Award-Winning Initiatives Advance Women

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Feb 4, 2008

A global financial institution and an auto manufacturer are the recipients of the 2008 Catalyst Award, which recognizes company initiatives to support and advance women in business.

ING U.S. Financial Services (USFS) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. were named as recipients of the annual award on Jan. 30, 2008.

ING U.S. Financial Services (USFS)

ING USFS’s “Beyond Diversity: Building One ING Culture” initiative focuses on diversity and inclusion as a business imperative and increased representation of female managers at the top.

In 2001, recognizing the need for change, ING USFS used a transition period of rapid acquisitions and subsequent consolidation to identify the necessary levers for culture change and to begin focusing on increased diversity and inclusion across all of its business locations. The resulting “One ING” culture focuses on employee needs and has led to skill-building initiatives, targeted recruitment and mentoring programs.

Accountability is a key feature of the initiative. The company increases or decreases up to 10 percent of each business unit’s bonus pool based on performance on diversity measures, which are judged quantitatively and qualitatively by the CEO.

Since the initiative’s inception in 2003, ING USFS has increased women’s representation on the senior management team from 25 percent to 50 percent. Two executive women in profit-and-loss roles currently manage 80 percent of the business, and two out of three people in the succession pipeline to CEO are women.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Nissan Motor’s Japan-only initiative, “Women in the Driver’s Seat: Gender Diversity as a Lever in Japan,” focuses on increasing women’s participation and contribution in all areas of the business. Research indicating that women influence two-thirds of all car purchases provides a strong business case to have women in positions of influence in the company.

Nissan’s diversity strategy focuses on three areas: engagement, education and advancement of women. The initiative includes career advancement support specifically for women, ergonomic adjustments to equipment, and other improvements in facilities and working conditions to enable women to contribute fully.

Since 2004 the number of women in management has reportedly increased from 36 to 101, and the percentage of female managers in the design, planning and product planning function has doubled. The percentage of female sales people at Nissan-owned dealerships has increased as well, while the percentage of women in manufacturing plants more than doubled.

About the Award

The award is presented annually by Catalyst, a nonprofit corporate membership research and advisory organization, to companies with outstanding initiatives that result in women’s career development and advancement.

Each initiative is evaluated on measurable results, accountability, business rationale, senior leadership support, communication and originality. Also key to the award program is the extent to which a company’s efforts are readily replicable by others.

The award application form requires applicants to submit data on the representation of women and people of color in executive, managerial and board positions, as well as attrition figures comparing the year of application to the year the initiative for which they are applying began.

Members of the Catalyst Award Evaluation Committee assess each initiative through a rigorous evaluation process. The committee determines a select number of finalists, which it studies through interviews and focus groups during intensive two-day on-site visits.

“We are pleased to recognize these two comprehensive initiatives that demonstrate the strong business case supporting women’s advancement and diversity in the workplace,” said Ilene H. Lang, president of Catalyst, in the media announcement. “Catalyst believes that companies with diverse leadership teams encourage openness and foster innovation. Both of these initiatives provide their companies with a competitive business advantage in today’s global marketplace and inspire and encourage others to embrace gender diversity in the workplace.”

ING USFS and Nissan Motor will present in-depth discussions on their initiatives at the 2008 Catalyst Awards Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on April 9, 2008. The conference will feature keynote speaker Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Inc.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is manager of SHRM Online’s Diversity Focus Area.


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