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The Working Pinoy

5 Ways Pinays Can Be Assertive and Powerful at the Workplace

By Krisha Maclang on July 7, 2015

Filipinas, like many women all over the world, have risen from hundreds of years of inequality to stand side by side with our male counterparts in many industries. Whether we’re at home or at work, we rock at what we do.

According to the 2014 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, the Philippines ranks number 1 in Asia in closing the gender gap. Our country also ranked 2nd after Norway in the ability of women to rise in positions of power in business and leadership, as well as the highest percentage of firms owned by women.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do.  Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook and former Google executive, wrote the seminal Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, a book empowering women to close the gender gap in the workplace. She encourages women not to hold back in their careers and lean in and assert themselves in the office.’s Kelly Hanson rounded up the 5 best Lean In insights from the book. Kalibrr adds its own twist to it - how can you as a Pinay "lean in" at work


Take the leap and make a career risk

Sandberg says that women tend to make more conservative decisions when it comes to work. We worry if we have what it takes to take on new challenges or that we don’t have the work experience backing us to explore new opportunities.

She recommends going after leadership positions even if we don’t think we have all the required credentials. We are usually more capable than we think. Men have more confidence in their abilities so they usually just go for it.

How Pinays can lean in: We’re scared to take a risk, like asking for a promotion or heading a new project, for fear of failing or for seeming rather mayabang because we’re trying to confidently enter uncharted territory.

As proud feminist Taylor Swift said, “haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate”. If people at work think you’re being mayabang for going forward with a potential opportunity, just ignore them. Taking a career risk will help you grow because staying within the bounds of what you know will stagnate your personal growth. If you fail, consider it valuable work experience.

Stop being a people pleaser

Sandberg recounts that at the beginning of her work in Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg confronted her about her “desire to be liked by everyone”.

A disproportionate number of people pleasers are women because we are raised to think of other people’s welfare first. It’s hard to say no because we were taught to be accommodating and to seek other people’s validation of our actions.

Sandberg (and Zuckerberg!) says that people pleasing will hold back your career. Focusing on other people’s needs or demands will take away your focus from your own work.

How Pinays can lean in: Filipinos are naturally non-confrontational. We tend to avoid conflict, especially at the workplace, para iwas gulo and to keep the peace. Pair this with the people pleasing and you’ve got Pinays who find it hard to say no and push back even if we absolutely need to.

But if you want to step up your career A-game, you’ve got to start somewhere. Start by saying NO to people’s requests for trivial tasks. Your teammate begs you for help to make a spreadsheet for the inventory because he or she was out having fun last night and missed the deadline? Say no! Push back when you need to push back so you can make more time for crucial work.

It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder

There’s more than one way up the corporate food chain. Thinking of it as a corporate ladder is limiting because it only gives you one way up and down. Sandberg suggests viewing your career path as a jungle gym instead of a ladder. She credits Fortune magazine Editor-at-Large Patricia Sellers for this analogy.

Remember when you were a kid playing on a jungle gym and it felt exciting? You could go up, down, left, or right and even crawl inside or outside. Apply that same visual to your career. You don’t have to stick to one formula to gain career success. Feel free to be dynamic and try and even fail at a few things as you explore what works for you and what doesn’t.

How Pinays can lean in: It can be a gamble to explore new opportunities here in the Philippines. Unemployment is tough and you definitely need money to get by so we usually opt to take the safe route to job security.

There’s nothing wrong with being a segurista but limiting yourself to the safe option could mean closing yourself off to other opportunities. There isn’t one guaranteed way to career success so why not find what works for you? You don’t need to quit your job and run wild. Start of by exploring your hobbies on the side or by taking up a passion project or enrolling in classes.

Exploring new avenues can bring you one step closer to personal fulfillment.

Dream big but plan big too

It’s perfectly okay to dream big dreams for yourself as long as you make plans to actually put them into action. Making plans to follow through on your dreams is how you can move forward and improve yourself at the same time.

Sandberg suggests asking yourself, “What can I do to improve myself at work?” Envision the person you want to be at work and find ways to actually become that person. Dream big and back up your dream with action.

How Pinays can lean in: Let’s be real: planning is tedious. It can be so easy to stop at step 1 and just dream big and think bahala na.

But bahala na is a deadly trap. If you want to succeed, you have to go out there and make your dream happen. Want to land that new client all the competitors are drooling after? Do research into what the client wants and what you can do to help them. Go out there and do the legwork to get that client.

Simply dreaming isn’t enough. Do what it takes to be the ideal person at work you want to be.

Lean on other women to lean in

It can be hard to lean in on your own. Sandberg suggests getting together with a group of peers to create a support group for women who want to lean in. Have monthly meetings with like-minded women to support each other in your goals and exchange thoughts and ideas on them.

Having a lean in circle will help you help other women and vice versa in breaking down gender barriers at work.

How Pinays can lean in: If the thought of getting together with a group of women you don’t really know makes you feel awkward, then try to start small. It doesn’t even have to be a monthly meet up right away. Get together with the women of your barkada or even the women in your company or industry to pick their brains on what they do to get things done at work.

Talking to people in your industry or even in your barkada will give you fresh perspectives on how you can be your best self at work in the comfort of people who you are familiar with.


We’ve still got a long way to go to break the glass ceiling for women everywhere. And while we Filipinas are luckier than the rest because we live in a country where our place at the office is valued, there’s still a lot to do to close the gender gap. When we lean in, we’re not just forging paths for our careers, we’re forging paths for women everywhere to confidently believe in their dreams and succeed.