A lone Filipina made it to Forbes's inaugural list of Asia's Power Business Women, which honors noteworthy pathbreakers, many of whom have overcome significant barriers to become successful.
Among the honorees whose work ranges from Bollywood to banking is Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of one of the biggest family-owned conglomerates in the Philippines, SM Investment Corp., with interests that include the nation’s most profitable and largest group of department stores and its number one bank, BDO Unibank.
Forbes also released "15 to Watch," which features businesswomen who are not on the inaugural list, but are strong candidates for the future. Forbes says its editors were struck by the number of up-and-comers who are "fast-tracking their careers by defying convention, disrupting traditional business models, and creating entirely new markets for growth."
The 43-year-old Summit Media president Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng was included in the list of women who are likely to be seen in future power rankings.
Both women are daughters of Filipino-Chinese taipans now in leadership positions in their fathers' empires. Gokongwei-Cheng’ Summit Media holds the Philippine franchise to the men’s magazine FMH — which early this week was embroiled in a “racist” cover controversy.
According to Forbes, the 61-year-old Sy-Coson sees herself as a manager who maintains the core rather than leads the group. This is despite being seen as heir apparent to her father, Chinese-Filipino Henry Sy, who has 42 SM malls in the Philippines.
SM also owns four malls in China. 'It is really a destiny'
“I was just born into a business family. It is really a destiny," Forbes quotes Sy-Coson, whose interest in selling goes as far back as when she was 8 years old. See:
“I was always told I had to be an example to my siblings. I was told to toe the line. So I had to behave,” says Sy-Coson, the eldest of six children. After graduating with a degree in Commerce in 1970, a keen merchandising sense brought her her first success — with the family business, of course. Sy doubled the sales of her mother's retail clothing line in her father's store, which was then called Shoemart. “I guess I just knew what people wanted to buy," she says in Sunshine Lichauco de Leon's "The Sky's The Limit for Teresita Sy-Coson."
Two years later, her father asked her to open his first department store in Manila, a challenge she handled with all the confidence of a 22 year-old. But the road to success was not without bumps, and she would turn to business books and trade fairs for help.
A hard worker, she says that simply being her father's daughter was not enough. "You have to really prove yourself to get respect. It’s not a matter of sitting on a position and saying this is what we will do. You have to read a lot, understand what is going on and work as a team,” she says.
Sy-Coson is one of 50 businesswomen who have achieved business success, which Forbes describes as a mixture of capital, ideas, energy and leadership.
"This inaugural list celebrates the dynamic ways in which Asia’s businesswomen are driving some of the region’s most exciting growth. Through their respective realms of power and influence, these honorees span diverse industries, nations and generations, yet each has changed the face of Asian business, while creating opportunities for future leaders,” said Moira Forbes, president and publisher of ForbesWoman in a statement. Asia's women achievers
The list is dominated by 21 women from Greater China, almost half of the 50 listed individuals, all of whom were chosen for their hands-on management of profit-seeking companies. Among the honorees from Greater China are Marjorie Yang of Hong Kong's Esquel Group, HTC Co-founder and chairman Cher Wang, and SOHO co-founder and CEO Zhang Xin.
Japan has three women on the list, including 77-year-old Yoshiko Shinohara, who helped launch Japan's temping industry as president of Tempstaff, which generates $2.9 billion in annual sales. Shinohara is the oldest on the list, while India's Balaji Telefilms Joint Managing director Ekta Kapoor is the youngest at 36. Kapoor is one of eight Indian women on the list, including the country's richest self-made woman, biotech firm Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.
Singapore has five women on the list, including Temasek executive director and CEO Ho Ching. South Korea and Indonesia both have four women on the list, including South Korea's CJ Entertainment & Media vice chair Lee Mi-Kyung and Indonesia’s Central Cipta Murdaya president director Siti Hartati Murdaya. Australia has two women the list, and the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are all represented by one woman each.
Released on March 1, the list coincides with the inaugural Forbes Forum: Asia Power Business Women in Singapore in. The forum gathers some 200 women leaders to exchange business and leadership strategies, as well as examine critical issues and personal challenges that women face in their journey to the top.
The list may be viewed online and in the March 2012 issue of Forbes Asia. — KG/HS/VS