Building Opportunities for Women in a Hard Hat Company
A global initiative within Alcoa to build opportunities for women resulted in an approximately 3.2% increase in female representation in executive, professional, and plant manager roles between 2008 and 2012—a period when overall company employment declined 30% due to restructuring and a response to the global recession.
The achievement earned Alcoa a 2013 Catalyst Award. This recognition honors organizations that have made positive changes in their workplace culture to advance women and diverse groups.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re achieving record business results—whether its safety, customer loyalty, employee engagement, or, ultimately profitability—at the same time we’re experiencing record levels of diversity in our business,” said Diana Perreiah, president of Alcoa Building & Construction Systems North America and Kawneer.
Alcoa’s global women’s initiative has five priorities that ensure diversity improvements have both an immediate and sustainable impact:
- Set corporate and business unit goals to exceed metals industry benchmarks and eventually exceed the Catalyst industrial benchmark;
- Incorporate diversity into the executive compensation system;
- Integrate diversity into the company’s operational processes and corporate values;
- Assign women to operational leadership positions where they can become role models for women and men; and
- Support women with career development, training, mentoring, and sponsoring.
As of the end of 2012, Alcoa exceeded the indexes of the mining and metals industry and achieved the Catalyst industrial benchmark. Both goals were ambitious considering a significant portion of the company’s employees work in heavy industrial settings like mines, refineries, smelters, and rolling mills. The demands of a 24/7 plant operation are also hard on work/life balance.
Because executive compensation at Alcoa is heavily performance-based, the company recognized that making diversity part of its annual incentive compensation plan would be a powerful motivator and also send a signal that diversity is a major priority. Since 2008, all Alcoa executives and managers participating in the plan have had 10% of their incentive compensation based on progress toward the achievement of the Catalyst industrial benchmark. Each year since the diversity metric was introduced, the global representation of women in professional and executive ranks has increased.
Given its heavy industrial and engineering orientation, Alcoa embedded diversity into its established processes at each level of the company. For example, every business unit president is required to report progress toward the Catalyst benchmark in each quarterly review with the top 50 Alcoa executives. At the board level, all directors review the company’s diversity plans and progress twice annually.
Recognizing that cultural change begins on the shop floor in a heavy industrial company, Alcoa has assigned women to supervisory positions in its operational facilities and departments. At Alcoa’s new Juruti Mine in the Brazilian Amazon, for example, nearly one of every five employees is female. With 44% of those women in leadership positions, the mine is a benchmark among industrial operations in Brazil.
“It really is the strong mentoring program that Alcoa has that helps new employees of any discipline and any gender come into this industrial environment and learn how to be successful, deliver results, and really help advance the next generation at Alcoa,” said Kate Hawkins, capacity coordinator at the Warrick Operations in Evansville, Indiana, USA.
To increase women’s likelihood of success at Alcoa, the company has made diversity an integral part of all of its human resources processes—recruitment, training, mentorship, sponsorship, and fast-track promotions. During the CEO’s annual summer talent reviews, each group president must discuss development plans for all top-talent women. In addition, diversity replacements for the top 200 positions in the company are a mandatory discussion item in the November succession planning review.
Supporting all of Alcoa’s gender diversity efforts is the Alcoa Women’s Network, which has focused on the development and advancement of women leaders throughout the company since its founding in 2003.
Women Representation in the Workforce