Being Courageous May Not Always Be Easy — But These Women Are Proving It Can Be Done

“What am I doing with my life?”, “Am I falling behind?” and “How can I make my life truly matter?”. These are some of the questions that often pop up in the minds of women around the world - and sometimes, not having the answer can be frustrating. Courageous women in leadership shared what it’s like to face these questions as part of “Existential Courage,” an International Women’s Day event held by The Purposeful Creative in partnership with global design platform Canva.

Held at Canva’s Philippines headquarters, the event brings people together to share real-life stories of what it’s like to bring purpose and passion to what you do, and all
the struggles that come with it. “We want this event to celebrate hope, courage, and persistence. We want to show young people examples and stories of how we can and should keep on creating  & doing things despite and because of the times we live in,” shared Arriane Serafico, founder of The Purposeful Creative and author of Existential Courage, a book released last December under Summit Books.

“I started at Canva in 2015 where I was the first recruiter based in the Philippines. Here, I helped to grow the local team to over 100 amazing individuals. Today, we’re a team of 250 working to empower everyone in the Philippines, and around the globe, to achieve their goals through powerful messaging designed with Canva. Our culture is testament to the amazing impact women continue to create in the workplace,” said Yani Hornilla-Donato, country manager of Canva Philippines.
“It’s important to us that women are represented on every level, in every team. We not only embrace but also celebrate gender diversity and inclusion,” added Donato.

On Finding Courage and Purpose
Over 150 attendees were treated to meaningful conversations with inspirational women leaders who, just like them, have gone through the journey of self-doubt and self-discovery.
Audrey Pe, founder and executive director of WiTech (Women in Tech), Ayen Dela Torre, co-founder of Where To Next, and Trina Tanlapco, corporate executive and founder of A Little Montessori, shared what it takes to be a true influencer in an increasingly digital world and how one can use her power to impact a community. Pe, Dela Torres, and Tanlapco all echoed what the attendees needed to hear: that in a world where your social media following seems to be the standard for influence, one can still be an ‘influencer’.

“It’s not about followers, it’s about putting yourself out there,” was the key takeaway from the panel discussion. Anna Oposa, Chief Mermaid of Save The Philippine Seas, and Carmel Valencia,
Head of Corporate Communication and Sustainability at LOreal, led another meaningful panel discussion with Donato to shine light on the importance of using one’s voice even if that voice might be drowned by a million others. They also shared tips for women to step up and change things for the better, especially for those in leadership positions.

When asked about their advice for young people who feel like they don’t have power, Oposa posed a thought-provoking insight: “It’s not about if it’s possible. It’s about ‘how do I make it possible?’ Donato, a leader of over 250 Canva employees, encourages her team to not be scared to speak up. She said, “If there is an absence of anything in the office, don’t take it as the absolute truth. Challenge it.” Valencia who has been with L’Oreal for 16 years knew what it was like to be a small voice in a big room back when she was still starting in the global company. She advised the audience to find like-minded allies. Just because you want to change the world doesn’t mean you have to do it on your own.”

Together with author of Paano Ba ‘To and Founder of She Talks, Asia Bianca Gonzales, and Rags2Riches Founder Reese Fernandez, Serafico discussed how women can keep persisting no matter the challenges and ways in which to find inspiration when there seems to be none. For them, purpose is not something that you have to find, it’s something that you bring.
Gonzales, Fernandez, and Serafico highlighted that sometimes, people stay where they are for the wrong reasons. Fernandez’s journey as a social entrepreneur, for example, has always been driven by her principle. “Every decision I make can affect someone in a positive way,” Fernandez said. Gonzales advised the audience to work hard, share opportunities with others, wait for the right season for things to happen in your life, and to maintain a growth mindset.

“We want to create more conversations about Existential Courage. We want to break out of our bubble, and to stop only preaching to the choir. Existential Courage was an afternoon of fun, mentorship, and meaningful conversations for passionate, creative, curious and purposeful individuals,” Serafico added. Want to honor the courageous women in your life? Canva has released an additional 50 design templates, encouraging its design community around the world to celebrate, praise and unite with women this International Women’s Day. Check out the full photography collection here.

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