‘There is nothing wrong with being a Mama’s boy—why?’

It is what every Filipino mother loves to know—a son’s heartfelt gratitude

SM Supermalls president Steven Tan delivering his keynote remarks during this year’s International Women’s Day Summit held at SM Megamall March 8.

The author with his mother during his birthday celebration in 2018 (Photo by T. San Juan)

(Steven Tan, the president of SM Supermalls, gave a heartfelt and rather off-the-cuff remarks on International Women’s Day at SM Megamall on March 8 during the “Summit on Women Empowerment for a Sustainable Tomorrow, Women Now and the Future,” held in partnership with the UN Women WeEmpower Asia, Spark PH, Connected Women and Girl Scouts of the Philippines.

We are publishing his remarks.

His insights and information are so timely in the celebration of womanhood this month, or at any time. He speaks the voice of a veteran corporate executive and more important, the voice of a devoted son.—Editor)

I’m Steven Tan and I am very proud to say that I grew up surrounded by women—strong, empowered women who have inspired me to be who I am today. I have 3 sisters and a very hands-on mom who taught me so much about life. They were the ones who motivated me to work hard and do good and I am incredibly grateful for their significant contributions to my life.

When I was promoted in early 2020, the first person I broke the news to was my mom, expecting her to be thrilled and to congratulate me happily. Instead, she turned to me with serious eyes and said, “That’s good, Steven, but you know what this means? Now you have a bigger responsibility to help more people.”

Today, her words echo strongly as I look at all the women around and see how many of you are in positions of great responsibility and have helped so many other women, girls AND MEN – in the country.

At International Women’s Day celebration, SM Supermalls president Steven Tan with Messy Bessy Cleaners Inc. founder and executive director Krie Lopez, UN Women Advocate and award-winning entrepreneur Rissa Mananquil-Trillo, Connected Women CEO and co-founder Gina Romero, Frankie and Friends CEO and co-founder Jammy San Juan-Magsino, and award-winning broadcast journalist Karen Davila

I’d like to welcome and thank my dear friend and veteran conversation starter Karen Davila, our purpose-led tenant partners Risa, Krie and Jammy, and Gina of Connected Women who will share their stories of mentoring and helping womenpreneurs and women in tech. These strong ladies have changed the landscape for MSMEs, NGOs and local businesses.

In partnership with WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women, Spark Philippines, Connected Women, and the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, SM Supermalls and International Women’s Day Summit speakers continue their mission to empower Filipinas in the country.

I am honored to be here with Dr. Nina Yuson, national president of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, and Marian, one of over 700,000 cadet girl scouts, Sam, the fearless founder of Project Smile and Antonette who is a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador—voices for and of future women! And of course, our compatriot Lenlen Mesina who heads UN Women and is a prime mover for gender equality in the Philippines.  Thank you, all!

There is no glass ceiling at SM

There is no glass ceiling at SM.

We’ve always believed in the capability of women to lead and be effective change-makers that our society needs. SM women have shown time and again that they are drivers and catalysts of sustainability and resilience not just in their families and in our workplace, but also in our communities and the nation as a whole.

Our very own chairwoman, Mrs. Tessie Sy Coson, our SM Store president Chelo Monasterio and our former SM Supermalls president Annie Garcia are just three examples of the many inspiring women leaders in our organization.

65% of our employees are women, over 60% are executives and managers. The whole SM Group, including SM Supermalls, has always been a staunch supporter of gender equality and inclusivity in our workforce through the years. In March 2021, we co-signed the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) and became the largest homegrown company to sign in the Philippines.

Over the past year, we have imbedded the Women Empowerment Principles especially on gender gaps across functions and processes. We conduct regular training sessions on unconscious bias, have strong internal communications and escalation channels to avoid gender-based harassment and a year-round holistic wellness program for women. We go beyond events and deep into our policies and processes to ensure a gender-inclusive workplace.

To all our women stakeholders, this year, we commit to bigger and bolder steps to inspire you,  activities that aim to make a positive impact on your family life, career, or businesses through this Women’s Summit which is both on ground and online, being shared on ANC and over FB Live with our employees and 31 million social media followers nationwide.

These activities and programs for women will not end on March 31, but will continue year-round, with the spotlight on our Super Moms, on Gen Z and Alpha girls and women, and our dear senior ladies.

UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador Antoinette Taus, Project SMILE founder Sam Tamayo, SM Supermalls president Steven Tan, Girl Scouts of the Philippines national president Dr. Nina Lim Yuson, Girl Scouts of the Philippines cadet Mariane Dorothy Del Rosario, and journalist Karen Davila

When Karen and Grace presented the programs for Women’s Month, I asked them, why are we celebrating women only in March? We should celebrate women every single day of the year!

For our MSME tenant partners, we will hold not only a Women’s Month Bazaar, but one bazaar per quarter prioritizing women entrepreneurs.

SM Cares, our Corporate Social Responsibility arm, will focus on empowering women in the areas of Health, Wellness, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Resilience. The Empowered Women Knowledge Series spotlights women leaders and trailblazers who have made great contributions in their respective fields, from tackling fire prevention this March, discussing motherhood and career advancement in May, telling the joys of breastfeeding in August, to preventing breast cancer in October, and focusing on the role of women in disaster risk reduction on a quarterly basis.

Our first activity will be a nationwide vaccination day for over 700,000 Girl Scouts in 70 of our malls

In line with its continuous vaccination efforts and commitment to empowering women all over the country, SM Supermalls has partnered with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines to vaccinate its members and their families.

We are most happy about our new partnership with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines! Our first activity will be a nationwide vaccination day for over 700,000 Girl Scouts in 70 of our malls on April 2. These are for girls aged 5-11 and 12-17. All they must do is go to their nearest SM Mall in their uniform or with their ID. We are committed to providing you access to a safe and convenient vaccination experience nationwide.

Before I end, I just have a little story to tell – when I was growing up, I got teased for being a “Mama’s Boy” and I was quite upset and a little embarrassed at that time. But as I grew up and matured, I realized, there is nothing wrong with being a Mama’s boy—why? Because she taught me so much and made me who I am today—a true blue feminist!

And so I thank all the women here today, AND THE MEN who work towards gender equality and ensuring a better future for the women of today and tomorrow. I assure you that you can count on SM to always provide a safe and secure space for girls and women, a nurturing place where opportunities are equal, and a platform where women’s voices are always heard. We will always be here for you.

Happy International Women’s Day!


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