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Women on top: the career development journey of Filipina business executives in the Philippines

Enrico Cirineo Osi (John Gokongwei School of Management, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines)
Mendiola Teng-Calleja (Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 15 February 2021

Issue publication date: 4 May 2021




This paper aims to examine the experiences of Filipina women business executives occupying top-most leadership roles in male-dominated industries in the Philippines.


This qualitative research utilized the institutional theory and a phenomenological approach with semi-structured interviews for data collection. The seven women executives were purposively selected and interviewed in-depth. Participants were renowned leaders in six male-dominated industries in the country.


Three phases – growing up years, career advancement and raising a family and becoming and being the chief executive officer (CEO) tracked the career development journey of the Filipina women business leaders that participated in the study. Cultural, organizational and familial factors emerged as contextual dimensions at each phase that the women business executives needed to navigate in their journey to the top. Six sub-themes reflect challenges in their career progression – women as in-charge of households, expectations as mothers, limited representation in the boardroom, discrimination as women leaders, women not seen as leaders and husband's ego. Four other sub-themes served as enablers – equal opportunity culture, career pathing and diversity, male mentors/role models and enlightened husbands. The CEO's personal characteristics surfaced as a critical factor – spirituality, being competitive but not ambitious, speaks her mind, can-do attitude, accountability, openness to learn and continually re-invents self.

Research limitations/implications

The participants only included top-most Filipina women business leaders. Implications to women executives' career development in organizations are discussed.


This current study contributes a proposed conceptual model in the understanding of the career development journey of Filipina women executives in the Philippines where recent findings found greater recognition of their work in the corporate setting as compared to more developed Asian countries.



Osi, E.C. and Teng-Calleja, M. (2021), "Women on top: the career development journey of Filipina business executives in the Philippines", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 140-157.



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