Catalyst (nonprofit organization)

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FounderFelice Schwartz
FocusTo accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.
Key people
Lorraine Hariton, CEO and President

Catalyst Inc. is a global nonprofit working with some of the world's most powerful CEOs and leading companies to help build workplaces that work for women. Founded in 1962, Catalyst drives change with pioneering research, practical tools, and proven solutions to accelerate and advance women into leadership—because progress for women is progress for everyone.[1] It was founded by feminist, writer, and advocate Felice Schwartz who served as Catalyst's president for 31 years.[2][3]

Catalyst's stated mission is to “accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.”[1] It supports that mission by conducting primary and secondary research on gender equity; drawing insights from that research; and developing tools, training programs, and other assets for use in diversity and inclusion programs at companies and organizations. Recent topics of focus include: board diversity;[4] gender, race and ethnicity;[5] inclusive cultures;[6] LGBTQ;[7] men and equality;[8] the gender pay gap;[9] sexual harassment;[10] and unconscious bias.[11] Catalyst also offers strategic consulting services to supporter organizations seeking to improve their workplace culture, their diversity and inclusion initiative outcomes, and the representation of women in their organizations.

In addition to its research activities, Catalyst has launched targeted initiatives to increase the number of women in leadership positions (Catalyst CEO Champions For Change,[12] Catalyst Women on BoardTM[13]), enlist men's support for gender equality (Men Advocating Real ChangeTM/MARCTM[14]), and celebrate individuals and organizations that are positive role models for change (Catalyst Awards,[15] Catalyst Canada Honours[16]).



In 1951, after her father died, Felice Schwartz joined her brother Theodore Nierenberg to help turn around their father's failing business. Married and a mother, Schwartz worked as the vice president of production until they sold the business for a small profit three-and-a-half years later.[17] The experiences Schwartz gained while working and raising a family spurred her to found Catalyst in 1962 with the stated mission, “to bring to our country’s needs the unused abilities of intelligent women who want to combine work and family.”[17][3]

The Early Years: 1960s[edit]

The 1960s saw Catalyst focused on promoting job-sharing programs and collecting and disseminating information to women who were interested in pursuing a career.

In 1966, Catalyst partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare to launch a pilot job-sharing program for women. Twenty-five jobs as a welfare case worker were opened for 50 women. In 1971, Part-Time Social Workers in Public Welfare[18] was published showing that the 50 part-time women were 89% as productive as full-time case workers and had one-third as much turnover as full-time case workers.

The 1970s & 1980s[edit]

As more women entered the workforce, Catalyst shifted its focus to topics such as dual career families, child care and women on corporate boards. Catalyst branched out from the public sector into the private sector, gaining corporate supporters.

Schwartz became a more prominent voice in the women's movement. She authored numerous articles, was interviewed by the media and co-authored her first book, How to Go to Work When Your Husband Is Against It, Your Children Aren’t Old Enough, and There’s Nothing You Can Do Anyhow, along with her Catalyst colleagues Margaret H. Schifter and Susan S. Gillotti.[19] She launched the Catalyst Awards to recognize women board directors.[2] And, Catalyst established the Corporate Child Care Resource to monitor child care activities around the country and report on best practices.[2]

The Mommy Track Controversy[edit]

Schwartz was a prolific writer but is most known for her 1989 article, Management Women and the New Facts of Life[20] published in Harvard Business Review. Schwartz sparked a national debate by stating that “the cost of employing women in management is greater than the cost of employing men,” and suggesting that employers create two tracks for women, one for the career focused and one for the family focused.[21]

In response to Schwartz's article, the New York Times published 'Mommy Career Track' Sets Off a Furor,[22] and branded Schwartz as the “mommy track” creator. The Times article quoted prominent feminists who called the idea of two career paths “horrifying” and “damaging to women’s advancement.” Critics claimed the article validated the idea that women could have a family or a career but not both. Adding to the controversy was the lack of corroborating evidence for Schwartz's assertions. Her critics stated, ''If this is such hot stuff, where's the documentation?''[20]

Schwartz claimed that her article was misinterpreted, saying, "I violated the politically correct thing by saying that women are not just like men. What I said then and still say is that women face many, many obstacles in the workplace that men do not face. I was saying to that group of men at the top, 'Rather than let women's talents go to waste, do something about it.'"[3][23]

In 1992, Schwartz published the book, Breaking with Tradition: Women and Work, The New Facts of Life,[24] a response and expansion of the "mommy track" idea.[24]

Ten years after the original article was published, Schwartz's son Tony revisited the debate and offered up some insights from the controversy. In his article, Tony Schwartz argues that his mother's idea of dividing women into two categories was misguided, but her argument that to retain women companies need to give them more flexibility to manage a career and family, was on point.[21]

The End of the Schwartz Era[edit]

After 31 years at the helm of Catalyst, Schwartz retired in 1993. She was in failing health and passed away in 1996 at the age of 71.[3] Shortly thereafter, her final book was published, The Armchair Activist: Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Fight the Radical Right,[25] co-authored with Suzanne K. Levine.

1993 and Beyond[edit]

Since the Schwartz era and through its next three presidents, Catalyst expanded its offerings and geographic footprint. In 1993, the Board appointed Sheila Wellington, a former secretary of Yale University, to become the new president and CEO. As the leader of Catalyst, Wellington instituted more rigorous research standards, expanded Catalyst studies to include non-US geographies and women of color, and launched the annual Census of Women Board Directors, which became one of Catalyst's signature studies.[26]

Wellington resigned in 2003 to accept a position at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business.[26]

In 2003, Ilene H. Lang assumed the role of president. Lang was a seasoned tech industry executive. She was the founding CEO of AltaVista Internet Software Inc., a First Light Capital venture partner, and a previous senior executive at Lotus Development Corporation.[27]

During her tenure, Lang further expanded Catalyst globally, opening offices in Europe, India, Australia and Japan.[28]

In 2014, Lang stepped down, and Deborah Gillis was named President & CEO. A Canadian, Gillis was the first non-American President & CEO. Prior to joining Catalyst, she worked in the public sector for the governments of Nova Scotia and Ontario and as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton.[29][30]

In 2018, Deborah Gillis stepped down to accept the position of President & CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation, and Ilene H. Lang resumed her former leadership role as Catalyst's Interim President & CEO. In August 2018, Lorraine Hariton became President & CEO.[31][32]



Catalyst's President & CEO is Lorraine Hariton, who previously held senior-level positions in Silicon Valley, as well as leadership roles across the private, nonprofit, and government sectors, assumed the role of President & CEO on September 1, 2018.[33] The Board of Directors Chair is Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte.

Catalyst is governed by a Board of Directors that includes 36 companies from a variety of industries including: oil and gas, consumer products, retail, restaurants, accounting, consulting, business services, financial services, technology, travel, aerospace and defense, engineering, law, pharmaceuticals, health, and telecommunications.[34]


Catalyst receives funding for research and ongoing operations from more than 800 Supporter organizations across the globe.[35]


Catalyst has operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and across the globe.[36]

Major Initiatives[edit]

Catalyst CEO Champions For Change[edit]

Launched on International Women's Day in 2017, the Catalyst CEO Champions For Change initiative showcases commitments by CEOs to advancing all women, including women of color, into more leadership positions in their companies and on their boards. To participate, Catalyst asks CEOs to publicly declare their support, take a pledge of organizational and personal commitments, and report their company's progress each year against established diversity metrics.[12] The first report on the participating companies’ progress was released in November 2017.[37]

Catalyst Awards[edit]

Originally begun in 1976 to celebrate individual women board members, the Catalyst Award shifted to recognizing individual organizations in 1987.[2] Since then, the award has recognized corporations and the specific programs they've created to recruit, develop, and advance women. Company initiatives are evaluated on seven criteria: strategy and rationale, senior leadership activities, accountability and transparency, communication, employee engagement, innovation, and measurable results.[38] Catalyst has recognized 94 initiatives at 85 organizations from around the world since 1987.

To be considered for the award, companies must submit an application. For each applicant, the Catalyst Award Evaluation Committee conducts research and phone interviews before narrowing the field to a few organizations. For the selected companies, the Committee conducts further research via onsite visits. The Committee and Catalyst executive leadership determine the winners.[38]

Initiatives are publicly celebrated at the annual Catalyst Awards Conference and Dinner held in New York City. The 2018 awards dinner had more than 2,000 attendees, including executives from global corporations, professional firms, governments, NGOs, and educational institutions.[39]

Award Winners, 2009-2018[40][edit]

2018The Boston Consulting Group, IBM, Nationwide, Northrop Grumman Corporation

20173M, BMO Financial Group, Rockwell Automation

2016Gap Inc.

2015Chevron Corporation, Procter & Gamble

2014Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation

2013Alcoa Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever

2012Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Sodexo

2011Kaiser Permanente, McDonald's Corporation, Time Warner Inc.

2010Campbell Soup Company, Deloitte LLP, RBC, Telstra Corporation Limited

2009Baxter International Inc., CH2M Hill, Gibbons P.C., KPMG LLP

The full list of winners since 1987 is available on the Catalyst website.[40]

Catalyst Canada Honours[edit]

In 2010, the Catalyst Canada Honours program was launched to celebrate individuals in Canadian businesses for their commitment to the advancement of women. The program's stated goal is to “pay tribute to the achievements of three champions—a CEO/Firm Leader, a Business Leader, and a Human Resources/Diversity Leader— who in their careers exemplify exceptional leadership around advancing women in their organizations, industries, and communities.”[41] Since 2016, Catalyst has recognized an “Emerging Leader” in lieu of a Human Resource/Diversity Leader.[42] Since its inception, 36 individuals have been recognized as Champions.[42]

The complete list of Catalyst Canada Honours Champions can be found on Catalyst's website.[42]

Men Advocating Real ChangeTM (MARCTM)[edit]

The Catalyst MARCTM initiative was launched in 2012 to achieve gender equality in the workplace through the perspective and support of men in collaboration with women.[14] The initiative is designed to resolve barriers to men's participation; raise awareness of issues, including workplace inequality, unconscious bias, privilege, and differing standards and expectations based on gender; and to establish effective cross-gender partnership in creating inclusive work cultures.

Specific MARCTM programs include:

  • The MARCTM Community—an international collective of like-minded men and women supported through the website
  • MARCTM Leaders—an experiential learning series focused on culture, inclusion, and leadership for both men and women business leaders.
  • MARCTM Networks—a peer coaching service to support leadership skills development.
  • MARCTM events, webinars, and speaking engagements.[43]

Catalyst Women On BoardTM[edit]

The Catalyst Women On BoardTM initiative is a sponsorship program that matches seasoned CEOs with board-ready female candidates. The goal of the program is to increase the number of women on corporate boards.[13] Catalyst selects a group of board-ready women each year and pairs them with a seasoned CEO and board member. The CEO agrees to mentor the candidate for two years, help the candidate increase her boardroom network, prepare her for the role of board member, and work to place her on a corporate board.


Catalyst produces thought leadership across a wide range of topics, including: board diversity;[4] gender, race, and ethnicity;[5] inclusive cultures;[6] LGBTQ[44] men and equality;[8] the gender pay gap;[9] sexual harassment;[10] and unconscious bias.[11] Below is a list of some of their publications. Please consult the Catalyst website for a complete list:[45]

  • 1992: Women in Engineering: An Untapped Resource[46]
  • 1993: Creating Successful Mentoring Programs: A Catalyst Guide[47]
  • 1994: Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Strategies for Success[48]
  • 1995: The CEO View: Women On Corporate Boards[49]
  • 1996: Women In Corporate Leadership: Progress & Prospects[50]
  • 1997: A New Approach to Flexibility: Managing the Work/Time Equation[51]
  • 1998: Women of Color in Corporate Management: Dynamics of Career Advancement[52]
  • 1999: Women Scientists in Industry: A Winning Formula for Companies[53]
  • 2000: Breaking the Barriers: Women in Senior Management in the UK[54]
  • 2001: Women of Color Executives: Their Voices, Their Journeys[55]
  • 2002: Europe, Women in Leadership: A European Business Imperative[56]
  • 2003: Bit By Bit: A Catalyst Guide To Advancing Women In High Tech Companies[57]
  • 2004: The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity[58]
  • 2005: Women "Take Care," Men "Take Charge:" Stereotyping Of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed[59]
  • 2006: Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders[60]
  • 2007: Making Change: LGBT Inclusion – Understanding the Challenges[61]
  • 2008: Unwritten Rules: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Career[62]
  • 2009: Opportunity or Setback? High Potential Women and Men During Economic Crisis[63]
  • 2010: Pipeline's Broken Promise[64]
  • 2011: Sponsoring Women to Success[65]
  • 2012: Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution? Women Get Fewer Of the “Hot Jobs” Needed To Advance[66]
  • 2013: High Potentials in the Pipeline: On Their Way to the Boardroom[67]
  • 2014: Inclusive Leadership: The View from Six Countries[68]
  • 2015: Think People, Not Just Programs, to Build Inclusive Workplaces[69]
  • 2016: Emotional Tax: How Black Women and Men Pay More at Work and How Leaders Can Take Action[70]
  • 2017: The Journey to Inclusion: Building Workplaces That Work for Women In Japan[71]
  • 2018: Day-To-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace[72]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mission". Catalyst.
  2. ^ a b c d "Our History". Catalyst.
  3. ^ a b c d Nemy, Enid (February 10, 1996). "Felice N. Schwartz, 71, Dies; Working Women's Champion". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b "Corporate Board Services". Catalyst.
  5. ^ a b "Gender, Race, And Ethnicity". Catalyst.
  6. ^ a b "Be Inclusive". Catalyst.
  7. ^ "Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workplace Issues". Catalyst. 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Men And Equality". Catalyst.
  9. ^ a b "Quick Take: Women's Earnings: The Wage Gap". Catalyst. 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Sexual Harassment". Catalyst.
  11. ^ a b "Unconscious Bias". Catalyst.
  12. ^ a b "About". Catalyst CEO Champions For Change.
  13. ^ a b "Catalyst Women On Board". Catalyst.
  14. ^ a b "About MARC". Men Advocating Real ChangeTM (MARCTM).
  15. ^ "Catalyst Award". Catalyst.
  16. ^ "Catalyst Canada Honours". Catalyst.
  17. ^ a b Reimer, Gail Twersky (March 20, 2009). "Felice Nierenberg Schwartz". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women’s Archive.
  18. ^ Part-time Social Workers in Public Welfare: A Report on a Catalyst Demonstration Project in Boston, Mass. in Which Mature Women College Graduates were Employed Half-time by the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare. Boston, MA: Catalyst. 1971.
  19. ^ Schwartz, Felice N.; Schifter, Margaret H.; Gillotti, Susan S. (1973). How to Go to Work When Your Husband is Against It, Your Children Aren't Old Enough, and There's Nothing You Can Do Anyhow. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  20. ^ a b Schwartz, Felice N. (January–February 1989). "Management Women and the New Facts of Life". Harvard Business Review.
  21. ^ a b Schwartz, Tony (November 30, 1999). "Life/Work – Issue 30". Fast Company.
  22. ^ Lewin, Tamar (March 8, 1989). "'Mommy Career Track' Sets Off a Furor". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Lewis, Diane E. (March 23, 1992). "End of Line, No Regrets: 'Mommy Track' Essayist to Retire". The Boston Globe.
  24. ^ a b Schwartz, Felice N. (1992). Breaking With Tradition: Women and Work, the New Facts of Life. New York: Grand Central Publishing.
  25. ^ Schwartz, Felice N.; Levine, Suzanne K. (1996). The Armchair Activist: Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Fight the Radical Right. Riverhead Books.
  26. ^ a b "Sheila Wellington Leaves Catalyst to Join the Faculty of New York University's Stern School of Business". Catalyst press release. 2003.
  27. ^ "Former Tech CEO Ilene H. Lang Takes the Helm at Catalyst". Catalyst press release. 2003.
  28. ^ "International Advisory Board: Ilene H. Lang". The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.
  29. ^ "Ilene Lang to Step Down as Catalyst President & CEO; Deborah Gillis Named as Successor". Catalyst press release. September 16, 2013.
  30. ^ McFarland, Janet (September 16, 2013). "Canada's Deborah Gillis Named New Catalyst CEO". The Globe and Mail.
  31. ^ "CAMH Foundation Announces Global Non-Profit Leader Deborah Gillis as President & CEO". Centre for Addiction and Mental Health/News Wire Canada press release. February 6, 2018.
  32. ^ "Executive Staff: Ilene H. Lang". Catalyst.
  33. ^ "Lorraine Hariton Named New Catalyst President & CEO, Continuing 56-Year Legacy of Accelerating Positive Change for Women in Business". Catalyst press release. August 20, 2018.
  34. ^ "Board of Directors". Catalyst.
  35. ^ "Catalyst Supporters". Catalyst.
  36. ^ "Regions We Serve". Catalyst.
  37. ^ "Everyday Heroes: Catalyst CEO Champions For Change". Catalyst. 2017.
  38. ^ a b "Apply for the Catalyst Award". Catalyst.
  39. ^ "2018 Catalyst Award Winners: The Boston Consulting Group, IBM, Nationwide, and Northrop Grumman Corporation". Catalyst press release. January 18, 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Catalyst Award Winners". Catalyst.
  41. ^ "Catalyst Canada Launches the Catalyst Canada Honours and Opens Nominations for Champions of Women in Canadian Business". Catalyst press release. 2010.
  42. ^ a b c "Catalyst Canada Honours Champions". Catalyst.
  43. ^ "Our Programming". Men Advocating Real ChangeTM (MARCTM).
  44. ^ "Ask Catalyst Express: LGBTQI Inclusion". Catalyst. 2018.
  45. ^ "Browse Knowledge Center". Catalyst.
  46. ^ "Women in Engineering: An Untapped Resource". Catalyst. 1992.
  47. ^ "Creating Successful Mentoring Programs: A Catalyst Guide". Catalyst. 1993.
  48. ^ "Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Strategies for Success". Catalyst. 1994.
  49. ^ "The CEO View: Women on Corporate Boards". Catalyst. 1995.
  50. ^ "Women in Corporate Leadership: Progress & Prospects". Catalyst. 1996.
  51. ^ "A New Approach to Flexibility: Managing the Work/Time Equation". Catalyst. 1997.
  52. ^ "Women of Color in Corporate Management: Dynamics of Career Advancement". Catalyst. 1998.
  53. ^ "Women Scientists in Industry: A Winning Formula for Companies". Catalyst. 1999.
  54. ^ "Breaking Barriers: Women in Senior Management in the UK". Catalyst. 2000.
  55. ^ "Women of Color Executives: Their Voices, Their Journeys". Catalyst. 2001.
  56. ^ "Women In Leadership: A European Business Imperative". Catalyst. 2002.
  57. ^ "Bit By Bit: A Catalyst Guide to Advancing Women in High Tech Companies". Catalyst. 2003.
  58. ^ "The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity". Catalyst. 2004.
  59. ^ "Women "Take Care," Men "Take Charge:" Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed". Catalyst. 2005.
  60. ^ "Different Cultures, Similar Perceptions: Stereotyping of Western European Business Leaders". Catalyst. 2006.
  61. ^ Megathlin, David (2007). "Making Change: LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Challenges". Catalyst.
  62. ^ Sabattini, Laura (2008). "Unwritten Rules: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Career". Catalyst.
  63. ^ Carter, Nancy M.; Silva, Christine (2009). "Opportunity or Setback? High Potential Women and Men During Economic Crisis". Catalyst.
  64. ^ Carter, Nancy M.; Silva, Christine (2010). "Pipeline's Broken Promise". Catalyst.
  65. ^ Foust-Cummings, Heather; Dinolfo, Sarah; Kohler, Jennifer (2011). "Sponsoring Women to Success". Catalyst.
  66. ^ Silva, Christine; Carter, Nancy M.; Beninger, Anna (2012). "Good Intentions, Imperfect Execution? Women Get Fewer of The "Hot Jobs" Needed to Advance". Catalyst.
  67. ^ Carter, Nancy M.; Foust-Cummings, Heather; Mulligan-Ferry, Liz; Soares, Rachel (2013). "High Potentials in the Pipeline: On Their Way to the Boardroom". Catalyst.
  68. ^ Prime, Jeanine; Salib, Elizabeth R. (2014). "Inclusive Leadership: The View From Six Countries". Catalyst.
  69. ^ Travis, Dnika J.; Pollack, Alixandra (2015). "Think People, Not Just Programs, to Build Inclusive Workplaces". Catalyst.
  70. ^ Travis, Dnika J.; Thorpe-Moscon, Jennifer; McCluney, Courtney (2016). "Emotional Tax: How Black Women and Men Pay More at Work and How Leaders Can Take Action". Catalyst.
  71. ^ Salib, Elizabeth R.; Shi, Yi (2017). "The Journey To Inclusion: Building Workplaces That Work for Women In Japan". Catalyst.
  72. ^ Travis, Dnika J.; Thorpe-Moscon, Jennifer (2018). "Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace". Catalyst.

External links[edit]