So Many Diversity & Inclusion Conferences. Why This One Matters in 2020.
On January 16, Catalyst made a big announcement, revealing the three organizations, Deloitte, Unilever, and Medtronic, whose initiatives are winners of the 2020 Catalyst Award. Since 1987, Catalyst has recognized exceptional organizational initiatives that advance women in business. In the diversity, equity, and inclusion area, it is the premier honor. Selecting the Catalyst Award winners is no easy task, however. It’s a year-long process that involves dedicated Awards Team staff, site visits to organizations and offices around the globe, and rigorous qualitative and quantitative data analysis.
This year, on March 12, 2020, the three winners will be honored at the 2020 Catalyst Awards Conference & Dinner. On that date, the Awards also will surpass an important milestone: 100 initiatives recognized since the inaugural Awards.
How have the Awards changed? What are the big trends driving DEI innovation? Recently, Catalyst’s Karina Schroeder sat down with Awards Team co-chairs David Lau and Emily Cohen to ask those questions, and more.
Q: This year we are honoring our 100th initiative. Why do you think this is so significant?
David Lau: I think more so than the number itself, it’s what that 100 represents. It’s over 100 different organizational initiatives that have significantly helped women’s advancement. It’s over 100 different ways and approaches that organizations have taken to improving diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, and it’s also over 100 different examples that Catalyst Supporters can learn from and take different ideas from to apply to their own efforts.
Emily Cohen: The Award itself has evolved. When Felice Schwartz held the first Awards Dinner in 1976, it was to recognize women board directors. This changed in 1987; that year we began recognizing companies’ work for what they were doing to help women. But as our winners know, these initiatives can help all employees. When you create policies and practices and programs that help women, those same resources can provide a better and more enticing workplace for everyone.
Q: Have you seen any trends in how organizations are approaching their DEI (diversity equity and inclusion) initiatives?
Lau: In the four years that I’ve been on the committee, I’ve noticed that initiatives have become more complex, more holistic in their approach, and more global. During my first year on the Awards Committee, most of the initiatives we evaluated were US-based. Increasingly, however, the initiatives being submitted span a global employee base. That can be seen in the 2020 Catalyst Award-winning initiatives that have made an impact on the advancement of women around the globe, from the US and Australia, to Europe and Africa.
There is also a greater understanding of the role men can play in DEI efforts, and more and more we are seeing that men are being included and asked to play a bigger role in advancing gender equity.
Cohen: I will add that we are seeing more and more companies focus not only on diversity and inclusion but also equity and well-being.
Q: What’s something most people—even those who work at Catalyst—may not know about the Awards?
Lau: Companies that win the Catalyst Award often don’t see it as an end to their journey, but as a stepping stone along their DEI journey, that helps spur them on to do more.
When an organization wins the Award, Catalyst has done a deep dive into their workplace and spoken to many employees, so it may be surprising for some to hear that Catalyst Award Winners seek out that feedback in order to help them progress further.
Cohen: The time and commitment required. Sometimes it’s multiple attempts that have been made so that the organizations can get this recognition. It’s not that companies aren’t thinking about DEI or working on it, but what they are asked and required to do for the Catalyst Award, does not come easy.
Q: What is your favorite part about working on the Awards committee?
Lau: It is the site visit, where we talk to a lot of different employees at the organizations that we’re evaluating. It’s hearing from people first-hand about how something that was put in place at this organization has helped them advance in their careers or has helped them in some way.
Cohen: For me, it’s seeing the audience at the conference—taking notes, asking questions, and leaving with the feeling that they can implement a similar program or policy. Of course, it’s fun making the call and saying “Congratulations,” but it’s an even better feeling to see the long-term impact of sharing all of those ideas, challenges, and successes.
Q: This year, the theme is “Now is the Moment. Be a Catalyst.” Can you explain what this means?
Lau: The theme really speaks to the urgency of the moment we’re living in. There’s this growing sense that in order to create a brighter future for everyone, we need to start making change now—and that change has to involve everybody. I think that theme runs true throughout our winners this year.