It’s reassuring to know that the Philippines is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. In its 2018 Global Gender Gap report, the Philippines placed eighth, improving by two places from 2017; more impressively, it’s the only Asian country in the Top 10.
We don’t have to look far to find inspiring women breaking the glass ceiling, especially within the JG Summit Holdings conglomerate, which has its fair share of women in leadership roles. But even with the accomplishments of these women, you can’t help but be impressed with one in particular, a lady who is thriving in an industry that is still predominantly male. Meet Elvie T. Cabrera from the URC Flour and Pasta Division, the only female flour miller in the company, perhaps even in the country!
Production Supervisor Elvie Cabrera (fourth from right) and other URC Flour and Pasta Division staff pose with senior URC executives including Chairman Lance Y. Gokongwei; President and CEO Irwin C. Lee; Ellison Dean C. Lee, Vice President Business Unit General Manager, Flour Division; and CFO Pancho del Mundo, during the opening of URC's new flour mill in Davao earlier this year.
As production supervisor at the URC CMC-Davao flour mill, Elvie helps operate one of the biggest flour producers in Mindanao and ensures that its products are clean, safe and of high quality. She oversees a team of 12 that carries out the milling of URC’s flour products used in bread and pastry production all over the country and parts of the ASEAN region.
Elvie, 48, recalls she was technically inclined even from a young age, something she may have inherited from her father, who was a handyman. “He was my inspiration in pursuing this career. That’s why I took my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Mindanao,” she says. (It’s another field that’s also predominantly male. According to data from the Commission on Higher Education, approximately 70 percent of those who enroll in engineering courses in the Philippines are male.)
Elvie Cabrera checking the results of a wheat milling operation in URC Davao's new state-of-the-art facility.
Elvie joined URC Flour and Pasta Division in 1994 as part of the commissioning team of the newly opened Davao flourmill. Her next assignment was being a control room operator, a post she held until 2001, when she was promoted to flour production analyst. At around the same time, she was given an additional role, being made deputy to the operations manager. “One of my tasks was to handle the Petty Cash fund of the plant operations. I took this task very seriously because handling money for operations meant that the company placed their trust and confidence in me,” says Elvie.
By 2017, she was ready to take the next step in her career. “I decided to step up and take the challenge of becoming the first-ever lady miller and production supervisor in URC Flour & Pasta Division,” she recalls. “I feel very proud yet humble at the same time, knowing that I am the only female who is doing this kind of job in URC. Proud because I have proven to everybody that gender is not an issue to accomplish all these things. I feel humble because I have done these accomplishments with the support of my co-workers and especially our production manager, Robert Calo.
Elvie Cabrera analyzing for quality at another stage of the flour milling process.
“I really love my work,” Elvie enthuses, saying she takes pleasure in solving new challenges every day. Part of her motivation comes from her team, “people I enjoy working with.” Being a parent, Elvie admits that she views her team as her children inside the workplace. “As a mother, I may have more compassion and more empathy towards my co-workers which results in a healthy working environment. That is what I think is the great advantage of a woman in this line of work.” In other aspects, she believes that she doesn’t approach the job any differently from how a man would. “In terms of technical skills, leadership and good decision making, I can do the same things as a man.”
With her highly competent grasp of plant operations, from wheat cleaning and wheat milling to flour packing, SAP production analysis, and overall plant administration, it wasn’t hard for Elvie to earn the respect of her team. But besides impressing them with her knowledge and technical skills, she motivates them by sharing stories of her own career journey. “I always tell them I started as a simple employee but became the first-ever female miller in URC Flour by not giving-up on my goals and being passionate about learning new things every day.”
In the male-dominated flour milling industry, Elvie has proven that women are more than equal to the task. Being the first and only female miller is a source of great pride, but she is hopeful that other women can join her in due time. “The best advice I can give is to have patience, perseverance, confidence, and respect for others. Have faith in yourself and in the Almighty God. All of these can help any woman break any barrier of gender stereotyping and follow in my footsteps.”
For more information on URC and its other products, please visit www2.urc.com.ph