Women in Business: Getting to Know You … ALL About You Is Good for Business

As promised, here is a recap of the 2007 Catalyst Awards conference, which honored The Goldman Sachs Group (GS), PepsiCo (PEP), PricewaterhouseCoopers and Scotiabank for their corporate initiatives that promote inclusiveness for women in business AND AT THE SAME TIME drive business success and give companies a competitive business advantage. (In other words, initiatives that benefit the whole TEAM.)

Attention managers: Treating all workers the same isn’t necessarily fair.

This realization, the brainchild of a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, led to the company’s launch of the Unique People Experience (UPE) initiative, which was one of four winners of the 2007 Catalyst Awards.

“You know the old saying ‘To be fair, you have to treat everybody the same?’” asked Jennifer Allyn, managing director of Gender Retention and Advancement at PWC. “Our senior partner was the first to point out that in order to achieve true equality, we must be willing to treat different people differently.”

Do you think it's important to recognize the differences in employees, and treat them accordingly? E-mail herbusiness@foxnews.com.

In 2001, PWC saw a turnover rate of 24 percent. Experts at the number-crunching firm deduced that it was costing the company $80,000 PER-leaving employee.

So PWC went to work to find out what was driving workers away in order to figure out how to reverse the trend. Their research suggested two main factors were behind the exodus: 1) dissatisfaction around work-life quality and 2) a lack of inclusiveness (people felt left out).

These findings were the impetus for UPE, an umbrella of many different initiatives aimed at increasing employee satisfaction and retention at PWC.

Investing in Human Capital

One such initiative promoted partner-staff connectivity at the global company made up of nearly 30,000 employees. It required partners to connect with eight to 10 staffers on a personal level and find out what makes them tick OUTSIDE of the office. (ie, their “real” life, which workers often leave behind when walking into work).

The getting-to-know-you sessions were beneficial not only to the staffers, but the partners also got a lot out of them, according to Allyn. She refrained from calling them “mentoring” sessions because she emphasized the enlightening exchange went in both directions, not just top down.

PWC also launched “Full Circle,” a program that allows men and women to take up to a five-year leave of absence from the firm, while their position remains open to them. The program also pays to keep him or her credentialed during the time off.

RESULTS: So let’s recap: It costs PWC $80,000 when an employee leaves the firm and in 2001 the turnover rate was 24 percent. Since the implementation of UPE the rate has continued a downward slope, sliding to 16 percent in 2006. So, does it pay to recognize that the hard-working professionals who make up a company’s base are not robots, but actually (GASP!) are humans? You do the math.

PWC representatives explained the ins-and-outs of UPE to more than 500 professionals from across the country who gathered last week at the Grand Hyatt in New York City for what can be called the "Super Bowl" of Women and Business. Although the attendees at the full-day event represented a wide range of often-competing firms and/or companies, on this day they were all on the same team.

Sponsored by General Motors Corp. (GM) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the 2007 Catalyst Awards Conference offered lessons about innovative initiatives that successfully advance women in business. Catalyst is a leading research and advisory organization working with businesses to expand opportunities for women at work.

Since 1987, Catalyst has been presenting the annual award to companies and firms for their outstanding initiatives that result in both a) career development and advancement for women b) payoffs for the bottom-line. In order for the initiative to be considered by Catalyst, it must be supported by the company's top brass.

Goldman Sachs (GS), PepsiCo (PEP) and Scotiabank rounded out the winners circle. Here is a summary of all four winners’ initiatives and the results:

Goldman Sachs
Senior Women’s Initiative:
Seeks to increase number of women business leaders.
Results: Globally, the number of women partners has doubled from 2001 to 2006 (in the U.S., the results have been even more pronounced, going from 5.8 percent to 19 percent during the same time period).

Women of Color Multicultural Alliance:
Goal is to attract, retain and develop women of color in the middle and senior management ranks at PepsiCo.
Results: In the period from 2002 to 2006, the number of women of color at the senior manager and director levels has increased significantly.

Unique People Experience: Seeks to reduce turnover, maximize value for PWC’s clients and increase the productivity of the firm’s staff. One element of UPE is redesigning the traditional way work gets done to a more team-based approach where groups of partners and staff serve a portfolio of clients.
Results: Greater employee satisfaction and lower turnover rates. Women’s representation at the partner level has increased 30 percent from 2001 to 2006. Turnover went from 24 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2006.

Advancement of Women Initiative: Business-focused imperative that improved women’s representation by leveraging existing processes, programs and platforms.
Results: Number of women at all senior levels — from vice president and above — nearly doubled from 2003 to 2006. Also, employee satisfaction scores rose 9 points AND return-on-equity in the same period went from 16.6 percent to 22.1 percent.

What do you think of these initiatives? Have you heard or seen similar ones? E-mail herbusiness@foxnews.com.

"Minding Her Business" is a column that covers issues affecting women in business and in the workplace. Female professionals (and male, too, if they wish) can use this resource to network, ask questions, receive and offer advice, share personal experiences … and you don’t ever have to leave your office. Just e-mail herbusiness@foxnews.com. E-mails are subject to editing for length and content.