Janice Ellig, CEO and founder of Ellig Group, sits down with real leaders in this series of game-changing conversations, bespoke to fellow champions of change. Heralded by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” Janice is often consulted for her expertise and commitment to gender parity, equity, inclusion, and diversity.
We are honored to present this month’s episode of Leadership Reimagined, “Creating Workplaces that Work for Women: 60 Years of Progress” with Lorraine Hariton, President, CEO & Board Director of Catalyst, an organization that has been promoting workplace equality for more than 60 years.
Beginning her career with IBM, holding executive, as well as entrepreneurial positions in Silicon Valley, and serving in the Department of State during the Obama administration, Lorraine knows leadership in the corporate, private, nonprofit, and government sectors. At the New York Academy of Sciences, she created the Global STEM Alliance and its 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program, a global mentoring initiative to help girls pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
As we approach women’s history month, we are incredibly honored to share Lorraine’s story, having been involved in women’s advancement and leadership initiatives throughout her career, she epitomizes what is means to be a catalyst for women.
It is our privilege to share this episode of Leadership Reimagined with Lorraine Hariton!
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Show Notes: Lorraine Hariton
Lorraine Hariton, President, CEO & Director of Catalyst
Catalyst, as an organization, has evolved over many years starting in 1962 when our founder Felice Schwartz started Catalyst. She was looking at how she, a college-educated woman, after putting her children in school, could go into the business world. And of course, the world that she faced was very different than today. There were very limited options for women. She was looking at how women could have part-time roles. But over the years Catalyst evolved. It started out helping individual women advance in the workplace and then we moved to really focus on how do we create an environment, a workplace that really can work for women, which is really our focus now. Today we partner with over 500 multinational companies, about 40 of them are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, who are currently on my board. And we do three things: We provide research around what it takes to build workplaces that work for women; we provide learning products and tools that help companies advance women in the workplace; And then we have a very broad community. We bring them together around events and learning from each other. We focus on a number of different areas, on how to create inclusive workplaces, we focus on how to engage men in the prospect of doing that. We look at the future of work, we look at intersectionality and the different aspects of your identity and how it affects you. And of course, all the different levels in the organization.
Lorraine Hariton on women in the workplace
We’re focused on how all women can thrive, and how we can have equity for all, in fact, on our 60th anniversary, our theme was the great reimagining. And because so many things have changed through the pandemic, we really need to reimagine what work is all about and what it means for women to be successful. We went through these very large experiments on working remotely, which has opened up opportunities to think about and give more opportunities for women because flexibility of that type has always been important for women. We looked at how leadership has changed with leadership needs to be more human, more adaptable, more empathetic, we are now looking at how all women can thrive because we’ve been focused on how we advance women into leadership, into the C-suite, onto boards, and into CEO positions. But coming off the pandemic, we also understand that all women need to find how they can be successful, how they can find what success means to them, and how they can thrive. And as companies, we’re actually in a moment where we have full employment (they just announced that this is the lowest unemployment rate in the United States in over 50 years.) Companies are really concerned about talent, talent retention, and attraction. And they’re concerned, especially around frontline workers who were very affected by the pandemic and where we have a prior representation of marginalized people. Catalyst is broadening its scope, looking at equity for everyone, and how we can do equity for all.
Lorraine Hariton on her history before Catalyst
My mother passed away about three months ago, and she, like our founder Felice Schwartz, they were contemporaries, along with Nancy Pelosi and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and women of those ages, they came of age in a world in the 50s. That was very different than the world that I even came of age in, which was in the mid to late 70s. And I realized that my mother was a real role model for me because while she was a teacher before she had children, she put her children into school. When she came out, she actually went back to school, and ended up getting her Ph.D.. She did a seminal piece of research on women’s sexual fantasies during intercourse, which ended up the front cover article in Psychology Today. And then she had a very successful career in her 40s and 50s. And into her 60s, as a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She really raised me to be independent and to reach my full potential. And she ended up being the major breadwinner in our family. I think she was very important in setting a role model for me. And I also had another great role model, which was my mentor and sponsor, who was my calculus teacher in my first year of college. One of the challenges for me when I was a child, was my dyslexia. And because of dyslexia, it limited my scope of what I was really good at. I was very good at math and organization. I was not so good at reading, I had reading issues. I also was awkward as a child. But Gordon Pritchard, my calculus teacher, took a real interest in me, and he suggested that I study computer science. In fact, I was up at Hamilton College in upstate New York at the time, they didn’t even have any computer curriculum. I did a self-study on that and ended up transferring to Stanford. My first passion was really around using computers to make a change in the world. That got me out to Silicon Valley. I feel the dyslexia really helped shape me in a direction where I started to hone what my true strengths were. And it also built a lot of resiliency and tenacity, because, I have a lot of challenges in my childhood, and it wasn’t an easy path for me. The second thing I think that really influenced me is, being a woman in Silicon Valley, in the 80s and 90s. You were always a minority. And one of the things that I started to do was build my relationships with other women in Silicon Valley. I became involved with this organization, which was called at the time, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives. And I went to their classes, I went on their advisory board, I ended up on their board and Chairman of the board. I then went on the board of the Stanford Clayman Institute for Gender Research. And I started to really appreciate the women who had mentored and supported me, as well as mentoring and supporting other women in this network that I had. I think that shaped this passion that I’ve had around advancing women in the workplace. That I’m doing it now as my full-time job was really from my lived experience in Silicon Valley, in technology. That is what made me passionate about this whole area.
Lorraine Hariton on culture at Catalyst
When I came out of Harvard Business School, and decided to go back to Silicon Valley, I decided to continue to work for IBM for a number of years. Because IBM had a culture where there were a lot of women in leadership. In fact, as you know, Virginia Rometty, who was a peer of mine, she became CEO of IBM. There were a lot of women in leadership. And there was a good work-life balance and a culture where women could be successful. There were places that were really great to work in Silicon Valley, while I was there, and there still are. And I often tell women, and it’s part of what we tried to do at Catalyst. We try to make workplaces that work for women, we try to explain to organizations that if they want to attract and retain women, they need to have a culture where they can be successful.
Lorraine Hariton on board strategy for Catalyst
Julie Sweet, as our Chairman of the board, has really leaned in to help us really craft the strategy going forward. And there are really two pieces of our strategy, one I alluded to earlier, which is to expand Catalyst, this focus from advancing women into positions of leadership. And by the way, we still have a lot of work to do there, we’re not defocusing on that, we’re just expanding our frame, to make sure that all women can thrive, whether it’s from the shop floor to the C-suite, or taking off looking at gender, race, and ethnicity. And we do that on a global basis. We’re actually doing joint research with Accenture, on the area of frontline workers that we will be talking about at our major event that we’re having on March 30th. That’s our awards, conference, and dinner talking about some of our initial findings in there. And really, we’re going to be working to turn that into actual tools and recommendations and practices that companies can roll out very quickly. That’s one big area that we’re focused on. The other area is trying to really expand the impact that we have through our over 500 supporters. And we really want to expand the number of supporters that we have that are on the journey with us that we can make an impact because that’s where we are focused. And, the focus on advancing women and DEI, in general, has really expanded. Many companies truly understand that if they want to attract and retain the best talent, if they want to be competitive, they have to have a diverse workforce, and they’ve got a workforce that attracts that talent. There are many more companies that are on that journey that we think we can have an impact on. And we want to deepen our engagement so that they can make progress and we can make progress together. In order to do that, we’re really on a digital transformation journey, where we have a lot of content, a lot of research that we’ve accumulated over many years that we continue to add to, but we want to make sure that it’s easily accessible in ways that people can really absorb, not only to our day to day contexts that tend to be in the HR function and a Chief Diversity Officer, but so that they can help them make an impact across their whole organization. We are in the process of making a real investment in our digital transformation so that we can be more agile and impactful. And I have to say, really, every organization is on this journey, because technology is changing so rapidly, but especially organizations like us are fundamentally content and learning organizations.
Lorraine Hariton on driving change with Catalyst
We’re incredibly lucky to have over 500 major organizations that work together in the Catalyst community to champion the mission to drive change. We see our focus as making change through these millions of people in these companies. Our research is enabling us to drive change through these organizations. We’re moving towards understanding that if you look back 20 years ago it was much more about awareness. Now it’s about driving real change. The organization’s evolved with the environment that we’re serving.
Lorraine Hariton on how it all started with Catalyst
I talked a little bit at the beginning about the history that we move from helping individual women to helping to change the workplace. About 10 years ago, we started to realize that women can’t just be talking to women, and we need to involve the men, the men who are in power positions who can make a change. We started to do research on that. We had a lot of support from people like Procter and Gamble, who helped us with our initial research. What we found is that most men are interested in helping, but they don’t know how, or they don’t even realize that some of the behaviors that they’ve developed over many years that come from their childhood, were really biased. They were affecting, making it difficult for women to advance often. They thought they were helping but really they weren’t. We developed a whole program based on this research that we actually have scaled, it’s workshops and dialogues, and tools to help men understand their biases. Everyone has unconscious biases. We’re all a product of our culture, but how can they become more aware? And then how can they themselves become champions for women in their workplace, on a daily basis to make a difference? And MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) has become a movement. Chevron give us major grants to scale MARC so that it can go from the C-suite down to the first-line manager. So that everyone can really understand and be part of all this. And it’s been rolled out to a lot of companies who really feel it’s a game changer in terms of really making a difference in their organizations.
Lorraine Hariton on Michael Wirth, Chairman & CEO of Chevron
Michael Wirth of Chevron has been great. In fact, when I first came on board, one of the first things I did, as I knew they were interested, I went out to San Ramon and I met with Mike. And this ended up in them giving us the largest major gift that Catalyst has ever had, $5 million to scale MARC, and then Procter and Gamble, and Dow Chemical came along to support those efforts. So because of that, we’ve been able to have a robust, scalable set of offerings around MARC.
Lorraine Hariton on The Hartford and the Catalyst Awards
I want to talk a little bit about The Hartford that we’re going to be honoring this year. The Hartford actually came to us in 2016 and applied for the award, but they didn’t get the award. So we went back and talked to them about what they needed to do. And then they decided to really mount a major campaign. And the thing that I like to highlight about The Hartford, is that there’s a CEO commitment to this. And they looked at what they were going to do, of course, every department at every level on different dimensions on the policies and practices they have, how they built an inclusive workplace, how they created the right culture and environment, how they measure and hold people accountable, over that, basically, five or six-year period that they really invested, they really move the needle at every level. And if you look at their numbers and the numbers on our website, you’ll see really substantial progress around the number of women and executive levels. So, you have an organization that realizes that this is hard work. It’s a major cultural change, and there needs to be sustained commitment over years to really make that change. But in the end, they’ve transformed the organization.
Lorraine Hariton on University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
And the other organization we are honoring is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. And their motivation is they want to mirror the community that they serve. And this is true of healthcare, 75% of their employees are women. But 40%, of the top level, were women. They showed they really needed to move to really reflect every level. And that’s true of a lot of organizations that you have that situation. Procter and Gamble is another example where you know, their customer, it’s a woman, it’s often a mom, and they’re committed to reflect on the population that they serve because that is what’s going to allow them to be able to be competitive so that their workforce reflects their customer.
Lorraine Hariton talks about the letter to CEOs
The letter talks about how we really need to move to accelerate progress towards equity on all fronts, and that we need to be making sure that all women can thrive, that we’re at a moment in time where there’s that opportunity because the workplace is changing significantly. We have a talent shortage going on. We have rapid technological change. So, therefore, we’re broadening our scope. We’re broadening our focus. I also do want to reflect a little bit on the fact that we have made a lot of progress. And even over the last five years, since I’ve been involved in Catalyst, we’ve made the change. In fact, at the awards event that we’re going to have on March 30, where we’re going to be honoring The Hartford and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. We also, have on stage we have two dinner co-chairs, both of them are women, the CEO of Zoetis, and the CEO of Northrop Grumman. And we have Julie Sweet, who’s our chair, the CEO of Accenture, and the CEO of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are both woman. So five out of the six of the people on stage are going to be women. I’m really excited about this because when I first did the dinner, it was not the case. All the CEOs of the three companies were men, our dinner chair was a man. When I came on board, Cathy Engelbert was the first woman chair of Catalyst. In it’s 56-year history, at that moment in time, the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500, in 2018, when I joined was 4.8%. It is now at 10.8%. Now, I don’t think 10.8% is something that we should be jumping up and down about. But the fact that it has more than doubled in the last five years is something to celebrate. The fact that we are now over 30% women on boards is something to celebrate. Because you’ve been very involved (referring to Janice Ellig) with this, you remember when that was aspirational. We have made really clear progress, we’re still on track to do more. But that is also why I feel the tables can move to broaden this focus, to go to look at frontline workers because we’ve made progress in some of these other areas.
Lorraine Hariton: Women's History Month
Catalyst every year for International Women’s Day and of course, Women’s History Month, the whole month, does something that we try to really drive impact. We have a campaign this year called #inclusionthrives. What we’re going to be doing is have people talk about inclusive leadership, inclusive moments that they’ve experienced, and inclusive moments that leaders have provided. So there’s a lot of work to be done to really build that type of environment. And we want to show what good looks like, we want to have leaders and people talk about what works for them. We’re going to be highlighting a number of leaders talking about this. And we have a toolkit that any of you can get involved in and download and do it on social to talk about what your experiences are. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was working for the guy who was VP of sales at a division of IBM. And my next step in my career ladder was to be a branch manager. He offered me the job and held it open during my maternity leave. And he also moved the branch manager up to San Francisco so that I could go to the client’s Santa Clara branch, making it more accessible to me. I will never forget what he did for me. And he didn’t ask me if could, he just did it.