Group President Denise Johnson: Why Focus Only on Women?

June 27, 2016

Recently, we launched an enterprise-wide initiative – Women in Leadership – to address gender balance at Caterpillar. I am often asked, “Why focus only on women?” Well, it’s not just about women. Addressing gender is our first step in a broader, more intentional diversity and inclusion journey. We know we have room to improve the diversity of our full employee landscape.  

So why is this an issue now? If you look at our overall numbers, about 20 percent of our workforce is women. From a leadership perspective, only 18 percent of leaders are women, and only 9 percent run departments or hold key job roles. As for the types of jobs, most women – and women leaders – are concentrated in support roles.  

We know that diversity and gender equality drive global economic benefits and that closing the gap supports not just men, but a true culture of inclusion. The benefits of an initiative like Women in Leadership (WIL) are a boon to the business as a whole. For years, Caterpillar has publicly declared its commitment to its shareholders, to safety, and to the quality of our products. Now, we are declaring our commitment to building the best team – a team that represents the customers we serve around the world. We want to achieve the industry benchmark of 30 percent females in our workforce – and leadership roles – by 2022. Fortunately, we have a lot of support. WIL is driven from the top-down, but there is a huge grassroots effort at the foundation of all that we’re doing.   

That broad support has afforded us some quick wins as we launched WIL. Many divisions within Caterpillar are experimenting and acting fast to see what works – everything from improving our talent pipeline to re-entry programs for those who took a break from the workplace. As for changing culture, an innovative pilot program aims to expand the perception of managers through a “reverse mentoring” program where younger women provide perspective to senior male managers about what it’s like to walk in their shoes. 

This is hard work. It won’t happen overnight. Nonetheless, these are exciting times to be a woman at Caterpillar.  

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