CINCINNATI - Procter & Gamble Co. has eliminated more than 5,800 jobs in restructuring programs over the last two years, but those cuts have apparently done no harm to its diversity efforts.
"At the outcome of that, we had about the same profiles of gender and minorities in the U.S. as we had going in," said Helen Tucker, global diversity and inclusion leader for P&G.
Tucker made those remarks at an International Women's Day event, staged by P&G at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center March 8. About 300 invited guests, including P&G employees and 40 local students, heard from past and former executives who described diversity measures taken by the Cincinnati-based consumer products company.
Five of P&G's 11 board members are women, more than any other local company. Tucker said 43 percent of P&G managers globally are women and the percentage of senior executives in management has increased from 20 percent to 28 percent since 2009. The group of top global managers includes about 250 people, she added.
Those numbers put P&G on par with its peers, including Colgate-Palmolive, where 27.3 percent of senior executives are women, according to a December report by Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes expanded opportunities for women.
Catalyst research indicates about 20 percent of the Fortune 500 now has more than 25 percent female representation in senior management ranks. P&G was not on the list, but Avon, Estee Lauder and Kimberly Clark were all above 25 percent. So were two other local companies, Macy's and Omnicare.
P&G's list of its most senior executives shows 11 women among its top 41 bosses, or 26.8 percent.
Tucker said P&G has increased its diversity numbers through "very intentional planning" that ensures the pipeline of management talent is diverse. More than 43 percent of P&G's new recruits have been women or minorities in recent years.
"We have a really rigorous process for identifying who our top talent are and then doing the right assignment planning in order to be eligible for advancement," she said. "It [has] increased the leadership, both in terms of gender and in terms of our diversity profile for minorities."
P&G views diversity as a competitive advantage because people with different perspectives can collaborate to produce better ideas and innovation, said Edgar Sandoval, a vice president in global feminine care, who spoke at the March 8 event.
Pert Plus, a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, was the brainchild of a women executive. So was the concept of "Gainiacs," a P&G-promoted trend that refers to consumers who love the smell of Gain detergent.
"When we started the multi-cultural division of Procter, one of the best selling detergents among Hispanic Moms was the Gain detergent, a strong brand in the South and Texas and California," Sandoval said. "But it was only available in a detergent. This was 12 years ago. Today, it's available in a fabric softener and a dish washing liquid because Hispanic moms told us, ‘I love the scent of Gain. It needs to be in more places.' [P&G had] a diverse level of employees at the company level who understood that at the gut level."
Former CEO John Pepper was an early champion of diversity at P&G. In a panel discussion at the Freedom Center event, Pepper said he came to a realization in the late 1970s that diversity would separate good companies from great ones.
"Demographics matter," Pepper explained in an interview following the event. "I was very conscious of the fact that the long suit at P&G is being able to attract the best people. If we're not attracting the best women and if we're not attracting the best minorities, we aren't going to have the best people."
You can hear the full interview with Pepper by hitting play below (mobile and tablet users go to a browser version of WCPO.com to hear the interview).
Pepper said the best diversity programs are those viewed as necessary for a company to fulfill its mission. He thinks P&G has accomplished that, although the efforts were met with resistance early on and haven't always been consistent.
"It can't be as it was for years something else you do when you get through with all the important stuff," he said. "The first thing to do is make diversity happen because in making it happen people start to experience its benefit."
You can review Catalyst's research on women executives in Fortune 500 companies below, or go to http://bit.ly/11sipZz .