By Dan Lalande
“I grew up in an environment where conversation was an essential component of life. No matter what your age, you had to know how to engage in a thoughtful, other-person-focused conversation. From that experience, I learned that every person has a story, which you can discover if you ask careful questions.”
And so, a talent developed over the dinner table at the home of Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer that ended up serving as a life’s calling for their much-loved daughter Catherine. After procuring a degree in art history at U of T, Cathering defied expectations and opted for a career in media. Resettled in her hometown of Ottawa, she became an on-air fixture at the short-lived ichannel, then at Rogers Community Television. After that, she landed at CPAC, where she hosted various documentaries and the popular one-on-one interview series Beyond Politics. The latter was a great vehicle for this infinitely curious and deeply humanistic journalist, whose professional mission is the demasking of Canada’s politicians to reveal the dimensionality beneath. In addition, Catherine often spotlighted the people who share that up-and-down life as partner or offspring. Each interview touched on one of her major areas of interest: life-work balance. That’s something Catherine—as a self-employed broadcaster-emcee-communications professional, mother of two teenagers and board member of The Ottawa Hospital and Hydro Ottawa—struggles to achieve herself.
Lately, she’s been practicing the nimble art of casual conversation again, this time in a whole new form: podcasting. The show is called The Honest Talk. It was co-created by co-host Jennifer Stewart, We engage in real, honest conversations about the experiences, challenges, aspirations, and lessons shared by women entrepreneurs, business leaders and professionals. We shed the layers of key messages and talking points and create a forum that leaves women feeling connected, inspired and motivated in their careers and personal lives.”
Recounts Catherine, “Jennifer and I decided to start The Honest Talk after a LinkedIn introduction. We both agreed that professional women needed a place to share stories and feel supported in their journey. We initially decided on a live event series, but COVID turned us into a podcast first.”
Not that they’ve given up on their initial idea. Early in 2023, Catherine and Jennifer launched a symposium titled The Future of Women and Work. It expanded on the major area of focus of the podcast, a cause the staunchly feminist Catherine has long promoted. As Catherine puts it, “The Honest Talk allows us to explore what still needs to be done, and what can be done, through the eyes of women on the frontlines of change.”
In October, the RBC-sponsored podcast got an exciting upgrade. The revamp, headed by a savvy production coordinator and an investigative writing staff, integrates first-person narratives about lived experiences from a variety of women, along with curated national and international stories relevant to the podcast’s demographic. The latter touches on such topics as infertility, finances, travel, nutrition and leadership.
Catherine’s hope for this ever-expanding podcast is that it will create greater opportunities for women. “We have yet to embrace truly innovative systems that allow women to have the flexibility they need to build sustainable lives, especially those with children and/or caring for aging parents,” she explains. “Additionally, there’s a lot of room for improvement to get more women into the C-Suite and corporate board roles. Not just that,” adds Catherine, “but women who represent diversity. It’s not just a ‘nice to do,’ it’s a ‘need to do,’ because it will positively affect corporate bottom lines. More women, more people from diverse backgrounds in positions of influence, more people with different life experiences—all these elements are proven solutions to increased profitability. We need to be intentional about how we go about making this change happen and happen quickly.”
Given the industrious nature of her life, you wouldn’t think there was wiggle room for anything else. But one of Catherine’s major life lessons is to keep the proverbial door open. “Opportunities come along when you least expect them. Whatever those may be, I’m looking forward to what lies ahead!”
Or as she likes to advise women, “Believe in yourself and keep going”—adding, in the spirit of The Honest Talk, “But lift another woman as you go.”
The Honest Talk is available wherever you get your podcasts.