Top 5 Takeaways from the 2015 Catalyst Awards Conference

Deborah Gillis, President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst and Mary T. Barra, Chief Executive Officer, General Motors Company.
Deborah Gillis, President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst and Mary T. Barra, Chief Executive Officer, General Motors Company.

March 31, 2015Last week, we hosted the annual Catalyst Awards Conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The theme of the conference was #DisruptTheDefault, a call to action for companies and individuals to shake up the way we think, speak, and act, and to make bold moves that will forge meaningful change for women, as well as men, in the workplace and the world.

The Conference sessions featured perspectives from individuals from all levels of business and different walks of life; all tied together through striving to #DisruptTheDefault whether it be in their workplace or in their personal lives. Here are some inspiring takeaways that we hope motivate you to say “no” to the status quo!

When you embrace your differences, you inspire others to embrace theirs as well.

Although society has come a long way in accepting the LGBT community, conversations concerning sexuality in the workplace are still controversial and often cause people to conceal a major part of who they are when they step into the office. For years, Beth A. Rauschenberger of Nationwide Insurance didn’t share that she had a partner or a daughter, but after her partner became pregnant with their second child she decided that it was time to unmask what she had been concealing for so long and step into her truth. By doing so, she was able to not only bring her full self to work, but also inspire others to do the same. “Over the years, I’ve tried my best to embrace my otherness and encourage others to do the same,” she said.

Know your power and use it to make change.

Every day we are flooded with advertisements whether they are on the train on the way to work or flipping through channels while sitting on the couch. Advertisements and the way that people are portrayed in the media play a major role in how many groups are perceived in the “real world.” But what happens if the media isn’t getting it right? During the Amplifying the Positive Portrayal—and Power—of Women session, which featured Anne Fulenwider, Editor in Chief, Marie Claire, and other leading media mavens, panelists stressed the importance of those who have the power behind the scenes to speak up and make sure that women and people of color are being portrayed in the right light. They also discussed how you don’t have to be in the ad industry to have a say. One of the panelists shared a story about a woman who got an ad that objectified women removed from a bus stop where she and her daughter had to wait every day.

Age ain’t nothing but a number. Despite the stereotypes about Gen Y, the knowledge and skills that Millennials encompass are valuable and vital to the success of a company.

Millennials are lazy. Millennials are entitled. Millennials hop from job to job. These are just some of the stereotypes people have about Gen Y. The session called Disarm: Forget What You Think You Know About Millennials debunked those myths and highlighted what the Millennial generation can bring to the table. They’re able to work in fast-paced environments; they’re savvy in the realm of digital media; and despite popular belief, they are loyal to employers who help them develop their careers and provide them with new opportunities. "If you can harness Millennials, they will work harder than any other organization,” said Caroline Ghosn, Co-Founder & CEO of Levo.

Breaking gender norms starts at a young age.

Breaking gender stereotypes doesn’t start in the workplace, it starts in the sandbox. This message was brought to life as Catalyst screened The Representation Project’s newest film, “The Mask You Live In.” The film captures the essence of how society puts our young boys in a box, negatively shaping their feelings, actions, desires, and ambitions in ways that stay with them as they grow into adulthood. The long-term effects on boys can be devastating, not only to them personally, but also to girls and the rest of society. The movie is an important component in our conversation about creating a less gendered and more inclusive culture.

Don’t run away from challenging assignments; face them head on—they are the windows of opportunity.

Along our career journeys we may question opportunities that are presented to us. We might ask whether or not they are beneficial to our career or whether we are even capable of taking on certain tasks. According to Mary T. Barra, CEO, General Motors Company, to move forward in your career you must take on challenging assignments with a sense of courage. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “Seize the opportunity. You’ll learn so much.”


The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.