#KwentongPilipina: Marla Abao
Changing Workplace Gender Stereotypes
“ I love how modern Filipinas can be more expressive when it comes to their identity. Before kasi, we had a notion that dalagang Filipinas are supposed to be demure. But now, we’re allowed to be empowered and expressive.”
Marla Abao is a second year Industrial Engineering student who is also a co-founder of an organization called WiTech, an organization which aims to empower young women to break gender stereotypes and venture in technological fields to make a difference.
Seeing Gender Stereotypes in Tech
Marla: WiTech started as a blog by my friend Audrey Pe who at that time was trying to complete her computer science degree. She started the blog because she didn’t see a lot of role models for aspiring women. Audrey and I met at a hack-a-thon where we were both hosts. There, she discovered that I was also a computer science nerd. We also discussed my background in international competitions. Because of that, she invited me to do an interview for her blog, to talk about computer science. Funnily enough, what was supposed to be a formal interview became a long rant on how there are no female tech role models. When you ask people about who inspired them to go into tech, it’s always Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and other men in tech, but no women.That’s when we came up with the idea of hosting a Women in Tech conference for students.
Gender Challenges in Tech
Marla: “I think one of our biggest challenges right now is how the tech space is still a big boy’s club. I think there’s still a mindset that since women are supposed to be feminine and soft spoken, they’re not taken seriously in the male dominated field. As a result, I think women in tech need to try 5x harder than their male counterparts when it comes to being heard in boardrooms. Also, I think since it’s a masculine field, women have to change just to fit in. Like, we need to stop wearing girly clothes like floral dresses and opt for more masculine attires because we need them to take us seriously.”
Overcoming Gender Challenges
Marla: “I think women, especially those venturing in male dominated fields need to believe that they do indeed belong wherever they are. They need to stop feeling like an outsider and they have to embrace their belongingness in the field. Also, they need to hold on to the confidence and self-belief that they have, because it’s what got them there in the first place. Lastly, I believe that as women, we need to keep on pushing forward because it’s going to be worth it.”