ABU DHABI // Highly educated Filipina professionals need to talk and dress the part to succeed.
"Many excel in engineering, advertising, design, fashion and medicine but we need to be more consistent in the way they package themselves - how we dress up, talk and promote ourselves," said Lalaine Chu-Benitez, publisher and editor of the Dubai-based Filipino lifestyle magazine Illustrado.
She was making her plea for self-promotion ahead of International Women's Day today.
"Back home, being simple and inconspicuous is considered a virtue," she said. "Here, we all have to compete with other more assertive cultures, not only in the way we perform at the workplace but how we present ourselves."
The magazine is hosting a Day of Sisterhood, a women-only event with talks about relationships, health, wellness and personal finance, plus workshops on style and image, grooming, make-up and self defence. It takes place on April 12 in Dubai.
"Filipinas can sit back and relax while talking about issues and learning different things," Ms Chu-Benitez said. "It's important to celebrate this yearly as a day of bonding and learning ┐for Filipinas - a venue to share their issues and solutions freely without being judged."
Jhasmine Castillo-Cipriano, a Dubai resident who attended last year's event, described the experience as "liberating".
"It enlightened women about the situation in the UAE," she said.
The event was a spin-off from the Women of Substance awards that honour Filipinas in the Middle East. Since 2008, the event has honoured 36 Filipinas, including community leaders, volunteers, entrepreneurs, social activists, artists, mothers and philanthropists.
This year, organisers decided on a hiatus from their annual Women of Substance event to reformat it.
"Since we launched it almost six years ago, we've been consistent in growing our advocacy, tackling relevant Filipina issues each year - from stereotyping, to reproductive health, to physical, emotional and financial well-being," Ms Chu-Benitez said.
"The event itself has evolved into something prestigious that the local community is proud of and is looking forward to annually."
Marietta Morada, a data-management manager who has lived in the Emirates for 11 years, won an award last year. She said many women faced problems because of a lack of information, which mean't they were unable to adjust well.
"We have to educate women on enhancing their skills and know-how so they can be economically active and build their self-confidence," she said.
Ms Chu-Benitez said she was proud of her compatriots' resilience and patience "reinforced by the challenges we go through in our life, plus a good nature and a ready smile".
She said: "We are not only hardworking and driven individuals but are also blessed with an immense capacity to nurture.
"Successful women in our community are respected and valued by colleagues and friends for being strong, and sweet at the same time."