20 March 2017
[Trans] Q&A with Accenture
Q: What can each individual do everyday, not just once a week – every day – to actually empower more women?
VP Leni: Parang pang-Ms. Universe yung question. (Crowd laughs) It doesn’t have to be anything grand. In everything that we do, there is always an opportunity to, you know, to make a difference – making a difference is translated to empowering other people.
You know, as women — as women in relation to the men in our lives, just knowing when to keep quiet and when to speak up.
Host: Good point.
VP Leni: And with co-workers, when to take credit and when to share it. Those things. You don’t have to have an entire avenue of opportunities to make a difference.
But you know, every day of your life you are given the opportunity to empower. And by empowering, it is by making others feel good about themselves – because when others feel good about themselves, it’s when they bring out the best in you know, in themselves.
Host: Talk about good advice!
Q: What’s the hardest decision you made in your career? What did you consider in making that decision?
VP Leni: You know, off-hand I would say, um accepting the challenge to run for the vice-presidency but you know, looking back, all the decisions I’ve made – um, from the time that I graduated from college, were hard.
In the sense that, I was studying… I was in the UP School of Economics for college. And I was the eldest in the family and it was sort of ordered upon me to follow the footstep… the footsteps of my dad.
But you know, I graduated right after the EDSA Revolution in 1986. And I was one of those young people who were inspired by what just happened. I asked permission from my dad if I can delay law school for a while, and decided to work for government. I did that against the wishes of my family, but my dad saw through it. He gave me one year.
By the way, I met my husband who was my boss in my first job. [Crowd laughs] So in less than a year, I was married to the boss. [Crowd laughs]
So I sort of did not follow the – did not follow my commitment to my dad, that was a big decision. And after I got married to him, you know. After I got engaged to the boss, I was forced to leave the office because it would have been unethical to stay on.
So I got a teaching job that was also hard in the sense that I never saw myself as a teacher but it was something that I enjoy. And after finishing law school, I just knew that I wanted public service lawyering.
And the only public service lawyering I knew then was the Public Attorney’s Office so that’s where I applied. Against the advice of so many friends, kasi mababa yung sweldo. But I stayed on, and to make matters worse, I decided to transfer to a non-government organization na halos walang sweldo.
It was a very difficult – I stayed there for more than 10 years, I was doing lawyering with the masses. I would go to the farthest of the communities. That was hard because I was balancing my life as a mother, as a lawyer, as a wife of the mayor so it was a big balancing act.
And then my husband died, I told myself that I can’t do lawyering for the poor forever, because I was a single parent already. I applied for the judiciary.
But then even before I got accepted, I was drafted to run for Congress. And I did. Without thinking about it. I was not given the chance to think about everything but I did.
After that I was that I was telling myself, after one term, I will pursue my dream of joining the judiciary but then the vice presidency came along and again I plunged into it.
I have been telling my children that it felt like I was diving into a waterless pool head first.
But you know, you just make the most out of it. Out of very difficult decisions later on, given the benefit of hindsight you know that you did it for a purpose.
Q: What is the best career advice that you have received that you would like to share with all of us?
VP Leni: Siguro I would refer to, you know I have a 29-year-old daughter. When, after she graduated, after she graduated from college, she joined a consultancy firm based in New York but she was based in the Philippines.
But the head office was in New York so the work hours were crazy. She was enjoying it for a while but I’m sure you can relate. She was enjoying it for a while but you know she would be unable to join friends, join family in our regular schedules.
She wanted out already and she wrote my husband an email. She emailed my husband and was telling my husband I want to quit na.
And I remember this. I didn’t know that she emailed her dad. But after my husband died, my daughter posted the reply of her dad on Facebook. And her dad was saying, if you quit now, the next time you encounter difficulties, you’ll quit again. So I’m not encouraging you to quit. That’s one advice.
But another, I think another advice that I will give you, it was not an advice given to me but it was something that I discovered.
Is you know, you really set yourself apart from the rest, if you’re willing to do the dirty work. If you’re willing to do the difficult job.
When I was still with the public attorney’s office, kaunti lang kami. Our case loads were talagang grabe. But I would always be there to volunteer.
I’ve always been there to volunteer for the, interview the clients, giving out, just to prepare for cases. And I think that was one that set me apart from the rest.
You know at the time that I joined public attorney’s office; I was already the wife of the mayor. And at that time everybody was dismissing me for somebody to come in just because she was the wife.
So I think it was unconscious at the start, but I think that was what made my bosses look up and see me in a different light because I was willing to do the extra work. And was willing to do the hard work. I was willing to give extra hours for nothing.
So siguro sa akin iyon. And the other thing was the advice of my husband to my daughter.