#Asia Isabel ‘Pao’ Barrientos on dispelling myth that women can only make it so far


The HappyFresh Philippines MD also thinks that younger generations of technopreneurs have an advantage

Isabel Pao Barientos, Managing Director of HappyFresh Philippines

Throughout her career, Isabel ‘Pao’ Barrientos has never had a major challenge that prevented her from achieving success.

“I was brought up to reach for the stars. Some women probably feel like they are in the male-dominated business, and that there’s a glass-ceiling, but there are also women who are at the top of their field, like the President of IBM [Ginni Rometty] or Apple’s [VP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts] … There are many women in tech that have made it past that,” said the Managing Director of HappyFresh Philippines.

“I guess what I am trying to say is [that] I’d like to dispel the belief that women can only make it to a certain extent. Women can achieve anything. They can be the Founder of the next billion [dollar] site,” she added.

Pao certainly speaks from experience, as she had 30 years of industry leadership in online marketplaces and social media organisations across Asia, the US, and the Middle East.

e27 spoke to Pao about the Philippines emerging tech startup scene, gender discrimination and what she believes businesses — and women — can do to tackle the problem.

Also Read: Ollie to women in tech: Growth starts with the decision to try

When asked about her past experience working in the US, Pao cited a strong cultural difference between the Philippines and the US. American business culture tends to be more open to the latest developments, which is paired with a communication style that is straightforward and to-the-point.

“Business pace is much faster, [there is also] more expertise as e-commerce has been around longer. There’s still a lot of burning in the Philippines,” she said.

But there is also a good news about the Philippine tech industry. Barrientos says that not only is there a good mix of male and female co-founders, the younger generation is more open-minded than their predecessors.

“It’s easier now [since] younger people are going to the e-commerce industry. [And] the younger generations are so used to diversity, whether it’s race, class, or gender,” she said.

Pao stressed, for companies to be open to diversity, the key to have more women in the C-suite positions, whether it is on organisational development, training, or recruitment.

However, she does not believe in the concept of affirmative action.

“I strongly believe that everyone should be given equal opportunity. Like in the US, there [are] equal opportunity employers (bosses who make a pledge to not discriminate against job applicants based on race or gender) … There is no bias,” she explained.

“When women say that ‘you’re bias against me’, I think that’s another way women are sabotaging themselves,” she added.

Also Read: When it comes to gender equality, China is better than Silicon Valley: Dr. Lee Ng

For the young generation of technopreneurs in the Philippines, Pao has a few pieces of advice to share.

First, when it comes to business itself, the best lesson that she took from the US is that one needs to be “very flexible, very fluid, as things in e-commerce change every day, every hour”.

Second, to maintain diversity in the workplace, technopreneurs need keep an open mind and continue learning throughout life.

“Continue to broaden your horizons in professional and personal lives. You just have to be as open to new ideas as possible,” she ended.

Image Credit: HappyFresh Philippines

The post Isabel ‘Pao’ Barrientos on dispelling myth that women can only make it so far appeared first on e27.

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