For most Filipino companies, diversity and inclusion (D&I) is hardly a top priority. Although Corporate Philippines generally welcomes women and LGBT into the workforce — unlike other societies where they are overtly excluded — there is hardly any effort to ensure that office rules and policies promote D&I.
Although Filipino firms recognize the need for fairness in their dealings with their people, practices that are anti-women and anti-LGBT are rife in the Filipino workplace. Some of them are subtle, while some are so ingrained in the culture that they are just taken as standard operating procedure. For instance, managers may choose not to employ or promote a talented individual because of gender preferences and orientation.
Sometimes, this is more of a deep-seated bias. Women and LGBT, for instance, may not even be considered for hiring or promotion into roles that are “reserved” for men, which include most positions in the C-suite level. “Babae ’yan, mas bagay ito sa lalaki (She’s female, this position is for a male),” we often hear from not-so-enlightened managers. Similarly, xenophobic workers may ostracize LGBT and refuse to engage meaningfully with them, or worse, even subject them to covert types of bullying.
What these companies do not realize is that they are missing out on the myriad advantages and the richness of culture that come with having a diverse work force and, most importantly, a diverse and inclusive leadership.
I speak from experience. Diversity is what the EON story is all about: from a small group of 5 to a colorful bunch of 150 people with different sensibilities, mindsets, beliefs, and life choices, coming together under the company’s singular mission-vision to uphold truth for good. Without diversity, the EON Stakeholder Relations Group would not have achieved all it has today.
Throughout our 20 years, it was our attention to diversity that allowed us to create a culture of innovation and openness that allowed us to break new ground for our clients and for ourselves. Yet we never articulated this. This is why when we did a re-articulation of our core values a few years ago, diversity sprung out as a value that needed to be professed. By professing it, we embraced it, proclaimed it, and made it part of our strategy.
Today, we are a healthy mix of 41% males and 59% females, with 24% representing the LGBT community. Our diversity — which celebrates our similarities, differences, and uniqueness — have led us to creating our best work: the most honest, engaging, and compelling stories that reflect our myriad experiences and the richness of our views.
A study by McKinsey shows that the EON experience is not exactly unique. According to the study, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Also, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. More tellingly, companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies.
Let me explain how this could have come about, based on EON’s experience. Embracing diversity meant fostering an environment of authenticity and openness, where people can comfortably talk about their similarities and differences.
What I realized is that when individuals feel valued because their authentic selves have been recognized, we create an environment where people can shine. At EON, people are proud to be unique, and with nothing to hide, they are able to perform optimally. They are not afraid to try out innovative ideas that inevitably lead to great business results for clients.
This is why I believe that Filipino companies should strive to promote diversity. As a business strategy, it brings about real results.
It is important to point out that achieving diversity in our company isn’t an accommodation, but rather has come about as a result of our commitment to meritocracy. We have always assigned our leaders by focusing on a person’s skill, competence, and contribution, regardless of their gender, belief, persuasion, or background. As a result, today 3 out of our 4 business unit heads are female and 60% of our management committee are part of the LGBT community. It is also worth noting that our Government Relations and Public Affairs unit, which services a lot of male-dominated industries such as government, construction, energy, and tech, is led by a woman. Under her unit is our Crisis and Reputation Management team, also headed by a female director.
As champions of truth-telling, we encourage each and every one of our employees to stay true to themselves. That is why at EON, we create platforms and opportunities that allow them to do so, through initiatives such as leadership trainings to ensuring holistic well-being, through our talent development and learning unit, aptly named EON University.
One thing is clear: only by being authentic can one truly rise to leadership. And as business owners and decision makers, it is our responsibility to make sure that our people are allowed to live authentic lives and through it, be positioned for success. In the end, their success is also ours.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Junie del Mundo is the chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee and the CEO of The EON Group, a fully integrated communications agency.