For International Women’s Day 2023, we ask two female senior leaders what equity means to them and how businesses can embrace that in the workplace.
Yalda Assef, General Manager, Head of Aviation, Certis Security Australia and Inspector (Auxiliary Police Force) Toh Siew Cheng, Certis Land Security, share their perspectives.
1. What does equity mean to you?
Yalda: Equity for me is having an environment that is free from discrimination, injustice, and bias. A place where everyone can thrive by being their true selves; where differences are respected and valued across social realms, economics, culture, and political beliefs. The road is not always easy, but that just pushes you to keep working harder and to believe in yourself.
Equity is not about gender, but about being a voice for the unspoken. It’s about providing access to the individuals that can’t or won’t speak up for themselves. It’s about using your intuition to know how people are feeling and improving the quality of life for those around you.
Siew Cheng: Equity for me is about equal opportunities. Regardless of gender, race, language or religion. It’s about recognising diversity and embracing it so that everyone is on a level playing field. This way, we can create a more inclusive and equitable world.
2. How can that be achieved in the workplace?
Yalda: Drive awareness and change, and don’t ever be afraid to speak up when there is injustice, even if that means going against the norm. Staying silent when you know something is wrong is injustice itself.
I believe in providing a safe and nurturing environment which promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion. By broadening the employee group with individuals who bring diversity to the organisation, I’ve seen how it can improve morale, increase retention and enhance employee engagement. And most importantly, prioritise wage equality.
Siew Cheng: It's important that performance or success isn’t based off gender or physical attributes, but based on individual strength, capability and ability. In my role, I have seen how female auxiliary police officers (APOs) have performed just as well, if not better, than male APOs. So, this really isn’t about gender, it’s about being conscious and aware of each individual’s abilities and playing to their strengths.
3. How is Certis helping you make workplace equity possible?
Siew Cheng: Certis has shown me that, as leaders, we can, and must, create opportunities for greater inclusivity so that more anyone who is capable of doing a job well can have the chance to do so. I’m thankful that Certis has placed its trust and confidence in me, especially with managing one of the most demanding operations in Certis Land Security.
Years ago, only male APOs were deployed with motorbikes. But in 2008, I was the first female APO to be deployed on a motorbike, as well as participated in securing the Formula 1 Grand Prix. This led to more deployment opportunities for me to support major national and international events, including Singapore’s National Day Parade, the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, OCBC Cycle and Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. Today, we see a lot more female riders, female officers commanding and female leaders at the management level.
Yalda: I am grateful to be part of an inclusive senior leadership team which is engaged, respectful of one another’s opinions, and is not afraid to be innovative. Certis provides a platform where ideas are valued, differences are respected, and leaders can perform better in a highly connected and supported team.
4. What’s your advice for excelling at Certis?
Yalda: If you would like to excel at Certis, take initiative, step outside of your comfort zone and be ready to learn something new. Have a positive attitude, ask questions, be a team player and work hard. You will be recognised.
Siew Cheng: Don't be shy to ask questions. Regardless of your position or rank, there’s nothing wrong in asking to find out more. Look for more exposure and experience by raising your hand to take on tasks that will value-add to the growth in your role. Perform the job independently with confidence, and make sure to manage your stakeholders well.
5. Who inspires you, either at work or in life?
Yalda: The women in Iran who are fighting for their basic human rights, for freedom and equal opportunities with nothing other than their united voices around the world. They inspire me. They are forbidden from showing their hair, from feeling the sun’s glow on their skin, from singing and dancing to music, from attending sporting events, from expressing joy in public, from equal pay and job opportunities, from having custody of their children during a divorce. They are captured on the streets, violated, and killed. They’ve sacrificed their lives to pave the way to freedom for women around the world. #mahsaamini
Siew Cheng: It will have to be Deputy Superintendent Ng Siew Peng, Heads Ops & Development, Certis. A classic role model because she was the first female APO who went being in rank & file, to now a Constable. She believes in giving everyone a fair opportunity to perform and supports their growth as well. Her journey in Certis is one that gives me motivation to work hard and continue to climb up the career ladder, as she has shown that it is possible.