When equal access brings economic success

SUITS THE C-SUITE By J. Carlitos G. Cruz

Business World (11/19/2018 – p.S1/4)

SGV & Co. is the first professional services firm in the world to receive the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) Assess Certification. The EDGE certification was granted early this month.

EDGE is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. The EDGE Assess Certification is the first level of that metric, awarded to companies that make a public commitment to monitoring, benchmarking, and achieving workplace gender equality.

SGV has been a staunch supporter of empowering working women, a claim just validated by the EDGE program. With EDGE, we now have the proper data-driven methods to create stronger, more practical solutions that can help bridge any perceived prevailing gender gap in our company and industry.

This certainly isn’t the first time that SGV has committed itself to promoting a culture of fairness. In fact, SGV has long promoted a culture of merit-based progression, which has allowed the people of SGV to become more receptive to policies that support diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

As early as 57 years ago, SGV was one of the first audit firms to admit a woman into the partnership. Then in 1992, we saw the firm appoint its very first female Chair and Managing Partner. While that time characterized the rise of numerous innovations for the practice, there is definitely something revolutionary in seeing the rise of a woman into a leadership position, during a time when it was highly uncommon. Even today, SGV takes into account proper gender equity when hiring, promoting, and training employees who are ready to take on larger roles in the company. This is evident in our talent pool, where women comprise 49% of the partnership.

These are some of the moments which have truly left an indelible mark on the annals of SGV’s narrative. When we talk of success, we think of men and women who see an opportunity to lead, and work hard to achieve it. Longevity in our profession must be earned through ability, talent, and hard work — traits that do not, and should not, discriminate between genders. SGV stands unwavering amid the challenges of a changing world because we hold an inherent belief that the best talents, regardless of gender, must be recognized, trained, and given equal opportunities to step up into bigger responsibilities.

But let us look beyond the accolades and ask ourselves why it’s important to prioritize workplace gender equality. According to research conducted by the IW for Smart Economics, business organizations must see gender inequality not only as a social issue, but as an economic issue as well.

The statistics sound off loud and clear: there is more to gain for a company when women are given a chance to shine. IW’s Smart Economics also reported that companies with equal representation between male and female board members outperform those with fewer women board members, as seen in their return on invested capital, by 26%.

Despite these statistics, only 9% of directors on global corporate boards are women, and only 4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by a female CEO. Additional information by EY’s Winning Women program state that, although women entrepreneurs play major economic forces around the globe, and start businesses at nearly twice the rate of men, they still face a number of limiting factors that prevent their businesses from moving up.

But if financial institutions and large-scale, well-established companies begin prioritizing the equal upliftment of women at every corporate level, it can bring about a chain reaction of productivity and economic collaboration that will inevitably result in excellence. And the more top-down the approach to gender equality in the workplace, the more institutionalized it can be. Imagine if there were more female CEOs; imagine if more female entrepreneurs are given the same access to financial assets and funding; imagine if that other half of the population became empowered to blaze a trail in their chosen fields. Will this not invariably effect positive changes for the nation, and even the world, in the long run?

It is by this very spirit of inclusivity that we continue to find ways to institutionalize gender equality, wherever possible.

Even before the EDGE Certification, SGV became one of seven founding members of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE). This coalition was launched through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and funded by the Investing in Women (IW) program.

Particularly in the Philippines, IW has partnered with the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN) to create a business coalition in pursuit of Gender Equality (GE) in the workplace, and Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) nationwide.

We were invited to become a founding member in 2017 together with Accenture, Ayala Land, Convergys, the Magsaysay Group of Companies, Natasha, and Store Specialists, Inc. Less than two years later, all seven founding members of the PBCWE are now EDGE Certified organizations, and are currently the only ones in the Philippines. While these founding members should be credited for their significant achievement, the road to progress certainly does not stop here. The conversation on gender equality must keep going until the time comes when both male and female employees are no longer standing on different ground.

The trajectory towards success should remain unbiased across all service lines and leadership roles. Gender parity should become a business imperative, and women need to have the same access to working capital as everyone else. At the same time, companies are expected to provide measurable support for professional women who are also mothers and homemakers.

We all need to consciously work to create an even playing field for both men and women in all industries, eliminating common biases and role definitions. We should constantly challenge our perspectives on gender parity and workplace equality, and realize the economic, cultural and social benefits of such an attitude. Now that SGV has been “EDGEd,” we will strive to closely guard and continue improving our adherence to inclusivity in the workplace.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

J. Carlitos G. Cruz is the Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV & Co.