2015 was an interesting year for women on diverse issues in the political, social and economic spheres.   This may include an appreciation that the Canadian cabinet has more women “because it’s  2015” or be bewildering as the Miss Universe’s proclamation (fiasco) described as “it’s very 2015” by our very own Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach who won the title.  On the other hand, there were some absurdity touching on gender sensitivities in the political arena such as Donald Trump’s reaction to Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a debate which he pronounced as “disgusting” as well as Philippine presidential candidate’s Rody Duterte’s bizarre admission of being a “natural flirt” (“Flirt talaga ako.”) as he openly kisses women or have them sit on his lap while on the campaign trail.
 
While board diversity or even beauty and intelligence are indeed worth celebrating, the other incidents show that much still has to be done in shifting lenses regarding standards and expectations for women that remain to be male-oriented.  More awareness on growing the voice of women may be seen in foregrounding gender pay gaps (Jennifer Lawrence received much less than her male co-stars despite playing the title role), leadership styles (women called bossy instead of assertive) or even discussions on weight or physical attributes (“Dad-bod” became a trending topic as an attractive attribute for older men, which was ironic since it is women’s bodies that are much changed due to childbirth).
 
Despite all this happening in our country and elsewhere, we find many women shining through amidst the clutter of such matters.
 
In the recent APEC Economic Leaders’ Forum held in Manila, we saw Engineer Aisa Mijeno, founder of Salt, Inc. sharing the stage with US President Barack Obama and Chinese entrepreneur and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.  Mijeno.  She was given the opportunity to talk about her project on lamps that run on salt water that provided light to communities without access to electricity, while stressing how important it is to immediately address climate change through such initiatives.  She was lauded by no less than President Obama himself as an excellent example of an innovative young entrepreneur.
 
In the political arena, we were privileged to hear some women candidates share their actual achievements and forthcoming platforms for women during a women’s vote forum organized by the Women’s Business Council Philippines, Business and Professional Women Makati and TOWNS Foundation Inc.  In this non-partisan event, we learned much on not just what women can do (or has done) for fellow women but also how women coming from different parties, regions and backgrounds are able to come together and speak as one for Filipino women.  Vice presidential candidate Rep. Leni Robredo, senatorial candidates Atty. Lorna Kapunan, Risa Hontiveros, Toots Ople, Princess Jacel Kiram, Sec. Leila de Lima and congressional candidate Mitch Montfort-Bautista shared their platforms on providing economic empowerment through skills training and jobs, defending women against violence, fighting corruption, ensuring reproductive health care and protecting our overseas workers from abuse. 
 
A fitting climax to this year was the Philippines’ third ever Miss Universe win. Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach shone with not just beauty but confidence, charm and intelligence.  While her win will probably go down in history as one of the most dramatic (if not controversial), it is no less diminished by her outstanding performance not just walking down the ramp but during the question and answer portion, that made the Philippines extremely proud.
 
Indeed, 2015 seemed like a roller coaster ride for many as if somehow to prepare us for an even more action-packed 2016 given the forthcoming national elections and who knows, maybe even next year’s beauty pageants (seriously, they should already change this term).   As more women are participating in governments, business and civil society organizations, we continue to uncover many more opportunities for growth and development that are truly life-changing not just for the women who make things happen despite all odds, but for all the lives they touch.
 
In 2016, we Filipinos will have to make very important decisions that will shape and re-shape our lives and of future generations.  As women, we need to claim our place,  let our voices be heard and be movers and shakers instead of spectators or instruments to be directed. 2016 might just prove to be even more transformational for women given the momentum, given the constantly changing times. 
 
Let 2016 begin.
 
Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.