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1998 Catalyst Award Winners Translate Vision Into Reality

Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee Corporation have won the 1998 Catalyst Award for their classic approaches to advancing and preparing women for senior management. P&G's initiative has tripled the number of women at the general manager/vice president level in brand management, while Sara Lee's initiative has resulted in women holding 25 percent of key management positions. Hewlett-Packard Chairman, President & CEO Lewis E. Platt will chair the Catalyst Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York March 31, 1998.

The 1998 Catalyst Award recognizes two companies for their demonstrated success at moving women into leadership positions. Says Sheila Wellington, Catalyst president, "Senior leadership commitment to women's advancement at this year's Catalyst Award winners is extraordinary. Regular reviews of the corporation's female and minority diversity by their boards of directors prove that Sara Lee and Procter & Gamble mean business. The thorough approach of both companies to increasing the representation of women at higher levels serves as a model for what other companies can do to advance women."

Catalyst has awarded companies for exemplary initiatives to advance women since 1987, evaluating senior management commitment, measurable results, accountability, replicability, and originality. Speaking of the importance of women's advancement at the 1997 Catalyst Awards dinner, John F. Smith, Jr., chairman, CEO and president of General Motors Corporation, said, "Diversity is related to global business success and the bottom line. White, male, middle-aged corporate CEOs must overcome assumptions based on stereotypes."

Procter & Gamble saw a clear business imperative to advance women —the company promotes from within, women accounted for 40 percent of management new hires, were achieving high performance ratings, yet the company's attrition rate for talented women was considerably higher than that for men, and women were under-represented at the higher levels of brand and general management—so they created a task force that resulted in the Advancement of Women initiative. The task force targeted brand management because it serves as the feeder pool for more than half of the company's senior executives.

Currently headed by a woman general manager and made up of senior executives and women marketing directors from Procter & Gamble's five business sectors, the task force increased the focus on accountability for diversity in the annual brand manager and general manager performance reviews. It approached advancement of women with thorough research, development of action plans, establishment of accountability, and ongoing measurement and reporting of progress. Key strategies resulted, focusing on culture change, work/life balance, coaching and mentoring, and networking for women.

The P&G initiative includes a task force-led comprehensive "regretted loss" study to help clarify issues and improve retention, the "Mentor Up" program, where junior women mentor senior executives to increase understanding of the women's experiences, and annual employee surveys to track progress against success measures in areas such as coaching, feedback, career advice, and work/life balance. P&G's CEO conducts annual global reviews of key diversity measurements and career planning for top women and minorities, holds the heads of each organization accountable for achieving diversity progress, and regularly updates the board of directors. The results are clear: the number of women at the general manager/vice president level has more than tripled from five in 1992 to 18 in 1997, and the number of brand-management women who have advanced to the general manager/vice president level has increased six-fold from two (5 percent) in 1992 to 12 (31 percent) in 1997.

Sara Lee Corporation, given the female majority of its workforce and consumers, began developing the Strategic Diversity: A Business Imperative initiative in the early 1990s. The initiative includes establishing representation goals to increase the number of women and minorities at management and executive levels. Each division of the company directs its own diversity initiative based on its culture and needs, but overall diversity strategies and annual goals originate at the corporate level. To identify and track high-potential employees, the company uses a confidential internal management review process in which department heads make recommendations that enable targeted employees to acquire skills for advancement. Managers must plan for their employees' development and career progression; this is reinforced by an annual succession planning review which includes assessment of high-potential women and minorities in all divisions, conducted by senior management of the corporation.

Sara Lee measures its diversity initiative in the same way it measures financial performance—against specific goals. For example, in 1996, women were to comprise 40 percent of MBA hires; and annually, 30 percent of identified high-potential women must be promoted or moved laterally for development. Achievement of such goals is included in annual bonus standards for all corporate senior executives and division presidents. Throughout the year, the board of directors reviews the corporation's female and minority diversity and its management development goals. The keys to the success of this initiative are unqualified commitment by senior management; establishment of representation goals for hiring, promotion, and retention; and tying bonuses to the achievement of those goals. Improvement is evident: of Sara Lee's key management positions, defined as director level and above, 163 (or 25%) are held by women.

Catalyst will host a conference on the afternoon of March 31 that will feature an analysis of the winning initiatives by company representatives and a frank review of personal success strategies by high-level corporate and professional women executives.

A nonprofit research organization, Catalyst works with business to advance women. A solutions-oriented approach has earned the confidence of business leaders, who count on Catalyst to help them address women's workplace issues and develop cost-effective responses.