IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Catherine Johnson

Author Maud Dowding
March 12, 2021

Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What skills and attributes do female leaders bring to create diverse leadership at management level? 

Common sense without a doubt! On a serious note, the true value of diverse leadership is bringing together people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and different styles. Women can bring a different set of experiences from men – but also from each other. I believe that a mix of styles and viewpoints which have been necessarily shaped from our personal experiences brings insight on a broader range of issues, and results in better debate and more robust solutions. 

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

When I reflected on that question I realise this is something which drives a lot of how I operate. I choose to challenge myself: do the things which I don’t want to do, which take me out of my comfort zone and teach me new skills and techniques to position me for the next new challenge. Choose to challenge my team: set them goals and tasks which are a stretch and which require them to think outside of the standard adviser role and bring real value-add to our business partners. And finally choose to challenge when I see something I disagree with: whether that’s calling out bias or discrimination or ensuring that we are assessing and rewarding delivery and behaviour as one package. 

How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table? 

They need to ask! It’s important to believe that you are worthy of a seat at the table. 

What impact could Kamala Harris’ appointment to Vice President have on the next generation of female leaders? 

It’s been said better by others but it tells the next generation there are no limits to what you can achieve. 

What is one thing women don’t talk about enough? 

Menopause – and the impact that can have on women’s performance and their relationships at work and at home. Women don’t necessarily recognise what’s going on themselves unless they have the benefit (like I did) of having seen and heard friends undergoing it and all too often it’s assumed to be a performance issue rather than recognised as a well-being one. Somehow there seems to be a stigma attached to it and I’ve certainly caused a few red faces when I’ve made the odd reference to my own experience! It’s important to acknowledge and talk about the challenges menopause can bring and the way it can affect a woman’s energy and balance as well as the impact it can have on those around her. The best way to start to manage all of that is with open conversations as part of our wellbeing initiatives. But this isn’t just a discussion for women – it’s a discussion for all of us! 

What are you really, really good at? 

I believe I give other people confidence that they can achieve and that they are better than they think they are; developing individuals and teams to be the best they can be; delivering the seemingly impossible. 

What has held you back in your career to date and how did you come to overcome that barrier? 

Self-belief. I spent far too long wondering how I’d ended up round the table with all these confident, articulate and insightful people. The resulting reluctance to voice my opinion and challenge on issues that needed debate in the room didn’t stop me from getting on – but it definitely slowed me down. What changed? I think understanding that I can’t know everything – and nor can anyone else! – and that an opinion (whether one agrees with it or not) is a valuable data point and so worth hearing, whoever you are. 

What is your next goal or adventure? 

I’ve just taken on a new role as General Counsel for LSEG following our transformational deal with Refinitiv. So my focus is now on building a global team who can work as genuine partners to the business, helping to develop and guide the strategic direction of the Group, driving growth, imagining and delivering solutions, while living our cultural intent to connect, create opportunity and deliver excellence. And of course, as part of that, developing and inspiring a pipeline of diverse talent who can continue the journey long after I’m gone.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.https://indd.adobe.com/embed/bb2678fd-fafb-4e5f-b57b-bbe97612e7cf?startpage=1&allowFullscreen=true