Catalyst Canada: Empowering Women For Leadership 

Small Business Canada

Catalyst was founded in 1962 to accelerate and advance women into leadership by providing renowned thought leadership, actionable solutions, and a motivated network of multinational organizations that believe that progress for women is progress for everyone.

An Initiative 

 In the 1960s, “Help Wanted” advertisements in the United States were segregated by gender and race, and the law permitted companies to pay women less than men. It is in this social scenario that Felice N. Schwartz created Catalyst. 

Today, Catalyst is a global organization with an intersectional focus on influencing, shaping, and guiding companies worldwide to build workplaces that work for women. From a small, US-based organization, they have grown into a formidable multi-regional presence and continue to address emerging new challenges.

For Women

Catalyst is a global nonprofit foundation supported by many of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading corporations to assist in creating workplaces that work for women. The Catalyst community works to enhance workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion so that women can develop and thrive.

Since its establishment, its preeminent thought leadership, including unparalleled workplace expertise and actionable research, has helped accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.

Catalyst offers comprehensive, end-to-end solutions and provides businesses with the strategy and resources they need to effect change and quantify the impact in their organizations. In addition, they collaborate with an impactful global community of over 500 supporter companies to share leading practices and build positive change.

Over the years, Catalyst has evolved and now focuses on four critical areas in their mission: advancing women into leadership roles, demonstrating how to lead for equity and inclusion, engaging men as gender partners, and looking ahead to women and the future of work.

  • Advancing Women: Catalyst strives to increase the representation of women in business leadership, particularly women from racially and ethnically marginalized groups, and promote equal access to employment prospects.
  • Women and the Future of Work: They develop solutions to ensure that women and underrepresented groups have full participation and equitable workplace opportunities in the twenty-first century.
  • Lead for Equity and Inclusion: Catalyst deepens the understanding of workplace inclusion and empowers global corporations to address injustices across identity intersections such as gender, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  • MARC(Men Advocating Real Change): Catalyst engages men to use their influence to advocate for gender equity in the workplace.
  • Frontline Employees Initiative: Catalyst is responding to the moment by expanding their focus to include women in frontline roles, ensuring that all women thrive.

The Leadership

Dr. Julie Cafley is the Executive Director of Catalyst Canada. She is a creative, strategic leader and an accomplished academic with expertise in equity and inclusion, public policy, governance, and higher-education leadership.

Julie has handled many roles and responsibilities and executed many great strides. For example, in her role as the Vice-President of Communications and External Relations at the Digital Research Alliance of Canada, she helped to build the Alliance as a new nonprofit organization and develop its brand and reputation.

When working as the Executive Vice-President of the Public Policy Forum (PPF), she built bridges and enhanced the profile and visibility of the PPF while directing its communications, external partnerships, membership and learning teams.

Julie Cafley holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Ottawa with expertise in university presidential mandates. Her thesis focused on higher education leadership and governance through the lens of unfinished terms of Canadian university presidents. She frequently writes and speaks on higher education, leadership, and gender equity.

Julie is an active community builder and a collaborative change-maker. Whether it is serving coffee and muffins to the region’s homeless people, serving on the board of Parkinson Canada, mentoring young policy wonks, or supporting her alma mater on its Campaign Cabinet and Dean’s Advisory Council, giving back is integral to who she is and a part of her every day.

Julie is a committed advocate for women and leadership, a constant ally for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples, and an unwavering champion for diversity initiatives.

Catalyst Canada offers virtual events, workshops, courses, advisory services, webinars, and their signature Catalyst Awards Conference and Catalyst Honours. In addition, their Catalyst CEO Champions for Change is an initiative for organizations and their leaders to exemplify what it takes to create and sustain inclusive workplaces.

Catalyst strives to achieve maximum impact by launching new research and tools and expanding its focus to include women in frontline roles. For more information, visit

Organizations that empower women towards leadership help create a stronger economy with equal participation. To read about such enterprises, subscribe to CanadianSME Small Business Magazine For the latest updates, visit our Twitter page at @canadian_sme. 

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