Ruth Yu Owen: The leader of Connected Women

Meet Ruth Yu Owen, a woman who is comfortable with windmills, solar panels, artificial intelligence, and advocacies for women and children. A rare combination, indeed!
Ruth remembers her childhood: “I am originally from Zamboanga City, and I come from very humble beginnings. My mother is
Tausug-Chinese, and speaks mainly Tausug and very little Chinese or English. My father was from mainland China.

“Coming from a below average-income family, we were sent to Chinese schools. We didn’t have enough for us to get by. Later, my mom’s older sister sent us to study at the Ateneo de Zamboanga.”

Life, for her, seems to have come full circle. She is now a benefactor and fundraiser extraordinaire of her alma mater, instituting and running a daily feeding program for indigent students called Pan Cada Dia, or The Daily Bread, and was asked to sit on the board of Ateneo de Zamboanga. She considers being asked by the Jesuits as a great honor for her.

Ruth is also involved in advocacy programs. With childlike ebullience, she says, “I go to Sulu together with doctors and some Marines on medical missions. I read to children. That’s my favorite part of me. I have been asked to join an organization, the Mindanao Humanitarian Volunteers of the Philippines, which conducts medical, dental and feeding missions together with teaching programs where we hold workshops for kids, and donate books to children. We even brought in a Zumba teacher to conduct some classes. Every time I participate in these programs, I feel a sense of fulfillment, and at the same time, I want to go back and do more!”

RUTH Owen is the co-founder of Connected Women.

But there is more to Ruth Yu Owen, much, much more! Ruth’s background is in renewable energy. She has put up wind and solar farms through her Makati-based company called Upgrade Energy, which builds renewable energy installations all over the country. She has been in this energy sector for nearly 20 years. Her company is big on making sure that whatever they build is environment friendly, producing clean and efficient energy.

She says, “You don’t have to build more power plants. You just have to be more efficient.”

Ruth is also the co-founder of Connected Women, a tech company established in 2017 involving a community of 65,000 women, 85 percent of which are in the Philippines while the rest are in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and other countries. The company’s main goal is to match women with work-from-home jobs.

Ruth gushes, “Connected Women is very recent, but it is my passion!”

She continues, “We are building a tech platform, an app for Filipino women to go online so that they get matched to jobs. It is different from other job matching apps in the way that it matches a woman’s personality with the job, creating better chances for a longer-term relationship.”

Ruth is the first to admit that it is a niche market. “Five million Filipino women are out of the workforce because of family duties and obligations. Once they get married, they want to have children and it’s almost a no-brainer for couples to elect the woman to stay at home after children are born. By the time their children have grown up and they are ready to go back to the workforce, they feel that they can no longer fit in.”

Furthermore, she exclaims, “More than one million Filipino women are OFWs! Why do we have to ship out our mothers, and deprive them of taking care of their children? This creates a lot of social issues!”

Ruth credits Gina Romero, a British-Filipino who is big on building communities for women in the United Kingdom, as her co-founder of Connected Women.

“Gina’s mother went to the UK in the 1970s to work. She remembers some of her mother’s friends showing photos of their children whom they had left in the Philippines, choosing to work abroad in order to earn more money to send back home. So in her mind, she told herself she wanted to go back to the Philippines and give women job opportunities.”

The venture is heavy on artificial intelligence, which they use to train women to do data labeling. Ruth explains, “This involves labeling a collection of data images with meaningful information that will be used to train a machine learning model (AI). An example is labeling images of traffic lights. These images will then be fed to an artificial intelligence program which may be used to pilot driverless cars through traffic, recognizing traffic signals from the data it has been fed.”

The company has garnered multiple awards recognizing it as a pioneer in the future of work. Ruth envisions work as no longer sitting in an office; work can be done in a coffee shop, a co-working space, or even at home. A mother can take her children to school, go sit in a coffee shop, do some work on her laptop or phone, and return to pick up her children. The possibilities for Filipinas in the workplace with Connected Women are endless.

Ruth Yu Owen is a woman of many gifts. She is a gift to all the 65,000 connected women in the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *