing wrong if women experiencing bias decide to take a break for some time, so long as they do not quit.

She added that women should also be brave against people who are violating their rights.

“Learning to take a break and not feel guilty about it means a lot in growing holistically,” Mendoza said. “Last, but not the least, speak up against any act — overt and covert — that violates any rights of women. In that manner, you exude confidence to yourself and to others, creating a safer society for women of all ages.”

Be your ‘best version’

Del Rosario said there are many ways for women to break gender inequality and become the “best version” of their selves. For her part, she has attended numerous dentistry-related seminars and trainings.

“I strive to be the best version of myself. I think the only thing that we should compare as a woman is the old version of ourselves. Always be positive for good changes,” she said. “Learn to love yourself. Choose faith over fear, bias, stereotypes and discriminations.”

Walk with pride

Instead of getting disheartened, women experiencing discrimination should “walk with pride” and turn setbacks into triumphs, Gonzales said.

Gonzales said women should not be swayed by the opinions of others, so long as they “cause no harm to others.”

“If you are [being] real, you can achieve all the greatness in life. With nothing to hide, you can walk with pride. By being yourself, trusting yourself, and believing in yourself, there will be no room for hatred or for other people's beliefs. All it takes is for you to remain focused and persistent in order to overcome bias, stereotypes, and discrimination,” she said. (PNA)