Being in this space for so long, I’ve tried to influence a number of different factors, particularly around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Making those changes from a structural or systemic perspective, making work environments more inclusive, and developing products that help drive a more equitable and diverse workplace and workforce is all really critical, and what I’ve tried to bring into the world with my work.

I had the pleasure to interview Julie Nugent at the 2023 Catalyst Awards in New York City, New York. Julie S. Nugent is responsible for strategy development and brand management of products and initiatives at Catalyst, such as MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), inclusion training, and advisory services. In her position, she leads multiple groups in evaluating, creating, and delivering global corporate and professional strategies to advance diversity, inclusion, and business results. Her work also consists of working with clients to assess workplace environments and providing actionable recommendations. In addition to her extensive consulting, research, and public speaking expertise, Julie taught a course on gender in the workplace as a former Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. Julie holds her MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from New York University and received her dual BA in Psychology and English from Ohio University, where she graduated with top honors.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series, Julie. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been interested in social justice and equity and inclusion. After early jobs in my career in editorial consulting, I decided I wanted to pursue my master’s in industrial organizational psychology as I really loved the people element of work, specifically talent development, organizational change, and culture change. I went to New York University and truly fell in love with the city and the significant diversity of all the people I interacted with.

I found Catalyst in my early days at NYU as they were really focused on gender equity research and uncovering the barriers to women’s careers across industries. I felt a strong draw to the purpose of that honestly. And now as a mother with two daughters, I want their experiences to be better and better. So, I continue to believe that this work is really critical for our society at large.

Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you began your career?

It’s really been a fascinating time. I’ve been in this space for over 20 years, and it’s changed so much since I started. I’ve met and interacted with many great people across cultures. Through my consulting work assessing corporate cultures and diversity efforts — and as part of my work in chairing the Catalyst Award, which is our annual assessment of corporate initiatives that are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion — I’ve traveled all over the world and met with hundreds of CEOs across industries. So for me, it’s fascinating to reflect on all of the cross-cultural experiences and interactions with people from so many different cultures and the strong leaders I’ve met.

Tell us about the funniest mistake you have made when you were first starting? What lesson did you learn from that?

In diversity work, mistakes are really how you learn, and I’ve made a few in my career. I think probably some of the earliest mistakes I made and witnessed were based on assumptions. One funny story about me comes to mind — when I was first starting out, I was on a visit evaluating a prominent company, and one of the senior leaders mistook me for an intern and actually patted me on the head. We were going into a big interview, and he said, “Oh honey, the interns are meeting down the hall.” This experience demonstrated the importance of not making assumptions based on people’s appearance or age.

Can you tell a story about a particular individual who impacted your career?

I’ve had a lot of mentors and sponsors in my career. I’m thinking specifically about a client and senior leader in the insurance industry who taught me overall to just believe in myself. From our early days working together, she saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself, and I think about her guidance a lot to this day. She’s still part of my mentor network. She really impacted me in so many ways and continues to impact me. She’s a truly inclusive leader and always has such a calm and empathetic demeanor no matter the circumstance. You don’t ever forget leaders like this in your career.

Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make the culture of diversity move inclusive?

The work of Catalyst is specifically focused on just that. It’s critical for organizations and individuals inside organizations to think about inclusive leadership and to help build workplaces that work for women, which is the Catalyst mission. I do a lot of work consulting with clients and help them understand talent management challenges and how training and the right types of programs can support their cultural work. As an example, sponsorship programs accelerate women’s careers and provide real impact to individuals to help break down some of those corporate barriers and structures that are in place. These barriers can be particularly challenging for women and people of color and folks from diverse backgrounds. So I spend a lot of time really unpacking learning and talent initiatives and organizational culture change and how to make scalable cultural change.

Can you share reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented and its potential effects on our culture?

Having a more diverse workforce impacts business positively, and not only from a representation perspective. When teams are more diverse, people feel more included. There’s a greater sense of belonging and being valued that’s really critical. I would say that in today’s world, workers in general are looking for that. They’re looking for a sense of belonging. And if they don’t feel that, they’re going to attempt to leave, either by “quiet quitting” or outright leaving, and then that talent is gone from the organization. So, I think it’s really essential to always focus on having a diverse workforce and workplace to make sure people truly feel included.

Can you recommend three things that are causing individuals not to be as open minded in business as they should?

Certainly, unconscious biases play a role. We all have them; it’s just part of being human. Really recognizing what your biases are and being able to be self-reflective is important. We often see that folks aren’t as open-minded because of those biases. Some of the structures and systems that are in place within businesses have these biases baked into them — things like pay equity or the way in which jobs are posted. What words are you using to attract talent? What are the types of opportunities that you’re providing to people across different genders and how might that vary? Those are structural pieces that can have a ripple effect across the organization.

Fear is another key piece here. We’ve seen this sense of fear through Catalyst’s MARC initiative, which stands for Men Advocating Real Change. Often, men have a fear of saying the wrong thing, particularly when it comes to gender and gender partnership. They don’t want to mess up and say the wrong thing and then be viewed a certain way because of that mistake. This fear is pervasive across the board. If you don’t know what to say and you don’t think someone is going to be open-minded, you can’t have a real dialogue.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Being in this space for so long, I’ve tried to influence a number of different factors, particularly around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Making those changes from a structural or systemic perspective, making work environments more inclusive, and developing products that help drive a more equitable and diverse workplace and workforce is all really critical, and what I’ve tried to bring into the world with my work.

As I mentioned, I really want to see a better environment for my kids and for future generations so that they aren’t grappling with these same challenges and barriers to leadership that many of us have grappled with in the past. So, if I can bring just one “aha!” moment, or light bulb moment, to a leader or an employee that expands their definition and understanding of inclusiveness, diversity, and equity, that’s a small step in the right direction and a win.

How do you think men can upgrade or come to a reasonable understanding of women’s needs?

A big part of this is aiming to inspire men to embrace the responsibility of being advocates for equity. We want to equip men to leverage their unique opportunity in the workplace and beyond. Men have the opportunity to reflect on their role, any biases, any privilege they have at work: What are some of the biases or preconceived notions they’re bringing into the workplace? How can they be advocates for real change? What does that opportunity and responsibility look like? And that’s both for themselves and others. Men, women, and people across genders need to be able to connect authentically and openly. Opening up a dialogue will then have a ripple effect, not just inside the workplace walls, but beyond, into the broader environment, into their communities, and even into their home life.

How can our readers find out more about your work?

Check out and explore our social media channels. We have a lot of great content and actionable programs and strategies. A newer focus is on frontline employees. The pandemic had an outsized impact on the frontline workforce, especially women and marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and they’re continuing to feel the effects. It’s an urgent issue, and in order for everyone to succeed, including those working in frontline roles, we need to accelerate equity and ensure all women can thrive.

This was very meaningful Julie, thank you so much!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.