Media Announcements

Proctor & Gamble and Sara Lee Corporation Win 1998 Catalyst Award

Proven success at advancing women applauded by nearly 1500 business leaders

Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee Corporation accepted the 1998 Catalyst Award at a gala dinner this evening at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Presenter Jane Pauley, anchor of Dateline NBC, introduced honorees John E. Pepper, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive of Procter & Gamble, and John H. Bryan, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation, who accepted the award on behalf of their companies.

Dinner chairman, Lewis E. Platt, Chairman, President and CEO of the Hewlett-Packard Company—a 1991 Catalyst Award-winner—thanked Catalyst for the positive spotlight that winning the award cast on Hewlett-Packard, and for “never hesitating to remind us of what happens when businesses choose to use their entire workforce,” noting that in the past five years the percentage of women executives at HP has jumped from 3.5 percent to 15 percent, while company “revenue has more than doubled, and our profit has almost tripled. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Catalyst president Sheila Wellington pointed to the rising awareness that women’s advancement is a business priority. Said Wellington, “More and more businesses know that when women hit the glass ceiling, the bottom line says ‘ouch.’”

Since 1987, the Catalyst Award has honored 34 corporations that have demonstrated a proven ability to advance women in business. The annual Catalyst Awards Dinner has become the preeminent venue for highlighting the corporate leaders in advancing women.It is accompanied by an afternoon conference featuring 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. The success of the Catalyst Awards Dinner is reflected by its numbers, each year breaking the previous year’s attendance, with 1,500 attendees in 1998.

About the 1998 Catalyst Award Winners
Procter & Gamble: Advancement of Women—Building a Foundation for Success
Procter & Gamble saw a clear business imperative to advance women—while women accounted for 40 percent of management new hires, 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. Procter & Gamble created a task force that resulted in the Advancement of Women initiative to target brand management because it serves as the feeder pool for more than half of the company's senior executives. The task force developed action plans, established accountability, and continually measured and reported back progress. Key strategies resulted, focusing on culture change, work/life balance, coaching and mentoring, and networking for women. The 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%) in 1992 to 12 (31%) in 1997.

Sara Lee Corporation: Strategic Diversity—A Business Imperative
Given the female majority of its workforce and consumers, Sara Lee began developing its diversity initiative in the early 1990s, 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.

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. 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, founded in 1962, is the national nonprofit research and advisory organization with a dual mission: to enable women in business and the professions to achieve their maximum potential and to help employers capitalize on the talents of their female employees. Catalyst is supported by leading corporations, professional firms, and private foundations.