Women’s History Month Perspectives: Advocating for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Each Women’s History Month, we have the opportunity to celebrate the many contributions of women throughout history – those who have shattered glass ceilings and paved the way for others to succeed. We must also recognize the ongoing struggle for gender equality. This year’s theme, “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” reminds us that there is still work to do to eliminate bias and discrimination and that we must lift up the women and allies who act as advocates.

This theme of DEI advocacy resonates with the firm and our core purpose of helping people thrive every day. At BDO, this means fostering an inclusive workplace where all can feel valued while being their authentic selves and making sure our people have the resources they need to advance their careers. We are also dedicated to creating forums, such as our national and local Women’s Inclusion events or traditional and peer mentoring opportunities, for women professionals and allies to have open and honest discussions.

We are pleased to shine a light on successful women in our industry who have overcome obstacles, inspired others and grown in their careers. Read on for the perspectives of some of our professionals on the many facets of DEI – advocacy, allyship, flexibility, mentorship and more.

Carol Mongui-Cortes headshot.

On the importance of mentorship: “Two mentors stand out prominently to me and have both played a pivotal role in shaping my career.

 The first was a college professor who taught me the importance of trusting the process and believing in my own capabilities. The second was a managing director at my previous job, whom I worked closely with for over 15 years. She ensured I felt included and valued, frequently seeking my input on client matters even though I was in the early stages of my career. Her approach was encouraging yet challenging. That support through the years gave me the confidence to push through challenges and advance in my career.

 As we rise into leadership positions, it’s crucial to support and empower the next generation. By equipping them with the necessary tools and confidence to voice their ideas, we not only aid their personal development but also contribute to the broader success of our organizations.”

Divya Gadre headshot.

On allyship: “Allyship has been an extremely important part of my journey at BDO. 

The willingness of individuals within the firm to see my value and, just as importantly, my potential has been a tremendous boost. I was lucky enough to build relationships with allies of diverse backgrounds and experiences. The insights they shared contributed to my professional development. 

I actively work to provide my support and allyship to BDO professionals on my team and believe in the phrase 'it takes a village' as it relates to allyship. I believe, when we ally ourselves personally and professionally with those who provide diversity of thought and experience, we have the best chance to truly grow.”

Grace Verkuyl headshot.

On supporting an inclusive workplace: “When I started at BDO, it was during COVID-19, and everyone worked from home. The first Inclusion event I attended post-pandemic had low attendance. There was also no local Pride Alliance group at the time, so I made it my mission to help create an inclusive space for current and future professionals in Seattle.

Since then, I have helped coordinate an average of 12 events per year and have helped grow our local Inclusion leadership team from four to 12 members.

The best part of being involved is when colleagues tell me they feel seen. Each person should feel like they can be an authentic version of themselves in their work environment. It’s an honor to be a part of making that happen in the Seattle office.”

Malve Ildefonso headshot.

On advocating for DEI: “I advocate for DEI because I see its positive impact across my team, and I’ve personally benefitted from these initiatives. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, ‘Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’

Our Los Angeles Multicultural Alliance leads celebrations of our team members from different backgrounds and helps us learn about their culture and get to know them at a personal level. This is a useful tool that brings out the best of a passionate and successful team at BDO. 

I also serve as board member for International Society of Filipinos in Finance and Accounting, a nonprofit organization with a primary purpose of educating and mentoring emerging Filipino professionals in finance and accounting.”

Rachel Vermeal headshot.

On allyship: “Women are often outnumbered in the technology field, so it became important to me early in my career to surround myself with dedicated, empathic leaders who challenged and empowered women professionals to be curious and connect. 

These values have continued to guide me in business, even when it gets hard. Creating spaces that encourage women to boldly voice their needs and share their insights is important for innovation.  

Today, I am motivated to create pathways for women and allies alike to connect, challenge and support each other. One way I do this is through participating in the Women’s Inclusion recruitment and networking committee within the BDO Digital practice.”

Yvonne Ofori headshot.

On mentorship: “Mentorship has been a cornerstone in my journey of personal and professional development. It's more than just a tool; it's a bridge that connects me to others, allowing us to exchange guidance, knowledge and experiences. 

When I mentor, I don't just share my insights; I immerse myself in the fresh perspectives and innovative ideas of those I guide. This two-way street of learning and collaboration has been incredibly enriching. It has not only sharpened my problem-solving skills but deepened my emotional intelligence. 

On a personal level, mentoring has offered me profound satisfaction. Seeing someone grow and evolve with my support is a unique joy. It has underscored the value of continuous learning and the strength found in fostering mutual support. Through mentorship, I've not only contributed to the growth of others but have also seen significant growth in myself.”