Women Can't Have It All


In a recent interview with The Atlantic, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi claimed that women need to give up certain aspects of motherhood in order to have a career. Women and their careers are always in the hot seat because traditionally, women were required to take care of the house and the children, and if a woman didn’t, she would be seen as a terrible mother.

Indra Nooyi’s claim about motherhood versus career does pose some challenges for the fight against the stereotypical traditional family dynamic. Should such a line exists, one that designates how far a mother can go in her career without giving up her role as a mother? What about the opposite—how much dedication does a mother need without giving up her career?

To most parents, the children come first, but should there be a line? Is there no line? Without having had any children at my young age, I can’t possibly comprehend the difficulties that mothers and fathers face.


When Nooyi talks about her daughter’s constant disappointment when she misses her school functions, she says, “… you have to cope, because you die with guilt….” Nooyi has developed an intricate coping mechanism that involves her parenting through her receptionist. Her children would call the office for permission to play Nintendo to which the receptionist would ask a series of questions until she gets a satisfactory answer. Although not ideal, this is how Nooyi manages to be a mother and the CEO of PepsiCo.

On the flip side, can men have it all? Even as women make strides to establish themselves as legitimate colleagues, if they neglect their child even for a minute, it is deemed worse than if a father did the same.

An article in Psychology Today outlines the differences between the expectations of motherhood versus fatherhood. “The modern mother, no matter how many nontraditional duties she assumes, is still seen as the family's primary nurturer and emotional guardian. It's in her genes. It's in her soul. But mainstream Western society accords no corresponding position to the modern father. Aside from chromosomes and feeling somewhat responsible for household income, there's no similarly celebrated deep link between father and child, no widely recognized ‘paternal instinct.’”

RcG6AgojiRecent times, especially movies and shows, have tried their best to reform that view and bring the role of the father to a comparable degree to that of the mother. The “celebrated” role of motherhood and fatherhood put a great stress on the bonding factor between parent and child, but one can’t help but see the obvious societal disapproval if the mother neglects rather than the father.

Women can’t have it all. If they follow their dreams, they are guilty. If they dedicate themselves to their children, they are guilty. No matter what, perhaps coping mechanisms really are the only way women can deal with the guilt.

Photo Credit: Mario Anzuoni (Reuters/Corbis) and

Public School in the Philippines: Rule and Renewal


For better or worse, American colonial rule has left several legacies in the Philippines, from governmental structure to popular culture. The Pilipino public education system is no exception.

When the United States took control over the Philippines in 1898, one of their first tasks was to implement an Americanized public school system that would educate the Pilipino people and enlighten them about the American way. By 1901, the United States sent over 600 teachers dubbed as “Thomasites.” On the one hand, the shift towards an Americanized public system led to drastically improved literacy rates throughout the Philippines, free primary education for all, and the founding of the University of the Philippines, the nation’s first public university.

On the other hand, controlling the entire country’s education system was another means of maintaining imperial authority over Pilipinos, using the classroom to quell nationalistic ideas and impose Western values. As English became the official language of the Philippines, it also became the primary language of instruction for students over their native tongue. According to psychologist Kevin Nadal, the legacy of the Thomasites continues even today as “most Philippine educational systems have adopted American curricula, although it may not necessarily be culturally appropriate.” The extent of indoctrination that the United States has imposed over the years has stricken many Pilipinos with a colonial mentality through which they learn to value Western ideals over native ones.


In many ways, the purpose for establishing a public education system in the Philippines is similar to the origin of public schools in the United States. The father of American public schools, Horace Mann, believed that “public schools should be means of social control through the teaching of Christian based morals.” This factory-model that the American public school system was founded upon is now being highly contested by education reformers in the United States who argue that the standardization of student learning stifles the creativity and critical thinking skills that are necessary to be competitive in today’s global economy.

As American education reformers are diverging away from the old standardizing model of education, the Philippines is following suit. In 2001, the Philippines adopted a reform program on school-based management, an approach that decentralizes the public education system and empowers local school officials to charge their own curriculum design and administration. School-based management has been shown to “yield various positive results such as improved academic performance of students [and] increased participation of parents and the community.”

In 2002, the Makabayan curriculum was introduced to improve critical and creative thinking development and promote Pilipino values. Makabayan is described as “a learning area that serves as a practice environment for holistic learning to develop a healthy personal and national self-identity” and includes subjects such as social studies, music, health education, and values education.

So what might this mean for the upcoming generations of young educated Pilipinos? We can hope that these reform efforts will develop proud citizens who value the strengths of their culture and confidently skilled students who will help propel the Philippines into a world player. Of course, when it comes to the complex issue of education there are still loads of problems waiting for solutions, from resources to poverty and accessibility. Perhaps this is at least one step in the right direction.

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No More Apples, Just Respect


My boyfriend is one of the lucky ones. His life passions just so happen to align with one of the most venerated professions you could ever have: being a doctor. His parents beam at his accomplishment of getting into one of the top medical schools in the country and becoming the first doctor in their family. Genuinely fascinated by his chosen path, everyone he speaks with barrages him with questions about what he’s currently studying and wants to specialize in, to which he replies with beguiling stories about gut-wrenching surgeries and his exploits with cadavers.

I, however, am not as lucky in this respect. What I want to be is a teacher and the general reaction to my career choice is usually quite the opposite. Here’s how the scene goes:

Stranger at party: “Are you also going to medical school?” Me: “Oh, no. I’m planning to start grad school next year." Stranger: “What do you want to go to grad school for?” Me: “Education. I want to teach.” Stranger: (utterly unimpressed) “Oh…”

[End of small talk]

We’ve all heard the saying “Those who can’t do, teach.”  In the United States teaching is grossly undervalued as a second-rate career, as many people liken teachers to over glorified babysitters that get summer vacations off. What many people don’t realize that this conception has a profound effect on America that becomes fairly obvious if you think about it -- devaluing teachers means you are devaluing education itself.

Doesn’t that sound absurd? In a country that is obsessed with standardized tests and Ivy League universities, and where some parents pay $20,000 tuitions for fiercely competitive preschools, Americans know that an excellent education is as vital as food and water in order to become successful. One would think that more respect would be paid to the people who were actually facilitating said education.

Because of its current mediocre status, the majority of talented college graduates pass up teaching for more socially gratifying careers in medicine, law or business, all of which bring potentially lofty paychecks -- along with the prestige and esteem they represent. Teacher and author Ilana Garon reports that only 23% of teachers in the United States come from the top third tier of their graduating classes. In contrast:

“... the world's top-performing education systems – South Korea, Finland, Singapore – have this in common: 100% of teachers come from the top third of the college graduates, which (along with good working conditions, ample training and professional development, and higher salaries) promotes a culture wherein the teaching profession is viewed as selective and prestigious.”

America’s international rankings in education are severely lagging behind these teacher-driven countries, coming in 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 20th in reading out of 65 of the world’s most developed countries.

Even though multitudes of factors (such as funding and policy) are involved in running an effective education system, researchers are finding that nothing tops the impact of an excellent teacher in terms of student achievement. While investigating studies on teacher effects, Malcolm Gladwell discovers that students are “better off in a ‘bad’ school with an excellent teacher than an excellent school with a bad teacher.” The bottom line is, if the United States wants to maintain its position as a globally competitive power, then the societal attitude towards teachers needs to change.

Things are slowly moving in the right direction, however, as education reformers are making grander efforts to find individuals who have the potential to be great teachers, and alter the public perception of the profession. It’s now trendy for graduates (such as myself) to go into teaching fellowships straight out of college. Teach for America’s skyrocketing popularity has made its application process even more competitive than law school. Following up their award-winning documentary, the makers of “Waiting for Superman” recently released a new film entitled “Teach,” which showcases the stories of dedicated teachers on a mission to make a difference.

As a Fil-Am, I haven’t heard much enthusiasm from family members about my interest in education. Instead, they also prefer talking about my boyfriend’s glamorous medical career and insist that I “Lock that up!” Of course, I can understand how for many Pilipino immigrants who uprooted their lives seeking greater opportunity for their children, pursuing anything less than a doctor or equivalently-esteemed career might seem like squandering the American dream.

The true American dream, however, is about equality. So is education. My mission as a teacher is to ensure that every child, no matter their background, has the skills and confidence to uplift themselves out of whatever might plague them (whether its poverty, ignorance, or boredom) and fulfill their potential. Just like any doctor, we teachers hope to change lives. Can’t we just get a little bit more respect?

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Cultural Differences in Discipline: If I Did That, My Mom Would Have A...

Discipline quote from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck.

“Mom, get me this one. I want this one!”

One too many times have I heard this phrase fall from a child's lips, as they whine relentlessly for some new contraption that has piqued their interest. Their voices are sprinkled with an unsettling cockiness, an overconfidence that their demands will be met. And God forbid they are not. Their faces swell up beet red, disbelief and anger flaring up in their nostrils. They become little bulls, their voices growing to the shrillness of dog whistles. Mistake me not. It is understandable if a child of four or five acts up this way. Public etiquette would still be a very new concept to children of such a tender age. Plus, these toddlers are only just leaving the stage of their lives during which they are always accommodated. During the ages of one through three, one could be fed, played with and lulled to sleep simply by crying. The idea of not being carried everywhere is still considerably foreign to them. Their insolence can be entertained. They are not the ones I’m worried about. They can and will learn.

What frightens me is when I hear that whine, twist my head in its direction and I see an eleven, twelve or thirteen-year-old. I try my best to blink away the surprise but, once I am out of sight, I can feel the question mark forming in my eyes. I am so confused each time I see a sight like this. And, as I said, I have seen it one too many times.

Children can act that way? I would think. If I did that, my mom would slap me.

When my sisters and I were younger, we would misbehave. We weren’t angels. We were little children, needy and curious to see how far something could bend before it broke. Whenever my parents were the targets of those mentalities, they gave us an incentive not to act that way again. A slap or pinch on the shoulder, a smack on the mouth. Never meant to hurt us, they were physical reminders that disrespect would not be tolerated.

I knew nothing was the wrong with the way my parents handled our behavior. So, I was shocked when I laughingly shared my experiences with a friend and heard the words, “That’s abuse.”

Pilipino Mentality vs. Americanized Mentality: the Difference between Discipline and Abuse 

“That’s abuse.”

The words lingered on me. Never before have I received that type of reaction, especially from another Pilipina. I knew discipline to be a tradition in Pilipino households. Ask any Pilipino teenager, “What were you hit with as a child?” and you will get a slew of different answers. But you will find that none who answer your questions will do so with resentment.  In fact many of them laugh, reminiscing about what stunt they pulled to find themselves on the receiving end of a wooden spoon and how whatever they did they never did it again. The thwack of a tsinelas against your backside or of a palm against your face, all of these become memories Pilipinos jokingly exchange.  So to hear the rancor in her voice, I could not understand. I couldn’t, that is, until I inspected more closely this friend who disapproved so intently. We were both Pilipino, but her personality bore no resemblance to the features that defined others like us. Time and again, I expressed my confusion to her. Each time she only answered, “Yea, I’m just really Americanized.” That explained the Santo Nino-less living room but does that really affect our attitudes on the abuse vs. discipline debate?  I learned that it does.

The Pilipino culture is one that deeply values respect, especially to one’s parents. When you show disrespect, you invite punishment. A light slap to the face waited for me when I ‘sassed’ my parents. A pinch the shoulder was to be expected when I misbehaved in public. But it was only when I diminished my parents’ authority that I was disciplined. For the Pilipinos, discipline is not something done out of spite, rather it is something done to preserve the ideal of parental appreciation. It is not a way for parents to hurt their children but to teach them how to respect others and, thus, gain respectability in return. This, according to, is the main difference between discipline and abuse. While discipline is a controlled reaction to a misdeed, abuse makes no distinction between right or wrong, leaving emotional and physical wounds on its recipients often for no reason.

“Americanized” people, I feel, are unable to perceive that difference.  When the only examples of discipline that they are exposed to are televised abuse stories, Americans are given almost no choice but to be biased against physical punishment. They are forced to think in extremes, automatically associating discipline with fear-inducing violence when it is not. They don’t realize that a middle ground does exist, and one of the places you can find it is in a Pilipino house.

I will always remember that conversation with that particular friend. I was in seventh grade and, although I knew that my parents were not abusing me, there was no way to properly explain that. Intuition was not enough ammunition against the black-and-white ideology of children. I was not aware of the shades of gray that vindicated my parents from the label of child-abusers. However, I walked away from that conversation confident that my mom and dad were loving parents. Now older, I can and do defend my parents actions as something they learned from their parents, something that is indicative of the Pilipino culture, and something that allowed me to become a considerate and respectful individual.

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Emerging Leader: Pat Austria

399813_10150456022911958_1875795_n Current residence: McLean, Virginia Hometown: Alabang, Philippines Age: 21 College of William & Mary, 2013 International Relations and Process Management and Consulting (with a concentration in Entrepreneurship)

Meet Pat Austria, a driven Pilipina, ready to inspire the world. This wonder woman has worked for Development Gateway and the World Bank as a geo-coder and consultant. In the aid field, that means she has mapped out aid projects and overlaid it with poverty-related data, in hopes of promoting collaboration and accountability among agencies and organizations. As an intern for Project for International Peace and Security (PIPS), a she focused on solving international problems through innovative means. Her team presented their policy brief to individuals of the academic and professional political community.

“I’m an undergrad and I’m young. But I can make a lot of impact,” says Austria, after reflecting on her experience with PIPS. Austria also exhibits her tenacity and drive for making such an impact through her passion for youth issues.

“Children’s issues are pure and innocent [and] not clouded by politicization,” explains Austria. She fears that young people are  discouraged by economic situations, diseases and disabilities. As the Executive Director of William & Mary's Students for St. Jude, she saw this first-hand while visiting the hospital during the summer. Her experiences with Dreams for Kids and Buddy Ball have shown her how sports can inspire inner city, underprivileged and disabled youth.

“You don’t have to change the world, but you can inspire someone and maybe they can do it,” Austria adds, as she explains her hope for todays’ and future young people. Austria has also been involved with the Pilipino community.

“The Philippines is impoverished [but] full of love and excitement,” notes Austria. “People are willing to help each other when children [of other families] grow up together.” While working with Development Gateway in Summer 2011, she was granted the opportunity to pursue her own research on innovative technology and disaster management in the Philippines.

“Everyone has a cell phone,” Austria notes. “Maybe no TV or fridge, but they have cell phones.” Currently, Austria is developing a four-part platform to tackle natural disasters. It includes the utilization of an SMS alert system, victim map, road status map and donor map, all of which can be accessible by mobile phone. She hopes this crisis network model can be applied internationally. Her research is funded by a William & Mary Charles Center grant and entrepreneurship conference competitions. Though she receives positive feedback from both US and Philippine government officials and professionals, her social venture is going slower than anticipated. Nevertheless, she does not want to rush it. Should her venture be developed, it will be free and accessible to all.

Pat Austria may be young, but continues to addresses problems scaling from the international to the local level. As advice for fellow emerging leaders, Austria offers the following:

“Figure out what you’re passionate about and take initiative. If you don’t see anything that fits, forge your own path and put yourself out there. Believe in yourself.”

Photo credit: Pat Austria