Everybody has a role to play

By Vernon Velasco / photo by Roy Domingo

NOTWITHSTANDING all the prevailing feminist rhetoric during Women’s Month, and taking the cudgels for the continued journey of women who want to make it in this world, Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. (PCPPI) Vice President Jika Dalupan thinks that one of the qualities of women that really qualify them to leadership positions in companies is their ability to empathize.

“We take the time to listen; we analyze certain factors before we decide on something,” she said.

According to Dalupan, this is not to say that empathy is distinctly a trait of the fairer sex. But where she says that their counterparts are usually very structured and detailed, usually women are more inclined to take the time to find out what the situation is all about, how does a person feel about it before ultimately trying to find a consensus.

“Leadership is the ability to listen intently to every team member, considering their hot buttons. It’s not just about barking identical instructions without knowing who they are, what makes them tick, what excites them because knowing these things allows a leader to be even more effective in engaging her subordinates on whatever it is a team is meant to accomplish together,” she said.

Dalupan’s personal leadership philosophy and marching orders at work do not equate to an exacting directive, and, in fact, one that heeds all ends at the table and empathically celebrates argument. “At the workplace, we can go left while others go right. We can be creative. We can be different and that’s O.K.”

Already on the top of her profession with the monopoly of competencies and achievements harnessed from previously working (both at the forefront and at the helm) for multinationals like Unilever and Pfizer for the longest time, Dalupan joined Pepsi to take charge of its corporate reputation, creating the company’s four-pillared winning corporate social responsibility campaign TAYO Na (Talino, Asenso, Yaman, Oras), which shot up PCPPI’s social awareness and conscience on areas like education and nutrition, livelihood, environment conservation and volunteerism.

It used to be that PCPPI’s idea of social involvement translated to dole-outs and greening projects, and there was no department especially devoted to external communications, public affairs and media relations, and consumer affairs. Then the company was locally listed to the Philippine Stock Exchange in 2008, and what Dalupan and her equally passionate corporate affairs and communications team did when they came was to lay more productive initiatives onto a framework.

“Through the TAYO Na program, we realized that we are in a good position to contribute to the society and give a soul to the company partly by utilizing all of PCPPI’s human resources—who used to just come to work and do the things that they usually do eight hours a day, seven days a week—into something that makes us feel purpose-driven,” Dalupan said. “And, of course, how we inspire actions is to set the tone at the top.”

Even where feminism is a perennially loaded word, on the other hand Dalupan thinks that, if you are to look at a country-to-country comparison, the Philippines fares very well compared to other countries when it comes to inclusion, gender equality, diversity in the workplace. “There are more opportunities here whereas elsewhere, women are—to this day—often set aside.”

Dalupan posits that, where she came from, the kind of environment that she thrives in is very supportive of workplace diversity so that it makes it across boardrooms. Take Pepsi.

“No matter that Pepsi is a bottling company, and factories are usually thought of as a workplace for guys, its female workers still comprise of 17 percent either working in the Marketing or Accounting or Finance sectors,” Dalupan said. “I could say that, because of the multinational mindset of the company, everybody is entitled with opportunities for growth as long as you are competent and you demonstrate it.”

Other than being a top executive, Dalupan prides herself for being a mom and regards leading a family and staying at the household to look after kids as equally noble as putting food on the table and a roof above heads.

“Through the years, I realized that life is about roles and that, leadership or not, it’s about understanding that everybody, notwithstanding where they’re coming from, plays a pivotal function,” Dalupan said, this, for someone whose idea of success is something put on a higher plane than winning and for whom gender or level of education is not a precondition to changing the world.

“I’m a mom and a career woman; both bring out the best in me. I have high respect for women who stay at home with the kids—it’s a difficult job—in the same manner that I have respect for the women who work. Inclusion means recognizing that everybody has a place in the scheme of things and being appreciated regardless of gender and what you do.”

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