Tarriela earns her seat at the table

Having made strides in the corporate world for over three decades, Flor Gozon-Tarriela proves that a woman can earn and hold her seat at the table dominated by men.

She was recently installed as lead independent director at local mining giant Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), one of two female directors on the board who are able to offer truly impartial and independent insights when it comes to decision-making.

Tarriela is joined by Maria Patricia Riingen, another female trailblazer who had held various executive positions at Western Union, Asian Development Bank and Citibank N.A.

“Mining is actually close to my heart. My father (Benjamin M. Gozon) used to be the director for the Bureau of Mines for 14 years before he became the secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources,” says Tarriela.

“I look at NAC and it’s doing very well, it’s very progressive,” she adds.

Tarriela chairs NAC’s audit committee and is also a member of the corporate governance, board risk oversight and related party transactions committees.

Her inclusion on the board comes alongside NAC’s twin goal of becoming an epitome of environment, social and governance (ESG) standards and joining the roster of top 25 companies in the Philippine Stock Exchange in terms of market capitalization by 2025.

NAC, on top of its commitment to uphold sustainable and responsible mining, has a growing interest in renewable energy. It aims to achieve net zero carbon emission by 2050, making it the only nickel company in the Asia-Pacific to do so, according to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which is backed by the United Nations and World Wide Fund for Nature.

To achieve this, NAC has subjected itself to the rigorous standards set by ESG analytics firm Sustainalytics and supported the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

“Ma’am Flor brings to the NAC board as an independent director a wealth of experience and professionalism, a truly welcome addition at a time of change in the company,” says Jose Bayani Baylon, senior vice president for sustainability, risk, corporate affairs and communications. “With a perspective coming from outside the mining industry, she is able to provide a fresh outlook on processes, people, and even things. There is no putting a value to that contribution.”

Aside from being the first woman chair of the Philippine National Bank, she is also director, trustee and advisor to several institutions.

She also remains an active member of the NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors (NowCD), Filipina Ceo Circle (FCC) and Women’s Business Council Philippines. These groups aim to empower more women to take on leadership roles.

Outside the corporate realm, Tarriela is also a gardener and environmentalist who established Flor’s Garden, an educational garden and natural farming sanctuary.

Training the next generation

In the Philippines, only 17 percent of board seats at publicly listed companies are occupied by women. Both NowCD and FCC now aim to increase the influence of women as leaders and policymakers by helping them advance to the C-suite of influential companies where they would be able to change systems and affect policies.

Ultimately, the goal is to widen the support system for the next generation of female talents.

At NAC, about 33 percent of those holding supervisory and managerial roles are women and the company is aiming to increase this by embracing more policies that would give equal opportunities to all.

But for Tarriela, more than ensuring female representation in industries, it is important that women are provided mentorship and training to succeed. It is to ensure that gender is neither an advantage nor a drawback; a seat at the table should be earned, not given.

“I believe that as women’s points of view and intuition bring something to the table, being a woman is not enough. You have to have competence,” she says. “We want these young women to take on mentors, prepare them to [take on] bigger roles, because we want them to be taken not because they are women, but because of what they can do.”

What is not always being talked about but is equally important when it comes to women’s empowerment is financial freedom. Tarriela believes that women must be financially independent so that they are immediately more in control of their lives.

Financial independence is not only a source of confidence but gives women the gravitas to participate in important matters of decision-making not only for themselves but also for their families.

“Women empowerment is the ability to speak about topics and issues freely, and also being financially independent because that would allow you to do what you want. That is being empowered,” added Tarriela.

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