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How Alice Eduardo broke the glass ceiling


By Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

At a young age, Alice Eduardo knew the value of hard work and persistence. Up until today, when Sta. Elena Construction and Development has evolved as one of the biggest construction companies in the Philippines, she still inspects construction sites unannounced — sometimes, even at midnight after dinner. She is familiar with the inventory of her equipment — and would easily be able to spot when one of the backhoes or pile drivers is missing.

She has always wanted to be an engineer. Growing up, she imagined herself wearing a hard hat. But at that time, her parents did not want her to enter a field dominated by men. They said it wasn’t a job fit for a lady. As a compromise, she took up a degree in Management in the University of Santo Tomas.

Alice would soon help in the family business of garment manufacturing and rice milling. At that time, business was flourishing. She was already handling big accounts like Philippine Airlines, Republic Asahi, Philacor, Air Liquide, Philrock Construction, Air Liquide, and Philrock Construction. But she could not forget her childhood dream.

So when Concrete Aggregates, one of her clients in the rice mill business, approached her to deliver their steel requirement — she could not back down. This opportunity opened her eyes to the world of construction and introduced her to “piles” and “pile driving.” In the same year, she founded Sta. Elena Construction determined to prove that excellence knows no gender.

She would always tell us that whether one is male or female is insignificant. It is important not to change horses in midstream, to see things through the end. After all, three feet of ice is not formed in a single day. All things come to those who wait.

But it was’t easy. Two years after she built Sta. Elena, the Philippines felt the chilling effect of the Asian Financial crisis. At that time, no one expected the peso to hit 40 to the dollar, much less exceed 50. While most construction companies decided to sell their equipment at a huge discount, Alice fought hard to survive.

She reminds us that while leaves emerge where they should not be, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. At the end of the suffering comes relief.

After 22 years, Santa Elena has come to be one of the country’s leading construction firm, known to build the 1000-MW Combined-Cyle Natural Gas-Fired Powerplant, the 500-MW Combined-Cycle Natural Gas-Fired Power Plant, and the 414-MW San Gabriel Combined-Cyle Natural-Gas Fired Power Plant. It is also responsible for the foundation of most landmarks in the Entertainment City.

Twenty-two years ago, no one believed Alice Eduardo was fit to work in construction. Now, she’s collaborated with Germany’s Siemens, Netherland’s Ballast Nedam, United Kingdom’s Balfour Beatty, and Japanese firms like Toyo, Kawasaki, and Taisei.

Today, Alice Eduardo shows young women that indeed the glass ceiling can be smashed.

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