Katy Murray: Creating a More Inclusive World with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Leaders at Catalyst Collective

The 10 Most Influential People in Diversity and Inclusion 2023

Facilitator, culture-shaper, and self-confessed OD geek, recently named 1 of UK’s Top 50 Influential D+I Leaders by Hive Learning, Katy Murray is the Director of Catalyst Collective. She has 20 years of experience working with commercial and non-profit clients in 35 countries, managing teams, enabling change, and training leaders. She is very committed to providing safe and courageous places for dialogues that transform power relations and lived experience, and to co-creating new ways of working together.

Katy holds a master’s degree from Cambridge University as well as a master’s degree from the University of Westminster. She is an INLPTA-accredited coach. She has worked in 35 countries and in a variety of industries, including INGOs and grassroots community organisations, global commercial corporations, retail, engineering, financial services, and online entrepreneur communities.

A Promising D&I leader

Katy’s first employment after graduation was in a people-focused capacity inside a multinational organisation, which provided her with an excellent perspective of how huge global organisations operate. She then chose what she wanted to pursue further (leadership development) and sought out possibilities to gain extensive international experience. Katy was able to bring her international expertise and people development knowledge to bear on consulting, which she supplemented with further training and certificates. Looking back, she can see how establishing welcoming environments and concepts of justice and fairness have been with her since childhood, and how these led her to EDI work.

Leaders of EDI inside their organisations may feel isolated in what may be a complicated and undervalued job. Katy is driven to assist these leaders who are pushing for organisational equity and cultural transformation. Catalyst Collective works with clients that want to establish more inclusive workplaces; it’s not a fast fix, one-size-fits-all, been there, done that sort of work; it’s frequently a messy, complex journey, and leaders must be willing to face some difficult “mirror moments” along the road. She says, “We hold safe and brave space for these conversations—expect compassionate challenge!”

She further adds that the team works with EDI leaders to resource their resilience and grow their capacity (For example leading in complexity, strategic influencing, elevated thinking, tactical how-tos) to lead this essential work. She asserts, “Often as facilitators we don’t get the recognition and acknowledgement of the work we’re doing—our job is for our clients to experience the success of the work—that’s part of the deal! So, I love it when clients tell me what is shifting in their cultures and what they’re seeing change as a result.”

From leadership development, Katy developed specialisms in gender equity and then started her own journey with intersectionality, exploring her own whiteness and what it means to be actively anti-racist in life and business.

Katy really appreciated the recognition from Hive as a top 50 D+I leader back in 2020.

Thoughts on Success

When we are constantly seeking the next thing, we miss the moment that we are in right now. Katy states, “Life is precious and brief; don’t waste it trying to live up to other people’s expectations of you! For me, success is squeezing all the juice and delight out of each day!”

According to Katy, society teaches us what success should look like, but she believes success is more personal—what do you enjoy, what brings you joy, what are you really good at, what fires you up, and how can you do more of that? She continues, “What are you interested in altering, what irritates you when you hear the news, what do you want might be better in the world around you?” Following these clues will lead you to what ‘success’ can look like for you. She further explains, “We also know from the happiness research that most humans need to feel a sense of contribution, that what we’re contributing matters, and we feel good when we do well for others.” 

Katy shares that life is long and everyone has different seasons and stages to explore – you’re not too old, and it’s not too late, to decide to find and do more of the things that light you up and give you all the joy!

Focusing on Work culture Transformation

At Catalyst Collective, Katy supports and learns to process the learning from the challenges rather than get stuck in self-recrimination; ‘should’ and “ought” to undermine the team’s confidence and can impact its wellbeing over time.

She also shares that some employees experience huge challenges through daily navigating bias, barriers, and micro aggressions that others never have to face. She asserts, “I don’t believe that all we need to do with a challenge is trust that it will make us stronger. We need to navigate challenges, but we also need to disrupt the systems that are causing the challenges in the first place!”

Katy has experienced the difficulties that come with being the youngest person in the room. Motherhood discrimination, a lack of flexible working hours, and feeling the effects of both the motherhood penalty and the likeability penalty, but as a white, able-bodied, straight, neurotypical, cis woman with education and citizenship privilege. She has also had and continues to have significant privilege, which has allowed her to access, navigate, and make decisions in her career.

Here’s some quick advice on navigating workplace challenges:

  • Early career – find a mentor and sponsor as senior as you can.

Pregnancy – don’t let anyone make any assumptions about what you will or won’t want to do during pregnancy and after your baby is born. Go for promotions, go for pay rises, and keep your options open.

  • Motherhood and childcare – decide what your boundaries are and remember that no one else is going to hold your boundaries for you!

“As you progress in your career- realise when you’re no longer the youngest or least experienced person in the room and own that space! Speak up for yourself, advocate for others, use your privilege,” says Katy. She states that if you’re experiencing microaggressions or a toxic work culture, find others to share the load with, once you’ve raised it and if nothing changes, look elsewhere – you’re fabulous with so much to give and there are workplace cultures that will value you. 

The Major Shifts in Business Landscape

“Increased complexity and volatility we’re experiencing in the world needs resilient, wise, not just efficient or competent leaders,” says Katy. She believes that modern leaders must look and act differently in order to address the interconnected and complex issues of climate change, refugee migrations, and cries for racial, social, and environmental justice. Businesses want individuals who offer a variety of ideas and opinions to the open and inviting table. As a result, business has the potential to be a major force for good in society.

Katy feels that leaders are appreciating the need to invest in their own and others’ well-being, since their own sustainability is critical to bringing about the system change, they seek.

She adds, “I’m enthusiastic to dream about what can be possible for organisations and enterprises as more women, non-binary people, and minoritized groups who’ve traditionally been excluded from leadership roles are in senior leadership positions.” She goes on to say that when these organisations experiment with new methods of working and being together, they will gain a competitive edge. “When they are so much more flexible and inclusive, they help caregivers, individuals with mental health difficulties, neurodiversity, impairments, and people in all their varieties thrive,” she says. These organisations do not allow microaggressions; instead, they educate one another on inclusive behaviours, and their employees thrive.”

The Director of Catalyst Collective

According to Katy, each day at work is different based on the client projects that the team is working on. Thus, she has weekly and monthly rhythms and routines, as well as items she may not work on every day but will spend some time on each week.

She spends time with clients, listening to where they want to start, what they want to achieve, and what their aspirations are, and then we develop and plan the work together—generally through a series of guided dialogues and workshop sessions. Katy states, “I work with my team to create the sessions and often we’ll be co-delivering these workshops. We’ll often be virtual on Zoom, so I’m lining up my drinks and snacks to stay energised through the sessions! If we’re face-to-face, then I usually travel to our venue the night before and have time with my clients and team ahead of the event.” 

Every week, Katy leads group programmes for EDI leaders and change agents. Each week, she also works on business growth, social media, financial management, and marketing for the company—she recently released her first book, so there has been a lot of PR, press, and podcasts to discuss the book’s subjects as extras to fit in!

She attends yoga and exercise classes on a weekly basis, goes for walks in nature, and schedules time to meet up with coworkers and/or socialise with friends. She goes to therapy a couple of times a month, and she also has a monthly walking day with her partner, so there are weekly and monthly rhythms that help her keep on track with her own resilience and the impact that she wants to make.

Katy asserts, “I track 3 measures—joy, impact, and money—that help me stay on track with creating more of the life I want to create and the contribution I want to make.”

Balance in Personal and Professional Life

Katy has daily power practises that help her discover joy every day, stay focused and motivated, and tune into what her body needs more of or less of on a daily basis. That might be food, water, fresh air, or a nap.

She aspires to live cyclically, with ebbs and flows of energy, rather than being ‘always on,’ which means spending some time each month in the energies of winter, spring, summer, and fall on her different projects. Katy disconnects from her phone and social media every weekend, and she takes a long vacation from her business once a year.

She shares, “I have peer supervision and run peer learning sessions each month for regular support and accountability with other EDI folk.”

Ideas for the future of Catalyst Collective

Katy’s change makers programmes are personal spaces where genuine, profound transformation occurs. Her EDI leader groups are where these exceptional leaders can recharge and find resources for their critical role. As the team observes deep learning and strong transformations, Catalyst Collective will continue to engage in unique ways with its clients, as well as host and convene these places.

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