Our female CEOs: Smashing the stereotypes – Lynette’s story

Lynette Ortiz, our CEO, Philippines, on challenging gender stereotypes and inspiring women in the country

Name: Lynette Ortiz
Role: CEO, Philippines

How I got where I am

If you want to do anything in the world, personally or professionally, create a vision so others can join in and become part of it. Thinking strategically and being purposeful, even early on in your career, are key.

I majored in economics and then took my Masters in Finance. In order to build the proper skill set as a banker, I initially focused on analytical work and risk management. I involved myself in industry work through the Bankers Association of the Philippines, and also worked closely with regulators. Over time, I found myself enjoying client interactions and built a network of relationships.

In my career, I’ve learned about new industries, the unique characteristics of clients, and worked on how the Bank can partner to deliver solutions. There’s always something new and exciting to learn, which is why I’m still here in banking after 30 years. However, it has never been a straight path. I’ve worked for four foreign institutions and two local banks. My career has taken me to New York, briefly to Singapore and then back home again. I was always open to new opportunities and I never shirked from a challenge. The more difficult something appears, the more determined I am to try it out.

So many people have helped me along the way: my family, mentors at work, and bosses who believed in me and opened my eyes to possibilities. Even my detractors helped me. There were people who dismissed and devalued me, but I learned to develop a tough constitution to process all that and push myself harder.

In 2016, I became the first Filipina to lead the Standard Chartered Philippines business, and one of only two female CEOs in the country’s banking sector, also double hatting as Global Banking Head. After 147 years in the country, Standard Chartered placed its bets on local talent, which I hope serves as inspiration for young, determined professionals and paves the way for future advancement of female talent in the country.

Family support

My family is my source of inspiration: my children, parents and siblings. My children always inspire me to be a better person. They don’t hesitate to call me out and give me instantaneous feedback. My family provides my emotional scaffolding. I read a book many years ago called Working Women Don’t Have Wives. I may not have a wife, but I definitely have a support network that allows me to pursue my dreams, learn and develop.

Smashing the stereotypes

There are still a lot of challenges to female leadership. In the Philippines, there are 46 commercial banks, but only four CEOs are women, myself included. There are many women who work in the industry, but so few actually get to lead an organisation.

Image of Lynette OrtizI think females tend to be forced into stereotypes or pigeon-holed with specific traits. For example, a male leader is expected to be tough and demanding, and a female leader to be cooperative, nurturing and collaborative. Some people construe what should be viewed as positive traits as weakness. A man exhibiting command will be praised for taking the bull by its horns. You don’t call a man bossy, right? But if you’re a woman, you’re being bossy or difficult. These are stereotypes that need to be broken. The first order of the day should always be competence and capability, whether you are male or female.

Speaking out

I took part in a local staging of The Vagina Monologues when I was based in Singapore and I thought it would be excellent to do a repeat of that in the Philippines. I wanted to help highlight the multiple roles that women play in society, and I think the shock value of the title really grabs people’s attention. I was very proud of the ensemble we put together, showcasing the talents of women at Standard Chartered. My monologue was about childbirth, which I feel is a woman’s most selfless act. It’s something that is beautiful and violent at the same time. So that was really a tense and amazing experience for us here in the Philippines. And it was my first year as CEO!

We are committed to having 30 per cent of senior roles held by women by 31 Dec 2020

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