Supporting Women at Every Turn
Friday, April 21, 2023
By Wade Rupard
Throughout her career, Catherine Wright, ’87 BSB, has been a trailblazer.
As the first woman to hold leadership positions at several large companies, Wright broke through the glass ceiling. Now, she wants to inspire female students pursuing careers in male-dominated fields to do the same.
“I want to help younger women who might not have the confidence and encourage them to achieve their dreams,” she says.
Wright recently established a scholarship to support female students pursuing degrees such as Accounting, Finance, or Management Information Systems (MIS). Wright was a first-generation college student when she started her studies at the then-College of Business Administration. Coming from a large family, she had to pay for her own tuition.
While in college, Wright excelled in the Accounting program, graduating with honors, while working 20-25 hours a week.
Following graduation, she worked at Honeywell International, where she rose to become the CFO and vice president of finance in the building services business. During her time at Honeywell, Wright spent three years in London, becoming the company’s first female CFO in Northern Europe.
“That was my first global role, and it forced me out of my comfort zone,” she says. “You had to listen, be humble, and quickly learn how things worked and adapt to the culture.”
After 15 years at Honeywell, she worked at Thomson Reuters for 11 years, where she became the first woman on the leadership team. She followed that up by joining Medtronic for seven years as the CFO and vice president of finance for the neuroscience group.
Along the way, Wright helped mentor many women who were looking to advance in their careers. At Thomson Reuters, she started a development program, which is still being used at the company.
“At times, it’s been difficult being a woman in a male-dominated field,” she says. “I was probably naïve going into it. Looking back, there were many times when I was the only woman in the room. I had to earn a seat at the table and my worth with my competence, decisiveness, and results orientation. I had to show my worth early on and gain respect so that I wasn’t seen as the token female on the team.”
Those experiences led Wright to give back to the Carlson School through a scholarship.
“I came from a humble beginning, and I wanted to help out others with a gift so they didn’t have to work as hard as I did,” she says. “I want to continue to encourage and support women. I’ve always done my best to be a cheerleader for women and be supportive. A scholarship or gift is a way to continue my support. There were women mentors that helped shape my career, and I want to continue to do that for the next generation.”
Wright sees the gift as a way to give back to the next generation in a way that helped shape her career.
“[My education] prepared me so well,” she says. “The curriculum, the competitiveness, the quality of the students, the instructors, everything. Even being around the international students in my program helped me later on in my career when I worked overseas. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without my education from the University of Minnesota.”
Now, Wright has formed Wright Consulting, LLC where she is partnering with Fortune 200 global companies to develop strategies to grow revenue and improve efficiency. She has also gone back to school to pursue an interior design degree. Her hope is to start an interior design business renovating homes in the Bahamas.
“That’s a passion of mine,” she says. “We’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in the Bahamas, and there is definitely a market for home renovation.
No matter where in the world she is, Wright is lending a hand to help.
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 alumni magazine
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