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Evelyn Sanciangco Dilsaver: Born to Lead

  • September 9, 2011

By Cynthia de Castro

Across businesses and industries, organizations and corporations are governed by a board of directors who advises, governs, oversees policy and direction, and provides leadership to the company. Sitting on the Board of five corporations and four non-profit organizations in America is a respected and multi-awarded Filipina, Evelyn Sanciangco Dilsaver.

The amazing Ms. Dilsaver serves on the Board of Tempur-Pedic, Blue Shield of California, Cal State East Bay, The Commonwealth Club of California, High Mark Funds, Aeropostale, Bishop O’Dowd High School, Women’s Initiative, and the Tamalpais Bankcorp.

With a Certified Public Accountant background, Evelyn worked her way to the top, transitioning from general management as an executive in financial services moving from finance to sales, business development, product development to being president and CEO of Charles Schwab Investment Management, (which is on the top of Fortune Magazine’s 2011 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies), to becoming a Board Director of several organizations.

Born in 1956, Evelyn comes from San Francisco where she graduated from California State University, Hayward (now known as East Bay) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is graduate of Stanford’s Senior Executive Program.

Evelyn grew up in a military family, often being shuffled around to new homes, states and countries.  This lifestyle gave her the ability to accept change and easily adapt to new challenges. “I learned to make new friends quickly,” she said. “I have done the same in business. It is the relationships that make a team work.”

After graduation, Evelyn admitted that, “I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.” She took an internship after college with Ernst & Whinney, (now Ernst and Young) a big six public accounting firm where she specialized in financial institutions. While in Ernst, she became a Certified Public Accountant.

In 1983, Evelyn moved to First Nationwide Bank where she worked until 1991, rising to the position of Senior VP and Controller.

From 1991 to 2007, Evelyn worked with Charles Schwab Corporation, serving in various strategic capacities, including Chief of Staff to the President and Co-CEO, David Pottruck. She held several key positions in the different agencies of Charles Schwab including Controller, Director of Business Strategy, Regional Branch Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, Chief Accounting Offic er, and Senior Vice President.

In a previous article, Evelyn admitted that her independence and ability to take risks has enabled her to excel at both work and home. At one point in her career, when she was the chief financial officer and chief administrative officer at U.S. Trust, she was required to spend one week each month in New York. When she was routinely asked to stay longer and spend more time away from home, she had the courage to make a career change in order to balance her family commitments.

Evelyn returned to Charles Schwab to be head of product development and distribution for mutual funds. At the time, taking this risk seemed like a backward step in her career, but it gave her the opportunity to gain insights into another function of the business. This knowledge was instrumental in preparing her for her executive position.

Her career has often required her to make lateral changes to different roles or new companies, rather than simply stepping up the ladder. “This has been key for me,” she said. “At times, I even moved backwards, but the changes allowed me to learn more and see what was happening in other departments. My knowledge became broader and broader and eventually this helped me have a sense of my company and industry as a whole.”

Evelyn has been recognized in the community for her leadership receiving the 2003 Filipinas Magazine Corporate Award, the San Francisco Business Times 100 Most Influential Woman award for five straight years (2004-2008), the California Women’s Leadership Alliance Award 2006, Legal Momentum’s Women of Achievement award 2007, and California State University East Bay Alumnae of the Year 2008.

A sought-after speaker on leadership and strategy, Evelyn has been a guest lecturer at Stanford’s Senior Executive Program for over a decade and has appeared on CNBC and Bloomberg TV. She is also a frequent speaker at leadership conferences such as the professional Business Women’s Conference, The Governor’s Conference for Women, California Diversity Council and the Financial Women’s Network.

When asked what has been the biggest challenge she has had in her stellar career, Evelyn said that balancing her personal life with her career has been the greatest. “How are you supposed to make time for yourself when the only hour you have free each week is spent grocery shopping?” she asked. Nevertheless, her commitment to her family has always taken the number one priority. “My children are my greatest accomplishment. I have raised three amazing, well-rounded boys who treat others with respect and that gives me so much pride. Being a for them as they grow up has brought me incomparable joy.”

Evelyn admits proudly that her family works as a team and she is grateful for the support of her husband, who has not resented her success, and her three sons.


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