Editor’s note: The following was first published in the Nov. 14 issue of Caribbean Business.
In the corporate realm there are initiatives to empower employees and, then, there are gimmicks—what they call whitewashing, if it is to clean an image tarnished by acts of malfeasance; or greenwashing, if the measures taken by the company are an attempt to cleanse ecological messes.
In the case of the W Certified Company™ program—commenced five years ago as an actionable crusade by Women Who Lead LLC (WWL), whose CEO & co-founder, Frances Ríos, and co-creator, Damaris C. Sánchez, established to ensure the inclusion of women in decision-making roles—true empowerment is the bottom line.
After several years of hosting the Women Who Lead™ summits, where women in positions of leadership spoke to up-and-coming executives about the importance of the empowerment of women in the workplace, the two co-founders noticed a misunderstanding in the corporate world about the meaning of true inclusion.
To that end, the two stalwarts of female empowerment launched the W Certified Company™ program to measure true inclusive benchmarks. As part of the methodology to achieve a true gauge of equality, surveys of women in leadership roles were painstakingly conducted at companies in Puerto Rico. Their results were validated by the reputable auditing firm RSM. The progress made in Puerto Rico’s private sector is impressive.
W Certified Companies™ must be fully engaged in the identification of women positioned to take on leadership roles. This is not cheap talk but rather true empowerment—you identify talent, train and empower. The W Certified brigades do not only identify talent, but also seek to drive succession planning at the surveyed W Certified firms—some 93 percent of their women leaders agree that their companies are successful on the talent and succession front.
As a whole, 89 percent of the women in the W Certified universe believe their companies have appropriately addressed concerns over equal pay, a substantial percent higher than the 80 percent with positive outlooks nearly five years ago.
One of the attributes demanded to earn the W Certified Company™ seal of approval is work conducted in the area of social responsibility. On that front, the companies scrutinized jumped from 80 percent engagement by their employees to 93 percent involvement over the past five years.
According to the most recent survey, women ages 18 to 34 ranked their development as a top priority, above equal pay and maternity leave, while cohorts in the 34- to 50-year-old demographic and those ages 51 to 69 valued flextime over development and equal pay.
The survey conducted by WWL shed light on many issues and concerns that some executives take for granted.
For the longest time, sexual harassment had been the dirty secret in maladaptive workplaces. Although the #MeToo movement and the tawdry remarks by the Offender-in-Chief exposed those issues, there is work to be done. Importantly, however, W Certified Companies™ ranked their companies near the 100th percentile in their commitment to the prevention of sexual harassment. The W Certified Company ™ program has that very clear and has the backing of law firm Estrella LLC, which provides support to WWL through workshops and training sessions that lead to healthier work environments.
Significantly, more CEOs are incorporating women in decision-making that leads to successful businesses. Captains of industry know that women are the drivers of 85 percent of purchases at home. “In fact, CEOs today want the best talent—period,” Ríos told Caribbean Business during a recent interview.
It also comes as no surprise that mentoring and coaching rank very high among all age cohorts when it comes to the topic of training and development. Such has been the success of the W Certified Company™ in its inclusion crusade that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ranked WWL as one of the only companies in the entire nation and the only one in Puerto Rico as a significant partner.
If these efforts lead brigades of women in leadership roles to help significantly improve the bottom lines of Puerto Rico’s companies, the island will have a much better opportunity to slowly climb out from this terrible hole we have dug for ourselves. For this, Caribbean Business congratulates the winners and honorees in 2019 (see Special Report pullout).
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