Better Allies

with Karen Catlin


Karen Catlin is a leadership coach and an acclaimed author and speaker on inclusive workplaces. After spending twenty-five years building software products and serving as a vice president of engineering at Macromedia and Adobe, she witnessed a sharp decline in the number of women working in tech. (Spoiler alert!) Frustrated but galvanized, she knew it was time to switch gears. 

Now, Karen coaches women to be stronger leaders and men to be better allies. Today, she happens to be my guest.

Let’s dive in.

The Origin Story

Karen had multiple passions growing up. Knitting, crafting, math, puzzles, things you can create with. Her own dad actually suggested she go into Computer Science (a very new field at the time) to combine all of those things. Turns out? He was right. Thanks, Karen’s dad! Opportunities presented themselves to work in the computer field (hello Adobe!) and she went with it!

Enter the decline of women working in tech and the lack of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. Time for our pivot.

Gender Diversity… Or Lack Thereof

Gender diversity in the workplace is a hot topic today, but 12 or 15 years ago? Well, let’s take a moment to appreciate how far we have come. Karen discovered her passion when she began to notice the lack of gender diversity. Thus, her leadership coaching business was born. When your demographics aren’t diverse, you have a problem (and if you’re listed on NASDAQ, you better get going now).

Microaggressions In The Workplace

If you’re not familiar with these… you may come from a place of privilege. (If you know, you know.) What do you think of when someone says “office housework?” For many women, office housework is a norm. Can you take the minutes? Can you get the drinks? And many women just do it with the hopes of being noticed for their excellent work. These are things that need to get done, but if they’re not in your job description, then it’s not your job. Another shocking study done showed that women tended to get performance reviews on how nice they were and men received actually helpful reviews on how they were performing, the impact they were having, and ways to improve. 

Calling Out B(ia)S

It’s hard to call out a peer and friend who says something with bias. We don’t want to disrupt the applecart. We’ve been taught to praise in public, and criticize in private. Karen (and I) are here today to tell you to unlearn that! If you think there is harm that can occur from the statement to another individual, then the issue needs to be addressed right away. Tune in to the episode to hear tips on doing this in a helpful way. 

Accidents Happen

You might be the most inclusive person. You might do everything right and yet still slip up. We all do. We make mistakes. So, you made a faux pas, now what? Apologize, correct yourself, and pledge to do better. Language patterns can be retired, but ask someone close to you to keep you accountable. 

The Takeaway

We all experience things differently. We have to realize that each and every experience is unique. Just because we have not experienced it ourselves, when someone tells us of a microaggression or lack of inclusivity, we have to listen. Being an ally is a journey and it’s one we are all on.

Give Other People Wings

People First!
Give Other People Wings with Kay Formanek

The Charisma Edge

People First!
The Charisma Edge with Cynthia Burnham

Grace Under Pressure

People First!
Grace Under Pressure with John Baldoni
Unicorn facing right

Let's Connect

Unicorn facing left