Finding your tribe
It has been observed and studied that human beings are inherently social creatures, driven by a powerful need to connect, interact, and belong.
From a young age, our teachers and parents encouraged me to join clubs and sports teams to bond with peers and build new friendships. It was not yet a trend before because there were objectives and collective goals. I have experienced camaraderie, healthy competition, and opportunities that shaped the building blocks of my personal growth and emotional intelligence. From the playgrounds, the clubs transitioned to societies in the hallowed halls of academia then morphed into professional auditoriums of organizations.
When independence blooms alongside intellectual and social pursuits, joining and being part of an organization serves as a melting pot across disciplines for self-improvement and networking. There are special professional organizations that promote women empowerment and social inclusion. Such groups provide a safe space for engagement and mentorship.
This was exactly my situation when I first joined the group called Business and Professional Women (BPW) of Bonifacio Global Center (BGC). I am an eye doctor, and an eye surgeon, holding private practice in a teaching tertiary hospital. I am happy with my work, but there is an inner voice whispering to me to do more outside of medicine. I wanted to know other women from other careers to network and perhaps discover the next path I want to take in life.
I was recruited by a good friend, much older and wiser than I am. She is a well-known leader and entrepreneur who asked me to join this special group for diversity in which she serves as one of the founders. Aside from private practice, I am a wife, a mom, a professional scuba diver, a trekker, and a reservist officer of the Philippine Navy. She advised me that this might be a group I would feel at home with—to network outside my immediate circle. If you have reached this point, yes you are correct to think that I am in a midlife crisis, searching for new meaning or significance.
Five years ago, I completed my masters in management and hospital administration. When the pandemic hit, I took an online course in corporate directorship for more business and governance exposure outside of my field. All these endeavors out of my comfort zone were also advised by my good friend who I can say is a mentor and a source of inspiration, too.
BPW-BGC is comprised of women in their 30s to 60s from different fields. We collectively share our expertise in casual meetings and various fora. We get invited to activities because BPW-BGC belongs to a coalition of women’s business groups called the Philippine Women’s Economic Network.
While BPW International was founded to advocate for the women’s empowerment principles (United Nations WEPs), BPW chapters around the world delve into many areas related to women empowerment, not just the WEPs. The chapters provide opportunities to connect with peers and find mentors or role models who can offer guidance and valuable insight to help them advance in their careers. They may also discuss other relevant subjects like artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, and digital economy, and enhance business sense for entrepreneurs and even for women in careers. Through learning each other’s expertise, we can acquire new skills, learn new industry trends, and expand our professional knowledge base.
At the first meeting, the BPW-BGC board was formed. One of them is an important official in the Department of Information and Communications Technology through whom we can conduct free trainings for other women in the field of ICT. Two board members who are lawyers—one is a corporate lawyer and the other is a lawyer who specializes in Asean trade issues. Other members include me, an eye surgeon, an esteemed accountant who owns a multiawarded firm, and two career women working for top firms in the country. Another member is a seasoned entrepreneur who is ready to mentor us professionals in the complex world of business. The succeeding meetings welcomed more members whose occupations run the gamut of career women, such as yoga healer, shoemaker, and so on.
Beyond belonging, it is finding one’s tribe. We draw strength from each other’s achievements and resilience. There is a sense of solidarity that drives us to set new ambitious goals and strive for personal excellence in our current professional endeavors. It contributes to identity, purpose, and achievement not just for oneself but also for the community. Being part of a tribe is tapping into a wealth of perspectives and experiences that contribute to a woman’s map of success. The diversity of thought and the continuous uplifting and championing of one another are benefits you cannot find in just any tribe.
Dr. Christine Therese A. Santos is founding trustee of Business and Professional Women (BPW-BGC) and is a practicing orbit and reconstructive surgeon at the Makati Medical Center.
Women Who Lead is an initiative of PhilWEN.