From ‘Maria Clara’ to modern Filipina: Study shows women now prioritize financial independence, health

Gone are the days when we, women, are just expected to act like “Maria Clara” – the “ideal” symbol of a pure, innocent, and sheltered woman, always modest and submissive. Not that such traits are negative, but changing times call for equal standards for both men and women. We are now empowered, independent, and have our priorities resting solely in our hands. In fact, a recent study shows that being financially independent and starting a business are now the main priorities of a modern Filipina. What a way to challenge the norm that women should rely on their husbands for income and stability!

I’ve recently learned that I do share the state, outlook, and goals of other Filipinas during the Filipina Forward 2021 livestream led by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, and I must say, it is indeed empowering to learn that I am not alone in battling the patriarchy.

The 2021 Filipina Forward report is based on combined quantitative and qualitative methods of research. Wunderman Thompson administered an online survey among 500 females, aged 15-69 years old, from rural and urban areas across the country, coupled with a series of focus group discussions with females from different income status levels, generations, and rural or urban residences in Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Sharing some interesting data (bear with me, it involves a lot of numbers) that have been highlighted, but you can also watch the full livestream by clicking on this link.

The pandemic and how it affected our priorities

The Filipina Forward study shows that 33% of Filipinas aim to be financially independent while almost a quarter (24%) are keen on starting a business. Financial independence also remains as the top indicator of success at 42%, followed by physical health and fitness at 37%. These numbers reflect the shift in Filipinas’ goals especially when compared to the 2017 result, which ranked ‘reaching a higher level of spiritual awareness’ as women’s top priority.

The prime position of finance and health is also a reflection of the pandemic’s impact, where “normal” means fear of the virus, increased digitization in work and school, and mass unemployment.

Filipinas are working hard towards financial independence, with 39% of respondents agreeing that they feel more confident to talk about money (up from 21% in 2017), while 43% also agree that they are able to budget well and plan for the future (up from 24% in 2017).

The trend is consistent with Frost & Sullivan’s recent study, which indicated that Asia-Pacific will be the region with the biggest female workforce by 2030. Last year, the same study reported a global female income of over $24 trillion, proof that women are taking charge of their finances as employees, leaders, and even pioneers in their respective fields.

Career over marriage and motherhood

I cannot stress this enough: Let women be if they prefer to be a strong independent career woman rather than a strong housewife. Both roles involve a lot of strength, but being career-driven does not make anyone less of a woman.

Filipinas’ increased involvement in the workforce resulted with 27% of respondents saying that they are willing to delay marriage or having kids if their career requires it. Likewise, 32% are now defining success based on whether their job or career is aligned with their passion.

This greater sense of self from career fulfilment also shows in the study, with 78% of Filipinas saying that they rely on themselves for motivation. The “Maria Clara” tag, which has long haunted cultural narratives about the Filipina, has now almost lost its influence, with 86% of respondents identifying as modern Filipinas who defy tradition. Additionally, 60% feel empowered to change the norm.

In fact, 59% of survey participants want to see more films with strong female leads. Female role models, whether in fiction or in real life, are steadily influencing Filipinas’ choices, with 56% taking more risks and 52% becoming more ambitious. The importance of empowering narratives among women and their support circles has also impacted the concept of choice, as 26% of those surveyed left an abusive relationship after exposure to these role models.

Wunderman Thompson Philippines CEO, Golda Roldan, emphasizes that these positive changes need to be sustained through continuous acknowledgment of the role of the Filipina in all spaces of society. This year’s International Women’s Day campaign, #ChooseToChallenge, comes complementary as Filipinas continue to mark their place in a world that is still prone to gender bias and inequality.

These numbers are definitely an eye-opener for me, who thought that majority of Filipinas are still stuck in the bubbles set by older generations. I hope you find these inspiring as much as I do! Stay empowered and continue to chase after your priorities. You go, girl! 😉

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4 Replies to “From ‘Maria Clara’ to modern Filipina: Study shows women now prioritize financial independence, health”

  1. This Filipina Forward is only a proof that every filipina udergo significant changes that make them more empowered and financially independent. This is the product of proving themselves that they are equal to men. This is a real change and I love it.

  2. Yes indeed 💯❤️ marami din sa kakabaihan na tlgang independent na sa lahat ng bagay . Career over marriage and mother hood , tama po hayaan No sila kung san tayo mas magging strong independent .. very inspiring 🤗❤️

  3. Time really changes and that includes women. They are continuously proving their value and worth in this society.
    I like this Filipina Forward study coz it highlights the significant changes of roles of our Filipina today. They become more empowered and financially independent.

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