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Empowering women in a male-dominated industry: Stories from Visayan Electric

Celebrating the women of Visayan Electric: Engr. Jelin Itong (left), Ms. Connie Sosas (center), and Engr. Johara Villanueva (right).

Visayan Electric, the second largest electric utility company in the Philippines, celebrates International Women's Month by featuring three exceptional women excelling in their respective fields. These women provide a reflection of their work experiences in a male-dominated industry, where the male population occupies 70% of the company's employee population. However, one might assume that the female employees are outnumbered and outskilled, but this could not be further from the truth, as they are equally skilled and talented as their male counterparts.


Engr. Johara Villanueva, known to her colleagues as Ms. Joh, is not a neophyte when it comes to male-dominated environments. In fact, having graduated from an electrical engineering degree which is stereotypically seen as a degree program for males, working around men does not intimidate her, it challenges her. “I take it as a responsibility to assure my Kaibigans (a term used to refer to Visayan Electric employees) that I can deliver what is expected of me and to break the stereotype of selling oneself short,” Villanueva said.

It is no surprise for the eight-year Visayan Electric employee to have Edna from Pixar’s The Incredibles as the woman she looks up to. “She [Edna] is somebody who is critical, persuasive, passionate and exudes self-confidence in her work,” she said. But what Villanueva admired the most about Edna was her trustworthiness and her ability to deliver what is expected of her on time, which the engineer tries to embody herself in her line of work. 

Villanueva sees working in a male-dominated industry not as something to be scared of but as an opportunity to show everybody that women are equally as hardworking, skilled, and talented as men. “It is definitely a strength for a woman, or for anybody, to be courageously authentic, confident, and respectfully speak your mind,” she proudly stated.


Just like Villanueva, Engr. Ma. Jelin Margaret Itong is also a graduate of electrical engineering. Known to her friends as Magi, she has her mother, whom she claims to be an even tougher person than she is, to thank for all that she has achieved in her life. “Despite my mother not being able to graduate college out of poverty, she was the very person who taught and modeled the importance of education, self-awareness, generosity, and selflessness to me. I don't think I'll ever be half the person that she is,” the young engineer expressed. 

Having been working as a substation design engineer at Visayan Electric for seven months, Itong works both on and off field, braving the summer heat and occasional torrential rains, all of these, while her menstrual cramps are acting up! Despite all these, Itong feels thankful that never did she experience any form of gender discrimination in her workplace. “I am privileged that I belong in a generation and culture where women can achieve as much as men. I am glad that women can have the same freedom to practice a profession and cement their roles in society,” she stated.

As an avid reader, Itong shares one of her most favorite quotes from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women: “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for."


Ms. Connie Sosas, commonly known in the Visayan Electric community as Mamu, is considered by some to be the mother of the company. She is responsible for all the employees internal activities, may it be the company’s annual OK Awards, an award-giving ceremony for Outstanding Kaibigans or VECOlympics, the company’s annual sporting event. This would also mean watching over and organizing 200+ organic employees, in which 70% are males. However, this does not faze her at all as she feels respected, cared for, and protected in the company.

Looking up to Oprah Winfrey, the 25-year Visayan Electric employee embodies women empowerment and says that never once she felt discriminated against in her job. “I think respect is innate within us being Filipinos and it's the Kaibigan culture here (in Visayan Electric). We are Kaibigans by definition, so we give and receive care, and we help and trust each other.  And since we (women) are less in number, it's double the fun,” Sosas expressed. 

Visayan Electric is committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women like Johara, Jelin, and Connie. These women are just a few of the many skilled and talented women who keep Visayan Electric up and running to provide essential services to the Cebuano community. Thus, Padayon Johara, Jelin, and Connie! Padayon babaye!

Visayan Electric is the second largest electric utility in the Philippines. It serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay, Naga and four municipalities of the greater part of Metro Cebu -- Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla and San Fernando.


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