EACH YEAR SINCE 1987, Catalyst has honored exceptional initiatives that advance women in the corporate world with our Catalyst Award. We were very proud to celebrate three far-reaching initiatives at this year’s annual Catalyst Awards Dinner:

• Alcoa Inc.’s Building Opportunities for Women in a “Hard Hat” Company develops and advances women to leadership positions and operational roles in a traditionally male-dominated industry that includes refineries and smelters around the world.
• The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Women’s Initiative: Women as the Real Drivers of the 21st Century advances women as leaders internally and economically empowers women outside of the organization, throughout a variety of regions around the globe.
• Unilever’s Global Reach With Local Roots: Creating a Gender-Balanced Workforce in Different Cultural Contexts helps advance high-potential women across different regions through talent development programs and a highly successful “anytime, anywhere” Agile Working model.

Alcoa Inc.’s Chairman and CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld believes that “Talent is the only truly sustainable advantage…To get the best talent, you must have diversity of thought, experience, skills and background.”

Women make over 70 percent of consumer purchasing decisions related to Coca-Cola products worldwide—and, according to Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, they are “the most dynamic and the fastest growing economic force in the world today.”

According to Unilever CEO Paul Polman, “The benefits of having a gender-balanced organization are plain to see; it helps power creativity and innovation, deepens the talent pool, and allows us to better serve our diverse consumer base.”

What can other companies learn from the success of the 2013 Catalyst Award-winning initiatives?

• From day one, the CEOs of the companies that pioneered this year’s Award-winning initiatives made gender diversity a main priority.
• Leaders at every level of those organizations—including those in senior executive positions—share responsibility for meeting diversity goals.
• These efforts embody Catalyst’s vision of “Changing workplaces. Changing lives” by creating more inclusive work environments and helping to transform the lives of employees and strengthen their communities.

Most importantly, this year’s winning initiatives were able to advance ambitious diversity goals throughout a variety of regions by carefully adapting their programs to meet regional needs.

For example, each component of Alcoa’s initiative relies on global strategies, but implementation is localized to suit regional and operational contexts. Local HR teams leverage regional community development efforts and connections with local educational institutions for recruitment and professional development. This is especially helpful in remote locations such as Fjarðaál, Iceland, and Juruti, Brazil.

Coca-Cola’s initiative is overseen by a global Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) and regional sub-councils that customize the initiative to meet local needs. The WLC, composed of seventeen senior women leaders across many geographies and functions, advises the CEO and senior leaders on strategies and initiatives for the accelerated development and advancement of women for senior leadership positions across regions.

Finally, Unilever leverages its strong crosscultural expertise to tailor programs to suit local needs. Innovative localized efforts include social media and digital recruitment programs in South Asia, and Career by Choice in India, which allows women to re-enter the workforce in business consultant roles with the option to become full-time. In addition, the UK and Ireland headquarters and Hindustan Unilever’s office facility in Mumbai were all built to substantially decrease travel time and designed with a strong technology infrastructure so that workers can work from anywhere.

Smart leaders understand that helping talented women advance globally requires local customization. And smart companies devote resources to creating and implementing replicable, global, and sustainable initiatives that are good for women and business.