By Bonnie Fetch
On Friday, March 10, 2017, I had the pleasure of speaking at Accenture's International Women's Day (IWD) Experience in Chicago, Illinois. This conference was attended by 500+ people onsite, as well as another 200-300 people through an online broadcast. When I was first asked to speak at the conference about Caterpillar's journey in the Women in Leadership initiative, I was excited and nervous. While I have spoken a lot internally at Caterpillar over the past couple of years about the initiative and its importance, the idea of sharing our successes and challenges externally was... well, a little scary.
So, I attended the sessions of the conference leading up to mine, which included:
- Welcome remarks and preview of some new research
- A Personal Reflection by Jan Fields, former CEO McDonalds USA
- Global webcast interview with Julie Sweet, Group CE - Accenture NA and Rebecca Minkoff, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur
- Panel on the Value of Building Inclusion and Diversity into the ranks of leadership and the board
Following these great sessions, I was even more nervous, however, with my Caterpillar cheering section in the room and the knowledge that this sharing of our Caterpillar successes and challenges is important, I carried on with my 30-minute presentation. I shared our journey and what led to our Women in Leadership (WIL) initiative. I shared the numbers, which show that Caterpillar lags benchmarks in our own industry by ~10 percentage points. And I shared our pillars of focus - sponsorship, pipeline and culture. I shared the outstanding grass roots efforts that have been taking place around the globe as employees have been empowered to make a difference. Then, I shared my perspective as a senior female leader who has made it pretty high up in the organization about what has enabled success, what is challenging and what we need to do to change the game.
Anyone who has heard me speak about the topic in the past couple of years knows that one thing I am absolutely convinced we need to do to change the game is develop men as advocates. We cannot continue to discuss the barriers to more women in leadership amongst women alone. We must engage men in a meaningful and respectful way if we are going to enable real change. Men still hold the majority of leadership positions, and men along with women will benefit when we enable more gender diversity and inclusion. Companies that have more gender diversity perform better, therefore creating more opportunities for everyone!
Following the conference, there was a networking hour where I spoke with many conference attendees - men and women alike - who told me that they agreed with my premise that we must engage men in the conversation and that we must develop men to be advocates. Many people also shared that our Caterpillar story could've easily been their company story with many of the same successes and challenges. While exhausted at the end of an action-packed week and after speaking to such a large audience, I also found myself with a renewed sense of passion for this work to continue to improve our gender inclusion and ultimately our number of women in leadership roles. I am committed to BE BOLD for CHANGE. Are you?
Director - Aftermarket Parts Distribution
Industry Solutions, Components and Distribution Division