2023 Annual Letter from Lorraine Hariton (Media Release)
From the Frontline to the C-Suite: How We Can Help Women Thrive
What would it look like for women to thrive on their own terms and by their own definitions of success?
With that question in mind, I’m excited to announce an important next step in Catalyst’s strategy to create workplaces that work for women: We’re expanding our focus to include women in frontline roles.
In fact, since its founding over 60 years ago, Catalyst has evolved over time to meet the shifting needs of women in the workforce. Our mission has remained steadfast—to shine a spotlight on and address the issues facing women in the workplace—and we have done that in a variety of ways. When Catalyst began, we helped college-educated women build careers outside of the home. We then recognized that women would not be served without changes to workplace culture, so we offered evidence-based guidance to help create workplaces that work for women. Over time, we added a more nuanced approach to include race, class, and ethnicity. And our MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) initiative was born out of the realization that men have a critical role to play in the work of gender equity.
But there’s so much more to do. While we’ve made great strides for women in office settings, there are still many whose workplaces are simply not working for them.
The pandemic disproportionately impacted the frontline workforce, which also disproportionately includes women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups. They’re still feeling the effects. That’s why it’s urgent we ensure that all women can succeed in the workplace—including those working in frontline roles. It’s time to accelerate equity on all fronts so women thrive.
Frontline Employees Initiative
Meeting the moment and broadening our focus to include women in frontline roles means expanding our reach to encompass more women. And we are calling this new pillar of work the Frontline Employees Initiative.
The Frontline Employees Initiative is in response to the needs of our Supporter companies who have told us that retaining frontline women is a priority. This is especially critical as companies face a labor shortage. We’re helping to solve the challenges so many organizations are facing—such as high rates of burnout and turnover; low rates of engagement and productivity; and the need for upskilling and reskilling in the face of rapid technological change.
We recently interviewed employers of women in frontline roles, and I was moved by their stories of the day-to-day hardships and indignities so many women still face. “We have some facilities that are old and don’t even have a women’s restroom,” said one leader. “We have some work to do in that space.”
Another said: “Many frontline employees work more than one job, so burnout is a big factor.”
Currently, we are conducting intensive one-on-one interviews with executives, as well as frontline employees, in hospitality, manufacturing, and retail, beginning in the US. And we are reaching out to frontline employees to fill out diary entries about their workplace experiences. After we have collected this data, we will share our findings and create the innovative tools and resources needed to transform them into actions. As preeminent leaders of research about women and the workplace, we have the strengths and experiences that uniquely qualify us to take on this important work.
We also want to thank our many Supporter organizations who are working closely with us on this effort. Accenture is partnering with us on the research. We have a board task force made up of CEOs from Carnival, Dow, Marriott, Northrop Grumman, Sodexo, and Target. Procter & Gamble has provided us with dedicated support to help translate the results and put them into action. And many others are sharing time and talent through our Expert Community.
What Catalyst Accomplished With Your Support
I’m proud of what we have accomplished together over the last year, which has included key research on topics such as flexible workplaces, empathic leadership, and the importance of management adaptability. Additionally, we released insights on the emotional tax that women from marginalized racial and ethnic groups face globally, the risks of performative policies, employee concerns about abortion access in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, and guidance on how to be more transparent and accountable with DEI measurements.
We also held multiple crucial convenings: a three-day conference across four continents hosted by MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) on reimagining gender equity; Catalyst Honours, during which we honored Canadians leading the way on DEI; Catalyst Awards, where we recognized companies for their innovation and results in transparency and representation; and multiple ERG convenings.
But we all know DEI is a journey that never ends. We can always do better.
In the coming year, we’re focusing on accelerating equity on all fronts. With that in mind, we’re deepening our commitment to our four core pillars: advancing women, women and the future of work, leading for equity and inclusion, and MARC. And we’re expanding to include our fifth, the Frontline Employees Initiative.
I’m excited about what we’ll accomplish together on this journey over the next 12 months.
President & CEO