A greater purpose

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    Women continue to be present in higher ranks of the legal profession across the Philippines

    “I have been asked many times how I broke the glass ceiling in the legal profession to get to where I am today. My answer was, ‘There was no glass ceiling to break. And if there was, I would have broken it fiercely so that other women behind me could rise up easily.’

    Benedicta Du-Baladad
    Founding partner and CEO
    BDB Law, Manila

    Thinking about it now, maybe there was a ceiling, but I was working too hard to even notice it. And perhaps, unconsciously, I did break a big hole in it.

    Men used to dominate the legal profession in the Philippines. But this is no longer the case thanks to the men who themselves opened the door to welcome, nurture and encourage women to become equal partners in the profession.

    Today, women are on par with men. Women lawyers continue to win important roles including top posts in government, such as the speakership in congress and the chief justice of the highest court. Men applaud these achievements and willingly acknowledge the potential of their female counterparts.

    In my case I had fears, too, when I started practising. But I saw an opportunity, a door that men hate to enter, a practice of law that requires an appreciation of detail and good analytical skills in numbers. The practice of tax law.

    I used my expertise as an accountant, auditor and a former official of the tax authority as a springboard. I concentrated on mastering this field and participated in thought leadership on controversial and important issues that could have a bearing on the resolution of a tax issue, shape the tax practice, or lead to the adoption of changes in tax policies.

    I did this consistently and passionately. Admittedly, it took a lot of hard work, determination, strength, smartness and focus until I was eventually noticed.

    I speak, teach and write about taxation. Taxation is what kept me awake at night and alive by day. I burned the midnight oil most nights and was grateful to earn accolades such as ‘tax expert’ and ‘tax guru’.

    I then realized I had a bigger role to play in society. While it is true that tax law is my bread and butter, I knew that I had to elevate it to a higher plane where money became secondary to a bigger undertaking; something that was nationalistic, something patriotic: inclusive taxation.

    I pray for a tax system that serves as a catalyst for inclusive growth, one that reduces, rather than widens the gap between rich and poor; one that propels rather than stifles the growth of the economy; one that is simple, equitable and fair.

    This is what I have been pushing for over the past five years. It is something I will continue to do with greater intensity as I feel the urgency and hear the call of the times.”

    Senior women lawyers across Asia share personal stories of successes, struggles and strategies for a more inclusive legal profession. The following mosaic of personal stories identifies some of the nuances that typify women’s experiences in particular Asian jurisdictions, while also drawing on the wealth of shared experiences that bind them.