The prospects are bright for women entrepreneurs residing in the Philippines. While its regional peers experienced slower growth and other economic disruptions over the last decade, the Philippines fared comparatively well. More...
The prospects are bright for women entrepreneurs residing in the Philippines. While its regional peers experienced slower growth and other economic disruptions over the last decade, the Philippines fared comparatively well. The fiscal deficit declined, domestic demand increased, and, in 2014, net inflows of foreign direct investment rose more than 60 percent. Now the Asia-Pacific region’s second fastest-growing economy after China, the Philippines is expected to expand 7 to 8 percent in 2015. These strong numbers signal a great opportunity for pulling even more of the economy’s population out of poverty, and for bolstering the entrepreneurial spirit of many determined women. To achieve its economic goals, the government of the Philippines has taken on such key structural issues as corruption, inequality, and vulnerability to natural disasters and economic crises.
One characteristic that accounts for the Philippines’ strong economic base is the consistent regard of women as highly valued members of its social, economic and political spheres. Not only has the Philippines had two female presidents, it is also one of the economies with the highest percentage of women sitting on corporate boards. In 2011, the Philippines ranked fourth, across 40 economies surveyed, in share of senior management positions occupied by women; 35 percent of these positions were held by women. These figures support the Philippines’ overall ranking in the 2014 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report—ninth out of 142 economies surveyed. The Philippines is the sole Asian economy in the top 10 since the report was first published in 2006 and ranks the highest of any economy in the Asia-Pacific region.
In recent years, the Philippines has dedicated considerable efforts toward promoting entrepreneurship, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), in all geographic regions and across all industries. This is apparent in the Philippine entrepreneurship sector’s composition. In 2011 the MSME Development Plan reported that microenterprises made up 91.6 percent of registered MSMEs in the Philippine economy. The sector is also dominated by women, albeit slightly.
Furthermore, according to a 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report, 81.8 percent of Philippine survey respondents saw entrepreneurship as a good career choice—the highest proportion in Asia and Oceania. The Philippines also ranks in the top 3 out of 70 economies in entrepreneurial intentions, perceived entrepreneurial opportunities, and perceived capabilities to start a business.
Moreover, the Philippines did well on GEM’s main indicator, “Total Early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity,” which assesses both the share of working-age population that are about to start an entrepreneurial activity and the share that have started one within the previous 3 1/2 years. In 2013, some 6.6 percent of the adult population were reported as established business owners and 18.5 percent were engaged in early stage entrepreneurship (TEA). The economy’s TEA rate is far higher than the average for the Asia Pacific and South Asia region (12 percent). In 2014, this rate was 20.8 percent for women and 15.9 percent for men.
In addition to these statistics, an APEC and the Asia Foundation (TAF) study on access to trade and growth of women-owned SMEs in the Philippines found that Filipino women have more positive attitudes toward entrepreneurship than men do, and more women than men believe they have the capability to start a business. Moreover, 84 percent of women business owners have at least some university training.
While these are all positive indicators to the Philippine economy’s appetite for and progress in entrepreneurial growth, there are abundant opportunities for further progress. First, in spite of early stage enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, the Philippines economy also has the highest rate of business discontinuation in the region, at 12.6 percent on average. This rate is higher for women business owners than it is for men. Second, one of the key barriers identified in the APEC and TAF study was the low rate of participation in formal networking associations. A higher proportion of women business owners—34 percent compared with 26 percent of men—reported never having interacted with formal business associations. The TAF study found a correlation between business success and engagement with formal associations or informal networks. In the Philippines, the penetration of informal networks is still limited. Women have a few opportunities to engage other women entrepreneurs at the domestic level, but online network holds the most promise.
The Philippines offers some best practices for the development of female entrepreneurs—in particular through its array of government services, business networks, and private sector initiatives that enhance the contribution of women.
A few women’s business networks exist in the Philippines that serve and operate across the economy as a whole. The average Filipino woman is likely, however, to benefit most from available provincial or community networks. When and where they are present and active, economy-wide networks in the Philippines are facilitated by social media websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, or form organically as online forums on entrepreneurship-themed websites.
Two formal networks, both “gender neutral,” provide extensive opportunities for professional networking and opening new markets. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry offers owners of MSMEs access to government decision-makers, local chambers, and other business organizations. The Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc (PHILEXPORT) provides a directory of affiliated industry associations with detailed contact information that enables networking.
Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Networks that support women’s access to markets:
Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Networks that support women and innovation and technology:
Microfinance institutions (MFIs) are among the most visible types of private organizations serving women entrepreneurs in the Philippines. According to MIX Market, a data hub where MFIs and supporting organizations share institutional data, more than 100 MFIs currently in operation in the Philippines.
Also, among more traditional banking institutions, the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. is a strong presence. It provides noncollateral loans for women members of Business & Professional Women Makati chapter (BPW Makati PH) and funds financial literacy training as part of BPW Makati’s “Women Stepping Up PH” initiative.
Nonbank private corporations are generally not vocal in their support of women’s economic empowerment or SME entrepreneurship. Two exceptions are Esquire Financing Inc.’s social business model competition and Coca-Cola Philippines’ partnership with the government for the STAR program to train women owners of small-scale retail outlets and sari-sari stores.
Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Initiatives that support women’s access to markets:
Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology:
The current administration of the Republic of the Philippines, under His Excellency Benigno Aquino III, has been an avid supporter of MSMEs and women’s economic empowerment. The Philippine Commission on Women was established in 1975 to serve as a government agency whose sole purpose is to promote and protect women’s rights and advancement.
Government agencies in the Philippines offer a range of services. These include provision of shared facilities and equipment, direct lending through government finance institutions, and direct support to exporters. The government also seeks to help exporters understand free trade agreements and their potential impact. These efforts extend to the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community. Many government services are directed toward MSMEs in general, as a coordinated set of activitites to mitigate and reverse poverty. Additionally, several important economic policies and initiatives are specifically focused on women. One example is the 2011–2016 MSME Development Plan, which includes gender mainstreaming among its four key themes.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) takes on multiple roles and influences. The department has a network of provincial offices where women can register their businesses and access business training, support for product development, and promotion and networking opportunities.