The Great Reimagining: Highlights from the 2022 Catalyst Awards
Catalyst gathered leaders in person and virtually from around the globe to reimagine the workplace at our sold-out event.
“It feels like a family reunion,” remarked one speaker at the 2022 Catalyst Awards Conference on March 17—and in many ways, it certainly was.
For the first time in three years, the Catalyst community came together in person for the sold-out 2022 Catalyst Awards Conference and Dinner. Our first hybrid event gathered nearly a thousand Supporters; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) experts; and top business leaders in person at the Hilton Midtown in New York City. Hundreds of attendees and speakers joined virtually in real time from around the world.
The event’s theme—The Great Reimagining: Making Work Work for Women—reflected the urgency with which we must reimagine the workplace in this new era.
Three organizational initiatives—the winners of the 2022 Catalyst Award—that are advancing women in the workplace were recognized:
- Boston Scientific: Accelerating Progress for Women by Creating Equal Opportunities for Growth
- Enbridge: Informed Insights and Inclusion
- Parexel: Leveraging Gender Partnership to Advance Women in Leadership
The Conference also celebrated an important milestone—the sixtieth anniversary of Catalyst. Conference speakers, including Catalyst President & CEO Lorraine Hariton, reflected on the progress made for women since Catalyst was founded in 1962 and set a vision for the future.
“We believe that we have the unique opportunity to reimagine the workplace, reimagine leadership, equity, and accountability, and finally get to equity for all,” Hariton told the packed room.
Here are some highlights from the event.
The Conference kicked off with Kiera Fernandez, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of Target, reflecting on how much the workplace has changed in 60 years. “When I think about the topic, ‘making a workplace that works for women’ … I think of the many years that my mother, my aunts, my grandmothers worked and strived to ensure that I had opportunities they didn’t always have,” said Fernandez. (Target was the Conference Presenting Sponsor.)
In a conversation with Catalyst President & CEO Lorraine Hariton, Target Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Amanda Nusz shared Target’s vision for a reimagined workplace: “We want to democratize opportunity. We want to remove anything that’s in the way for everyone to be able to succeed and live up to their career ambitions. [This] commitment to a culture that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive requires listening and making sure that we are creating access.”
Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, also joined via video and offered an optimistic view of the future: “We have been given an extraordinary opportunity to design the future of work from end to end, putting women and families at the center.”
The Power of Sponsorship
When Felice Schwartz founded Catalyst in 1962, women had few career choices. “She was a Smith graduate. She had just put her last child in school, and she opened up the newspaper to look at jobs. The options were so limited—teacher, administrative, no business jobs,” said Catalyst President & CEO Lorraine Hariton.
On a panel with other global CEOs, Hariton discussed what leaders need to do now to advance gender equity. “Never underestimate the power of sponsorship and human connection,” said Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex and Catalyst Awards Supporting Dinner Chair. “All of us have gotten to where we are today with the help of others. Pay this forward…foster lasting relationships.”
With four women CEOs, including Hariton, on the dais, it was clear much progress has been made in the last 60 years. Still, Hariton noted, there is “a lot of work to be done.”
Transparency Through Data and Courageous Conversations
Transparency with DEI data was a common theme, with all of 2022 Catalyst Award winners discussing its importance. Aida Sabo, Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Parexel, said that data transparency is one of three key components to any DEI strategy, along with strong executive sponsorship and gender partnership.
Ebony Travis, Director, Global HR & EEO Policy, Programs, & Audit, Boston Scientific, said when the company published their DEI goals, it “created a culture shift.”
The winners agreed on a key point: holding your organization and leaders accountable requires courageous conversations. “We started talking with Black and Indigenous employees and then expanded out,” said Tuong Lee, Vice President, LP & GTM, Technology and Information Services, Enbridge. “What we heard informed our actions.”
Alberto Grignolo, Corporate Vice President, Parexel, added, “We must not be immobilized by fear of saying something wrong. We should be courageous about having conversations about sensitive topics.”
Building Gender Partnership
Keynote speaker Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of South Africa and former Executive Director of UN Women, emphasized that gender equity advocates must build partnerships to enact change. “We managed to bring many people into the fold who were indifferent to gender equality before…This is not the time to be discouraged.”
The Catalyst Award winners also highlighted the role of gender partnership, citing their transformative experiences with the Catalyst MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) program. Parexel organized MARC workshops conducted by Catalyst in 2015, and ultimately launched the Change Makers program to explore gender stereotypes and the mutual benefits of equality within its culture. Six hundred senior leaders globally have participated to date. Sofia Baig, Executive Vice President, Clinical Development, Parexel, said, “[MARC] changed the conversation. Up to then, we had our women leaders talking (to each other) behind closed doors.”
Practicing Empathy as a Skill
A recurring theme: The need for more empathic workplaces and leaders, particularly for people from marginalized groups. “One of the big things is listening, getting people to tell their stories so that we know where they are coming from,” said Adrianne Smith, SVP and Senior Partner, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, FleishmanHillard, a global PR and marketing agency. “Give people some grace, be flexible with them, because we don’t know what else is happening in their lives.”
Added Jill White, Head of Strategy and Operations for LEAD (Leading through Equity and Diversity), Google: “In this pandemic, we are all in the same storm, but we are all in different boats. It’s important to say to people, ‘I see you,’ and to connect.”
Be an Effective Ally
The Conference included special programming for our audiences in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region. Cynthia Fortlage, our EMEA keynote and a UK-based gender identity speaker, consultant, and specialist, shared key insights on being an effective ally: “Stand shoulder to shoulder with me. Don’t stand in front of me; you’re taking my voice. Don’t stand behind me; that’s pity, and no one needs pity,” she said.
Fortlage also shared this strategy for building empathy and connection with colleagues: “We [all] want to get to know each other; we want to know why we are the way we are. But don’t start with ‘why?.’ Start with acceptance without understanding and engage in dialogue so we can learn and grow to understanding.”
Choosing “Revolutionary Courage”
Minda Harts, the author and speaker on advancing women of color in the workplace, ended the Conference with a stirring talk about her personal battle for workplace racial and gender equity. In 2014, she recalled, she mustered the courage to ask the most senior person in her firm about removing a racial discrimination barrier. “I asked her to help me. She looked me in the eye and said, ‘You need to decide if this was a place where you want to work.’”
Harts then realized she had a momentous choice to make. “I thought about Shirley Chisholm and Ida B. Wells, women who had come before me. They could choose caution, or they could choose courage. And they always chose courage because they knew there were others who would be the beneficiaries of their courage… I thought about who would be the beneficiary of my revolutionary courage, and I went on to write my first book, about the experiences of women of color in the workplace. To reimagine a workplace that works for women, think about who will be the beneficiary of your courage.”
Looking to the Future
At the gala dinner, Alan Murray, Fortune Media CEO, moderated a discussion between Hariton and Accenture CEO and Catalyst Board Chair Julie Sweet in which they discussed how leaders today can reimagine their workplaces and usher in a new era of inclusive leadership. “We should never underestimate what each of us can do by taking the time to say to someone, ‘I believe that you can do this,’” Sweet said.
The Dinner also included remarks from Dinner Chair Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow, Supporting Dinner Chair Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex, and the CEOs of each Catalyst Award-winning company: Al Monaco of Enbridge, Mike Mahoney of Boston Scientific, and Jamie Macdonald of Parexel.
Many thanks to our Conference Presenting Sponsor, Target Corporation; Convening Presenting Sponsor, Visa; and all other Conference sponsors; our Conference emcees—TV, podcast, and radio presenter Sangita Myska, Catalyst Canada Executive Director Vandana Juneja, and Catalyst Senior Director of MARC Branding Ludo Gabriele.