Be Authentic 100% of the Time: 5 Lessons from Catalyst Honours (Blog Post)
2022 Catalyst Honours Conference & Dinner involved numerous moments of inspiration and powerful stories about building inclusion for women at work.
“Never in a million years would I have imagined being here as the real me,” said Katherine (Katie) Dudtschak, formerly of RBC, during her acceptance speech for the 2022 Catalyst Honours Business Leader Champion award.
The event on November 9 brought together hundreds of business leaders in person and online from across the Canadian corporate and public sectors. For many, it was their first time reconnecting in person in three years.
Dr. Julie Cafley, Catalyst Canada’s new Executive Director, and Vandana Juneja, former Canada Executive Director and current Vice President & Head, Global Advisory Services, provided opening remarks.
“In leading organizations, diversity, equity, and inclusion planning is central to board governance, strategic planning, and organizational metrics, and the absence of real DEI action is seen as a major institutional risk,” Julie said.
We also heard from our Presenting Sponsor, Manulife, with remarks by Roy Gori, President and CEO; Naveed Irshad, President & CEO, Manulife Canada; Paul Lorentz, President & CEO, Global Wealth and Asset Management; and Mamta Sethi, Vice President, Global Technology Strategy, Performance & Engineering Transformation.
Together, attendees honoured five extraordinary leaders who have made a critical impact in advancing women at work. They also celebrated Catalyst’s sixtieth anniversary in 2022, which we are recognizing as the year of The Great Reimagining: Equity for Women, Equity for All.
Dinner Chair Darryl White, CEO of BMO, co-presented the Catalyst Honours award to each Honouree with four other BMO leaders: Clio Straram, Karen Collins, Gabrielle Scheliga, and Christine Cooper. Darryl White is also Chair of the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board.
The 2022 Honourees are:
- Katherine (Katie) Dudtschak, Former Executive Vice President, Regional Banking, Personal & Commercial Banking, RBC
- Édith Cloutier, Regional President for Quebec, VP of Sales for Ottawa, Quebec, and Federal, Rogers Communications
- Nicole McCormick, Senior Manager of Newsgathering, CityNews, Rogers Sports & Media
- Swanzy Quarshie, CFA, Director, Energy Sales Specialist, Global Banking and Markets, Scotiabank
- Beth S. Horowitz, Corporate Director; Former President & CEO, Amex Canada Inc., with a Special Recognition.
Here are five key lessons from the event:
We must all be active participants in Reconciliation.
Morning keynote speaker Rose LeMay, CEO of the Indigenous Reconciliation Group, shared stories of her ancestors and asked attendees to take greater responsibility for Reconciliation. “Canadians knew about [residential schools]. It was not a secret. That wasn’t me, and it wasn’t you. But we are now faced with knowledge about what happened. And you are faced with the choice about what you do.”
LeMay offered two points for how Canadians can take a more active role in the Reconciliation process:
- Be a witness: Listen, learn, and hear the stories of others. Use your influence as a leader to share what you have learned with authenticity and integrity.
- Act: Ensure that Indigenous firms are represented in your procurement contracts. Ask Indigenous employees what they need to succeed. Build relationships with Indigenous partners in your sector. Hire more Indigenous women.
Lastly, LeMay urged everyone to think about the world they want to live in when Reconciliation is complete—and to work towards that vision by challenging racism every time they see it.
Diversity and inclusion are not the same.
2022 Champion Katie Dudtschak said that her personal gender affirmation story had given her unique insights into diversity and inclusivity. “It’s incumbent on leaders to build a workforce that is representative of society but that is also inclusive. Diversity is a fact; inclusivity is a choice.”
Beginning in 2020, Katie hosted a series of “inclusion dialogues”—conversations with other unique leaders at RBC. “These dialogues were incredibly moving and had a material impact on our culture and inclusion practices,” she said. “I wanted to showcase the dimensions of human uniqueness that each of us carry, and role model uncomfortable conversations so leaders can have their own inclusion dialogues and get to know their own employees.”
Katie added that inclusivity should be simple. “It’s about being kind and curious about the world and people around you.”
Mentors and sponsors can make a huge difference.
2022 Champions Édith Cloutier and Swanzy Quarshie both spoke about the impact of being a mentor or mentee.
“My career in capital markets was led by mentors and sponsors who opened doors and selflessly guided and championed me,” Swanzy said.
Édith also shared the learning journey she experienced in 2020 that led her to spearhead a mentorship program exclusively for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour employees. “We realized we were not proactive in supporting and championing our employees. One team manager said, ‘Please allow us to dream of a great career and future. We need to see a path.’ I realized I needed to do something.”
The mentorship program is now in its second year, and four individuals in the first cohort directly attribute their promotions to their experiences in the program.
Swanzy asked more leaders to be available as mentors and champions to others: “It takes bravery to knock on the door, so reward that bravery with your time.”
Pay equity is more critical than ever.
In 2021, the federal government in Canada enacted a pay equity law that requires certain employers to examine their compensation practices on a regular basis and adjust if any inequities are uncovered. Both the law and a changing culture are putting pressure on companies to act.
“It’s important for companies to understand where their gaps are, what’s driving it, and what they need to do,” said Jackie VanDerMeulen, Partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. “We’re seeing huge upticks in companies who want to do this. We’re seeing commercial pressure from shareholders to disclose. Consumers are starting to look at these things also—consumers pay attention.”
Kadie Ward, Commissioner and CAO of the Ontario Pay Equity Commission, said that government policy is important to moving the needle. “When you make something visible, you make it much harder to ignore. Companies need to show us their numbers.”
Do not be afraid to be your authentic self.
“One thing I wish I had known when I began my career was that it was ok to be my authentic self 100% of the time,” said 2022 Champion Nicole McCormick. “Being Indigenous is the core of who I am, but it is not the only thing I am.”
Nicole shared stories of her hesitance to identify as an Indigenous woman in her workplace, for fear of being tokenized.
New Catalyst research—launched in conjunction with Catalyst Honours—reiterated her experience. The report, Emotional Tax and Work Teams: A View from 5 Countries, found that 51% of employees from marginalized racial and ethnic groups in Canada experience emotional tax at work. Emotional tax is the experience of being on guard to protect against bias due to race, ethnicity, and gender.
Nicole said allies are crucial to ensuring people from marginalized groups feel psychologically safe at work. “It can take time for allies to truly step up, but when they do, it is incredibly powerful.”
Afternoon keynote Joze Piranian, a global inspirational speaker, echoed Nicole’s reflections on being afraid to embrace your true self. A lifelong stutterer, Joze spoke about his work to confront a fear of public speaking—and offered lessons about facing conflict and confronting our own fears: “Fear never goes away. If we know something is a constant, why would we wait for it to miraculously disappear before we start taking action? Through repeatedly exposing myself to the source of my fears, I manage to overcome it.”
The day-long Conference in Toronto and online was followed by an in-person Ceremony and Dinner. Dinner included remarks from Julie Cafley; Lorraine Hariton, Catalyst President & CEO; Darryl White, BMO CEO and Dinner Chair; Naveed Irshad, President & CEO, Manulife Canada; Anthony Ostler, President and CEO, Canadian Bankers Association; and all five Honourees.
We would like to extend a special thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Manulife; our Convening Presenting Sponsor, Visa; and all other sponsors and Supporters.
See more exciting highlights from the event in the video below.
Do you know an impact-making Champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace? Nominate them for the 2023 Catalyst Honours. Nominations are open now through February 17, 2023.