The 2016 Catalyst Awards Dinner, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, was by far one of the most memorable events in the organization’s 54-year history. We honored an outstanding initiative, Women and Opportunity, created by the global brand Gap Inc., and gave a special recognition to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, for his work toward gender equality.
The black-tie event—gathering more than 1,600 guests, including CEOs and leading executives from top global corporations, professional firms, governments, NGOs, and educational institutions— kicked off with an exceptional performance from soulful songstress Judith Hill, who is best-known for being a former contestant on NBC’s hit show The Voice. The dinner featured remarks from Catalyst President & CEO Deborah Gillis, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Gap Inc.’s CEO Art Peck.
During her speech, Ms. Gillis congratulated Gap Inc. for its Women & Opportunity initiative. “I applaud you and Gap Inc.—for building a senior leadership team that reflects the market it serves; for valuing results, not face time; for developing leaders of all backgrounds; and for committing to lift families and ultimately communities out of poverty by training and empowering more than 1 million garment workers around the world by 2020.”
Ms. Gillis also called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “game changer” and commended him on leading by example through his gender-balanced cabinet. “You have made what was once unimaginable, possible. And importantly, your decision to build a cabinet that looks like the country it is intended to serve—“the People’s Cabinet”—will now challenge political and business leaders everywhere to explain why their leadership teams do not include an equal number of men and women,” she said.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his way to the stage, everyone in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. During his heartfelt speech, the Prime Minister connected four values—empowerment, accountability, courage, and humility, which are known as Catalyst’s EACH behaviors—to the work that he and his team are doing in Canada. “These are the kinds of words, the kinds of values that build better communities, whether it is a business community and all those you serve, or the political world and the citizens that we serve,” said Trudeau.
One of the most riveting parts of Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech was when he declared that he is a proud feminist: “Now many of you know I am a feminist, and proud to call myself one. I know and believe that women can do and be anything they want. But I also know that meaningful cultural change can’t and won’t happen when only half of the population works towards change. Men need to act to set examples and to be role models too.” The Prime Minister closed his speech with a call to action, asking people in the room to challenge themselves and others in their lives to step up to the plate and be advocates for gender parity.
Later on in the ceremony, Art Peck, CEO of Gap Inc., accepted the 2016 Catalyst Award on behalf of his company and shared why initiatives like Women and Opportunity are essential in workplaces today.