Catalyst celebrates 50 years of advancing women in the workplace catalyst electricity icon

NEW YORK— Five decades of catalyzing change and still going strong! Tonight Catalyst celebrated a historic 50 years of trail-blazing leadership in expanding opportunities for women and business at its gala Catalyst Awards Dinner. Over 2,000 global business leaders, including over 100 CEOs, attended the Dinner, at which James S. Turley, Chair of Catalyst’s Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, presented the 2012 Catalyst Award to extraordinary initiatives advancing women in the workplace from Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Sodexo. The festivities took place at The Waldorf=Astoria in New York and began with a special two-day Catalyst Awards Conference yesterday and today. On Monday, Catalyst rang the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange in honor of the 50th anniversary. Celebrations in Canada, Europe and India will follow throughout the year.

“Women are crucial to sustaining businesses, economies and society-at-large—we need their full participation as leaders,” said Ilene H. Lang, President and CEO, Catalyst. “Just as our Catalyst Award-winning initiatives inspire companies to action, each of us is a catalyst with the power to make change. As we mark Catalyst’s 50th anniversary, we invite women and men alike to recognize their place in our history and to become catalysts to expand opportunities for women and business.”

Founded in 1962 with the goal of helping women find part-time work, Catalyst has since grown into a global organization with offices on three continents and over 500 corporate members who share its vision of “Changing workplaces. Changing lives.” Women now comprise close to 50 percent of the workforce and over 50 percent of university and professional school graduates in many countries, but they still confront challenges to reaching business leadership positions. In its 50 years of work advancing women in the workplace, Catalyst has been instrumental in helping its members take steps to create cultures that value and reward talented women.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)’s initiative, Opening the Door for Gender Diversity, seeks to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions through a variety of strategies and programs aimed at breaking down barriers women and diverse populations often face in the workplace.

“The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is proud to win the 2012 Catalyst Award for its initiative on gender diversity and be recognized internationally as a leader in building a diverse and inclusive workplace,” said Ian Narev, Managing Director and CEO of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “A broad base of skills and perspectives is imperative to our long-term success and we’re focusing on breaking down barriers, such as unconscious bias, to access the widest talent pool. We’re making steady progress toward our target of women representing 35 percent of our leadership by the end of 2014.”

“Sodexo is honored to receive the 2012 Catalyst Award, which recognizes and affirms the progress we have made through our multi-pronged diversity and inclusion strategy to advance all employees, particularly women and people of color,” said George Chavel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sodexo North America. “This achievement was only possible thanks to the 125,000 employees of Sodexo whose individual and collective commitment to diversity and inclusion has changed how and why we do business, making Sodexo a stronger, more agile and admired company.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, over 600 business leaders and leaders of women’s organizations participated in the 2012 Catalyst Awards Conference and 50th anniversary celebration. Earlier in the day, a special luncheon session featured Denise Morrison, President & CEO, Campbell Soup Company, and Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman & CEO, Frontier Communications, the first pair of sisters to run Fortune 1000 companies, who shared insights on their careers as they spoke on Redefining the Mommy Track.

In addition to the Catalyst-Award-winning initiatives, topics discussed over the two-day Conference included the future of women and work; MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), Catalyst’s unique new online learning community for men; the equality initiative Get Even, co-led by Catalyst, The White House Project and the National Council for Research on Women; the portrayal of women in media with supermodel Emme, film producer Susan Cartsonis, Draftfcb Executive Vice President Mike Devlin, and INSEAD Professor of Organizational Behavior Herminia Ibarra; and creating workplaces inclusive of diverse women.

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award.

The Catalyst Award annually honors innovative organizational approaches with proven, measurable results that address the recruitment, development, and advancement of all women, including diverse women. Catalyst’s rigorous, year-long examination of initiatives culminates in intensive on-site evaluations at select organizations. By recognizing, sharing, and celebrating successful initiatives, Catalyst provides models for creating initiatives that are good for women and good for business.

The Commonwealth Bank is Australia’s leading provider of integrated financial services including retail banking, premium banking, business banking, institutional banking, funds management, superannuation, insurance, investment and sharebroking products and services. The Commonwealth Bank Group is one of the largest listed companies on the Australian Stock Exchange and is included in the Morgan Stanley Capital Global Index.

Sodexo is a world leader in Quality of Daily Life Solutions. Quality of Life plays an important role in the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. Based on this conviction, Sodexo acts as the strategic partner for companies and institutions that place a premium on performance and employee well-being, as it has since Pierre Bellon founded the company in 1966. Sharing the same passion for service, Sodexo’s 391,000 employees in 80 countries design, manage and deliver an unrivaled array of On-site Service Solutions and Motivation Solutions. Sodexo has created a new form of service business that contributes to the fulfillment of its employees and the economic, social and environmental development of the communities, regions and countries in which it operates.