Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.
TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.
Cathy Benko: Vice chairman and managing principal, Deloitte LLP. I hold dual roles, leading Deloitte LLP’s citizenship efforts and as a talent marketplace game-changer for Deloitte Consulting LLP. These positions tap into skills honed in prior roles including chief talent officer, lead client service partner, high technology industry sector leader, and national managing director of Deloitte’s award-winning Women’s Initiative.
“Making a difference, by doing what we do best, to make America stronger and the world a better place,” is our Citizenship mantra. We deliver on this mantra every day through a multitude of ways: from our pro bono program to advising our clients on sustainable water strategies, serving on nonprofit boards, delivering Impact Day scope-a-thons, and working with leading NGOs on innovative solutions to the world’s toughest societal issues – among many others. We’re proud of our contributions – valued at more than a half-billion dollars in cash and in-kind services over the past five years—and even more proud of the sustainable, positive impact these investments have resulted in.
3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?
Sustainability, starting with Impact Day—a day where all of our people are out serving the communities in which they live and work—began fourteen years ago at Deloitte. It, and our office greening initiative that began a decade ago, are signature components of our culture.
Today, we’ve expanded sustainability into a broader frame, what we call “citizenship,” that reflects our collective societal impact driven by affecting measurable change in our communities, inspiring our actions as a societal impact innovator, and instilling great pride in knowing that what we do accelerates positive, societal impact
3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.
While I have been a sustainability champion for some time, it was Michael Porter and Mark Kramer’s article, Creating Shared Value, in the January 2011 edition of HBR that really put it all into focus for me. I was a judge for the HBR/McKinsey award that year, so I paid very close attention to each periodical. The article was groundbreaking (it was ultimately recognized as article of the year) and has strongly influenced my perspective ever since.
3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Most recently, it was advice I got from my kids. I was downplaying the significance of an award I was receiving, and my fourteen-year-old daughter said: “Just own it, and wear it well.” It was a great reminder. I think women, in particular, often have trouble with this.
3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?
It’s an indirect accomplishment, but my teenage son posted a birthday message to me on Facebook. It was so touchingly sentimental that many moms sent me “Wow, I wish my son would do that” notes. I must be doing something right.
3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?
If I could change anything, it would be our “dominant logic” tendencies, a body of research by acclaimed C.K. Pralahad that represents deeply held views, beliefs, and assumptions of how things are supposed to work which limit our ability to see the way forward.
For example, we know the workplace operates differently and the composition of the workforce is much more heterogeneous than it was at the start of the industrial revolution. Yet we still hold firm to circa 20th century corporate ladder beliefs of how careers are supposed to be built. We’re living in a networked, matrixed—what we call “corporate lattice”—world. The sooner we can break the bind of dominant ladder-logic, the better we can open up a more inclusive aperture of the myriad ways people can build successful and rewarding careers.
3p: Describe a perfect outing.
Running along the Jersey shoreline with the wind at my back.