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Delegate Spotlight: Michael Chamberlain of Catalyst

Men have been involved with Vision 2020 since the beginning, but never before as Delegates – until now. Meet our first first male Delegate, Michael Chamberlain of Catalyst (an Allied Organization!).

Posted on March 2, 2018
Michael Chamberlain

1. What is the overall mission of Catalyst? 

Catalyst is a global nonprofit working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women. Founded in 1962, Catalyst helps organizations remove barriers and drive change with pioneering research, practical tools and proven solutions to accelerate and advance women into leadership—because progress for women is progress for everyone.

2. How did Catalyst’s MARC program (Men Advocating Real Change) get started? Tell us about your role with that initiative and the impact the program has had to date.

Men have a critical role to play in devising and implementing strategies for leveraging all talent in the workplace. Because the majority of senior leaders in today’s business world are men, men are in the best position to influence cultural and organizational change. Catalyst research shows that the more men know about gender inequity, the likelier they are to lead efforts to close the gender gap. To aid their work, Catalyst launched MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), a community for men to inspire, learn from and collaborate with one another as they address inequalities in the workplace that affect everyone.

An extension of Catalyst’s seminal research on engaging men in championing gender initiatives, Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) is a community for men committed to achieving gender equality in the workplace. The MARC website serves as a forum in which its members can engage in candid conversations about the role of gender in the workplace. It also showcases member-generated advice, insights and best practices to inspire men who wish to expand gender diversity within their organizations.

MARC offers a space for men to grapple with sticky subjects directly and honestly in a judgment-free atmosphere. Hate speech is not tolerated, but freedom of expression is expected and encouraged. MARC is a place where men can be themselves and openly discuss whatever is on their minds with respect to gender issues at work.

3. All Vision 2020 Delegates and Allied Organizations have demonstrated a commitment to advancing women and girls. What projects related to women’s progress or gender equality are you all at Catalyst working on now? Consider one or two of your hallmark programs to highlight.

For over 50 years, Catalyst has worked with organizations to create workplaces that embrace all talent, including all women, people of color and those who work part-time and/or flexible work arrangements. Catalyst’s intentionality towards looking at talent differently, deeply and often has always given me pride in what we do, because it is often entirely counter intuitive to think and behave this way. It’s far easier to look for, and align to, people who look and think like we do. Far easier, but far less innovative.

And in this vein of looking for talent more deeply, more widely and more often than perhaps we have historically done, one project I am particularly proud of is our Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) platform. We’re fond of acronyms at Catalyst and I am proud to have named the initiative over a decade ago. While the name seemed particularly clever at the time, I never realized how profound the entity would become. Built on an online community of men, and women, seeking to understand the role they play in the world of inclusion, MARC has grown significantly and now offers corporate programming, such as MARC Leaders (intensive workshops allow time for participants to process and internalize what they are learning, with the goal of leaving with intentional next steps and the support to stay engaged in the months to come). MARC has truly become and end-to-end solutions provider serving those looking for like-minded individuals to brainstorm with and learn from, all the way to the most senior leaders of the largest, most powerful organizations in the world, seeking to make significant and sustainable change for women, and all employees, within these workplaces and the communities they serve.

4. Any big plans yet for the year 2020, the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment? If so, how are you all planning to celebrate this milestone?

I am not sure what Catalyst’s plans will be for this milestone and historic point in time for recognition. I do believe it is valuable to look seriously at women’s firsts and measure how far things have come and evolved since those moments. We know that women’s firsts, while important, are only as important as women’s seconds, thirds, fourths and so on. What we cannot celebrate are the firsts that have become the firsts and only thus far or, worst case, the firsts and lasts. A pillar within Catalyst’s set of organizational and cultural values now is, and always has been, recognition and celebration. Through our Catalyst Awards, Catalyst Canada Honours, our Commendation programming, and other methods to recognize promising, intentional corporate and individual inclusion practices, we identify and amplify replicable solutions and actions that we know can make both immediate and long-term differences in shaping the inclusive workplaces we need to innovate and thrive as a global community. 2020 will no doubt be worthy of recognition and continued action on Catalyst’s part, and all our parts.

5. Several men have been involved with Vision 2020 over the years, but never before as a Delegate. As our first male Delegate, we are very excited to have you on board! What is your background, and how did you get involved with advocacy work around gender equality? What do you hope to get out of your role as a Delegate?

I cannot claim a thematic coincidence in relation to my career path. I have always had strong female influences and role models. My mother, female family members, close ties to strong and outspoken females within the community, steadfast and committed nuns who taught and looked over me from a very young age through high school, to close female friends and confidents. My mother, Patricia, had fantastic sayings that have stuck with me, and as it relates to work, there are two that have influenced me the most: I hope that you grow up to never say “I’m off to work!” because you should find what you love to do and simply be that. The other was “Compassion is free, so give it.” I know it is because of the teaching, and nudging, from her that has set my gravitational course to service-minded careers, even when entering marketing and advertising fields, which may seem more frequently than not less than philanthropic. I have also sought out, both consciously and unconsciously, any opportunities that seemed to be packaged up as marginalized ones. Often and unfortunately, many of those I saw were associated with careers geared toward women and other minorities. So from the very start to where I am now, I feel bound to doing what I can to make a difference and understand that I, as a white man in America, come packaged up with many advantages that others do not have or must fight hard, and often repeatedly, to obtain.

Gender equality, to me, is a holistic gateway to overall inclusion. I don’t mean to mitigate the special challenges and barriers faced by non-dominant groups, and I am privileged through my work, friends and family, not to mention society as a whole, to be constantly informed by the complexities of intersectionality that must be both understood and stood by. But what I’ve witnessed again and again through my history of gender work, and women’s advocacy, is that when women benefit and are given the fairest opportunities to excel, everyone benefits. Colleagues benefit, business benefits, societies benefit. What’s good for women, is good for business, and good for the world. And it is a privilege to focus on that as what I do every day, and not what I do for work.

6. Name a gender equality pioneer you look up to and explain why.

I have to start with some of my most recent influencers. For anyone who has not yet come across this group and their work, I strongly suggest checking out Elena and Francesca of Rebel Girls. Elena had been working as a journalist and Francesca as a stage director and playwright. Working late nights and weekends, they built the first iPad magazine for children in the world, Timbuktu Magazine. They went on to create a dozen or social apps and publish multiple books, while working with innovative organizations around the world, all while keeping in mind within this entrepreneurial journey, how it is for girls to grow up surrounded by female role models. Stemming from this they created the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls book series. I’ve bought these books for friends with kids in their lives. The books are chock full of real, but all too often neglected, examples of feminine heroes throughout history. These are must reads for both girls and boys. And it is pioneering and inspiring, and storytelling is the ultimate change maker.

I have to name my mom, the pioneer above all pioneers, for me anyway. A role model and a trusted friend, and an advocate for me at almost every crossroad I came upon. I came out to her as a gay man in college. Fast forward to that very summer, and I got a call from her asking where I was; she just happened to be at the Pride Parade. Inclusion, especially the trusted and authentic kind, can be difficult on many levels – professional and personal. And yet, it can, like compassion, also be free. And for that, like Patricia asked of me, I give it.