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La WNBA seleccionó a una pionera empresarial y defensora de mujeres líderes

WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert
WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert


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Cathy Engelbert [00:00:00 - 00:00:13]

So, I'm actually talking to two oil company CEOs, I'll never forget. I think it was the CEO of Exxon Mobil and Philips. And I'm sitting there talking to them, and then, you know, we're in the cocktail hour, and then we're breaking into the, what they call salon dinners.


Gene Marks [00:00:13 - 00:00:14]

I know it's coming. Go ahead.


Cathy Engelbert [00:00:14 - 00:00:26]

And I start walking in with the two oil men, I'll call them, for lack of a better word. So, I start walking in the room, and a woman comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says, that's only for the CEOs.


Gene Marks [00:00:26 - 00:00:27]

Oh, wow.


Cathy Engelbert [00:00:28 - 00:00:43]

And you know what I did, Gene? I turned to her and I really quickly in my mind said, I could do one of three things. I could get really angry, I could get really defensive, or I can do what I did, which I smiled very nicely. I said, oh, thank you so much, and walked in the room with those two men.


Gene Marks [00:00:43 - 00:00:44]

Good for you.


Cathy Engelbert [00:00:44 - 00:00:53]

But, you know, so those things happen. You don't let them get you down. That is the main thing. We as women cannot let that, like, set us back.


Announcer [00:00:57 - 00:01:08]

Welcome to Paychex THRIVE, a Business Podcast, where you'll hear timely insights to help you navigate marketplace dynamics and propel your business forward. Here's your host, Gene Marks.


Gene Marks [00:01:08 - 00:01:28]

Welcome back to another episode of the Paychex THRIVE podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. And just as a reminder, if you're looking for any advice or tips, help in running your business, subscribe to our newsletter. We're at So, let's get started. I have today someone that I haven't spoken to, Cathy, I'm thinking it's like 70 years, 80 years.


Cathy Engelbert [00:01:28 - 00:01:29]



Gene Marks [00:01:29 - 00:02:00]

Okay, decades, let's just say, unfortunately. But fortunately, Cathy's here with us today. It's Cathy Engelbert. She's the commissioner of the Women's National Basketball association. Before joining the WNBA, Kathy was with Deloitte for 33, 33 years with one firm. Just crazy. Cathy was the first female CEO of Deloitte, which is - we're going to get into that from 2015 to 2019. Cathy, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for joining me.


Cathy Engelbert [00:02:00 - 00:02:06]

Gene, it's great to be here. And I joined Deloitte right off of Lehigh's campus. Gene and I are alumni of the same year at Lehigh.


Gene Marks [00:02:07 - 00:03:15]

Yeah, it's crazy when you think about it, because you don't hear about people that spend that many years in public accounting. And I did about nine years at KPMG in Philly and before flying away. But 33 years, it's just a really long. And Deloitte is just an amazing firm. Let me ask you about this.


So, this is like in the mid-80s, right? And that's when we graduated. I'm going to date you here. And my wife was at Ernst and young. She was actually in London for three years, and then she came over to the U.S. She transferred here, obviously around our age, as well. Do you know Cathy, like, she would go on audits. She had one client. It was like British Airways. And whenever the partner would come out, she – because she was the female staff member there – she was the one who had to get everybody coffee. And this was like the mid-80s, you know, where you think, like, you know, those days of "Mad Men" are gone. You know? I'm just kind of curious.


For starters, looking back when you first started out at Deloitte, was all that stuff there? I mean, was there really, you know, did you feel like you were in, like, a woman in a man's world back at that time, even?


Cathy Engelbert [00:03:15 - 00:04:28]

Yeah, obviously, in the mid-80s, it was a very different environment. The leadership ranks of the big eight at the time, accounting and professional services firms, who were very male dominated, still are to some degree. But, you know, I think it was like 3% of the partners were women when I joined in 1986. And obviously, I was very proud of the progress we made, at least at Deloitte, when I left in 2019. But it takes a long time, and I think a lot has changed for the positive challenges.


I still get discriminated against, quite frankly, because I'm a woman, including that people don't think I'm a CEO or a commissioner just because I'm a woman. So, it still happens today, let alone back in the 80s. But it is just. People have their biases. I think it's changing. I think there's a lot more women in leadership. You see the data about now. It's. I think 10% of the CEOs in the Fortune 500 are women. When I became a CEO, it was like 2%, 3%. So, we're making progress.


Look, there are biases out there. And one thing that this job at the WNBA has taught me is inclusive leadership is really important. And whether it's marginalized group, underrepresented groups, gender, race, it's like we're in a new world now, and it's really important to be as inclusive a leader as you can.


Gene Marks [00:04:28 - 00:04:37]

Do you feel like in your job now that you're representing women more so than just being part of the basketball world?


Cathy Engelbert [00:04:37 - 00:05:13]

Yeah, definitely women and women of color, quite frankly, because we're 80% women of color. A lot of these players get to college because of their athletic ability, their basketball ability. They then get drafted into the WNBA, and this is their life's work, and they're a professional working woman, just like all my staff at Deloitte was in all of our workforce. And a lot of times, sports athletes, professional athletes aren't viewed as women in the workforce, but they are. And so, yeah, so it's been quite a challenge, but also quite inspiring to represent these women and women of color.


Gene Marks [00:05:13 - 00:05:49]

We'll go. We'll jump back and forth. But going back to your earliest days at Deloitte, I mean, I remember because we were the same year when I was at KPMG was Pete Mark at the time, I didn't notice the difference. There were – because I'm a guy – but, there were many women in my class. I mean, I don't have. It's all anecdotal, and I don't have the actual numbers, but there was a fair representation of women in my class in accounting, whereas the partners were just straight out all men. But you almost kind of saw where it was going, you know, did you feel that, like. You know, like you knew that the times were changing, even back in the 80s?


Cathy Engelbert [00:05:49 - 00:07:41]

Definitely. I think 50% of the accounting graduates back in those mid-80s were women. And now it's actually a higher percentage, by the way, than men. But, you know, and as we studied it at Deloitte, over my career there, and I wasn't in a big leadership position in the 90s, but Deloitte started in 1993 something called the initiative for the retention and advancement of women because we were actually advancing women fine.


It was retaining women that was the issue, especially when they got to that 30, 35 years old child bearing age, you know, wanting to be a mom, not thinking you could do it all as defined by the society, which was, can I, you know, be a great spouse? Can I be a great mom? Can I be a great professional? Can I travel, you know, away from the kids, you know, especially as the kids get older in sports and other activities? So, I think what we all started working on is how to retain women through those critical years, so that when you started to appoint leaders and become a partner, there was a big pool of that 50-50, and to draw from. When that pool dwindled, then it was very hard.


So, I was fortunate to work for a firm that was way ahead of the curve in this initiative for the advancement and retention of women. And then we just really focused on it, because when I was pregnant with my first child, I resigned from the firm. A lot of people don't know that because I just didn't think I could do it all as defined by society, and thankfully, I was convinced to stay, not because anyone thought I'd become a CEO, but because they saw potential in me, and we talked it through.


I ended up staying, and hopefully offer that inspiration to others to get through that kind of balance. I used to call it gene, you know, not work/life balance, because women were perfectionists. Work/life integration. I, like, literally used to bring my kids to work when they were younger, on weekends and things like that.


Gene Marks [00:07:41 - 00:07:50]

So, yeah, it's funny. So, around, like, how old, like, what level were you when you. When you had your first kid? Were you still. Were you a manager at that time, or were you?


Cathy Engelbert [00:07:50 - 00:07:53]

Yeah, manager. A manager. Probably making senior manager.


Gene Marks [00:07:53 - 00:07:54]



Cathy Engelbert [00:07:54 - 00:08:36]

You know, closer to partner, you know, so senior manager, because I had done a stint. I had moved up to Connecticut and done that from Philly, and I had done a two-year assignment in, you know, kind of the research department, and, you know, kind of got married out of that, and then, you know, had my first child. I guess I was a senior manager and just started to settle down in the New York, New Jersey area, where there were lots of big clients, went to the pharmaceutical sector, had been in financial services, and had been a derivative financial instrument person. So, just, like, a wide swath of experience that I was blessed to work for a firm where I could do a lot of different things while being anchored in the New York, New Jersey, Tri-State Area.


Gene Marks [00:08:36 - 00:09:10]

You know, different than a lot of other professions. I mean, there are a lot of professions that you're in that, you know, they're customer service professions or manufacturing positions, things that more 9 to 5, you know, stressful during the day, hardworking. But there is a limit. There's, like, an end. Your profession, being in as a professional CPA, it's pretty demanding, and you have busy seasons to go through. You have months where you're working many, many hours. I'm just kind of curious. How'd you do that, looking back? How did you do it with two kids?


Cathy Engelbert [00:09:10 - 00:10:40]

Yeah. I always had a good perspective on balancing what was important in the kids' life. So, I always say, your career is not linear, but also your home life's not linear either. When your kids - my kids were infants and toddlers – they would cling to my leg when I would leave. I'd have that guilt, but then they became adolescents and teenagers, and they didn't even notice me when I walked in the door.


So, you just have to recognize, it's not linear, it's not going to be perfect. There's going to be ups and downs, but you've got to be there for the important things. You've got to balance it all. Hopefully, you have a support system at home, family, childcare, all that stuff.


So, I had all of that. I was blessed to have all that so I could do it. And I think one of the reasons I was tapped on the shoulder to lead the firm was exactly that, because I showed a propensity to balance it all. I do credit Lehigh, in playing two sports, two Division I college sports, at preparing me for that. Also, I'm from a family of eight children. I have five brothers. So, this male domination didn't faze me. And my mom always used to say, you're gonna do fine when you get into the working world, because you're working along some five boys today. So, you're gonna do fine in this male dominated environment. So, I think it was a combination of all of those things that helped me.


And honestly, Gene, I was pretty shy when I arrived at Lehigh, but I emerged out of Lehigh very confident, quiet, confident young woman. And that helped me, too, in the business environment, because the one thing I see in young women today is a lack of confidence that they can, you know, kind of just not survive, but thrive in this kind of still male-dominated business environment.


Gene Marks [00:10:40 - 00:11:26]

Okay, so, first of all, I did not recognize that shyness when I knew you were freshman year, but maybe that's another, another conversation for another time. You seem to be quite self-confident, but, okay, we all have our different perceptions of, you know, of ourselves.


You know, when you were, you mentioned about growing up with brothers, as well. You do realize, you know, if you grow up with other boys and other guys, that we as men really never surpass a maturity of about 12 years old. And when that realization comes to you, you're like, you know what? I can handle any man. They're nothing more than a 12-year-old boy in a suit this time.


You know, were there any other male figures in your life that. That you really looked up to? And were there other female figures in your life as you were going through this career that you also looked up to?


Cathy Engelbert [00:11:26 - 00:13:38]

Yeah, well, number one, my father. So, being someone who's raising eight children, my father died a year out of Lehigh. Fairly suddenly. Diagnosed with cancer, May, died in October. So, that had a huge impact on my life because he worked three jobs to put eight children through college, and then he passes away. It kind of put in perspective a lot of things for me. I also admired him, admired my mom for carrying on. And there were two, three children still at home, two in college, one to go to college. So, just that was a big impact on me. But more in my career, I'm not shy about saying a lot of my role models were men. A lot of my mentors were men.


And I had one male sponsor that I didn't even know I had who I'd worked with for, like, a week on a project at his client out in Ohio. And he became a leader in the firm, was kind of behind the scenes advocating for me, again, not because he thought I'd become the CEO, but he saw some potential in me, advocating for me to take on different roles in the firm, so that when I became the CEO, he showed me some dashboard he had on me. Like, Cathy needs this capability. She already was technical. She had big clients. She needed to run a business. She needed to run part of our operations. And I was like – and it was red, yellow, green – and I said, I wasn't red on that. And he goes, this is why we didn't show it to you, because we, we were kind of behind the scenes sponsoring you.


So, I'm always thankful and grateful to that individual for kind of sponsoring me behind the scenes, because that's where it all happens. Powerful people in rooms are talking about you, are evaluating you or developing you or putting development plans. And again, I was fortunate to be in a development culture and apprenticeship model like the big four firms still have today, one of the few left.


Now that I'm outside of the firms, I see the value of that apprenticeship model, and I was a beneficiary of that, no doubt. And those role models came. And one other point, though, about female role models, I just didn't have a lot, because, you know, there's this theory, you can't be what you can't see. I constantly challenge that theory, because if I ascribe to that, I would have never become the professional I ultimately become and the leader I became.


So, I always tell women, don't just think about, you can't be what you can't see. I know it sounds really cool, but, you know, you can be what you can't see. And I'm a good example of that.


Gene Marks [00:13:39 - 00:14:42]

Do you think, like, there are things that women do better than men and things that men do better than women? And just to expand on that question, like, you know, just my daughter - my daughter - I think I told you before we started recording, so I have twins, right? So, one, my daughter is a vet, okay, and she went to Penn Vet. And at her class, there were like 125 kids in the class. It was like, I mean, Kathy was like 120 of them were women. You know, and this is science, you know, scientific study. It's not like a, like an anti-STEM thing, it's a science thing. You know, my son is a mechanical engineer, and in his class in college, it was like 98% men. You know, there are just some things that women gravitate towards things and some things that men gravitate towards. And sometimes I just, I, you know, I don't know if you can put a square peg into a round hole.


So, that gets me back to the original question, you know, like, do you think that there are things that, generally, women are just more prone to doing better than men, that they're more. That they're better at than men and vice versa?


Cathy Engelbert [00:14:42 - 00:16:29]

Yeah, I guess, Jean, anecdotally, I don't have certain memories where I chalk something up to it being done better because I was a woman, or even in my business experience, like, because it was a woman. I think, scientifically, as you said, we've seen study about women and the strengths they bring to the workplace on the board, and actually was the first female chair of an organization called Catalyst, which is all about workplaces that work for women, work for everyone. And like, why in like 2018 was I the first female chair of that organization? 'Cause they always drew from CEO's to become the chair, and it's a not-for-profit, and obviously women were underrepresented there, so.


But I do think there's strengths to females that make them great leaders. And I think as I think about collaboration, I think about kind of transparency, I think about authenticity, which is really important to these digital native Gen Zers today. I think women tend to lead better in those situations and they're more around that collaborative environment. And I know I showed up in a very different way than my male predecessors from that. At least that's what our people told us, and when you're running a firm of 100,000 people, you get a lot of feedback and you get a lot of advice. I always used to say we had 3,000 partners and 4,000 opinions and hear it all, but the one thing they used to say is like, thank you for listening, collaboration, open-door policy, things like that, and just kind of building connections and connecting people and not thinking.


I needed to know everything and really reaching out to the broad human capability that I had at my fingertips at a firm the size and scale of Deloitte. So, yeah, I think there are some things that we're better at. But again, for me, I don't think it was ever I chalk something up because I was a woman.


Gene Marks [00:16:29 - 00:17:00]

Absolutely. Fair enough. Don't you feel like now, like, I mean, again, we knew each other when we were kids. Now it's like almost 40 years later, we're much older. Don't you feel that you have so much more self-confidence than you ever did when you were younger? And don't you feel like when you see younger people, particularly younger women, that have more self-confidence than you did at that age, you just - it really raises your eyebrows - it makes you, you know, it really impresses you.


Cathy Engelbert [00:17:01 - 00:17:36]

Yeah, I'm really proud when I meet a young, confident woman. The problem is I don't meet enough of them in my travels, especially at universities, even top MBA programs. I'll never forget I was speaking at a top MBA program to a group of women. It was their women in business group. And, you know, I open it up for questions at the end, and a woman kind of raises her hand, you know, kind of shyly, and I call on her and she starts her question with, "I'm sorry ..." And then she asked a fabulous question. Right? But, Jean, I couldn't get over that. She started with, I'm sorry.


Gene Marks [00:17:36 - 00:17:37]



Cathy Engelbert [00:17:37 - 00:19:46]

So, that just was a non-confident way to start a question. So, I kind of said to her, it's a great question. I'll answer it in a minute. But one of the things we have to stop doing is women is apologizing for asking a question. And it was a great question.


So, so I do think the confidence that you just talked about is so important. And I'm, again, so blessed that I think I went to a university, came from a great family, worked for a great firm that taught me that, because otherwise, I think there are moments when, you know, a lot of women have imposter syndrome. I'll just tell a quick story.


So, I become the first female CEO in the history of Deloitte, in the history of any of the big four accounting and professional consulting firms, and I think this is great. One of the first things is, who's on your team? And we had an opening on the executive leadership team. Nine men knock on my door and ask for the job. Zero women. And I'm sitting here thinking, wait a minute, I'm the first woman CEO. Why aren't women coming, aren't they inspired and walking while coming in my door?


So, because I was a woman and was cognizant that nine men knocked and no women, I reached out to three women and said, I don't understand. Why didn't you kind of raise your hand and at least put your name in for this role? And all three of them said, oh, because I'm really happy what I'm doing now, or I didn't think I had all the attributes to do that job. I don't think I'm ready yet, and I haven't had all this experience. And so that's one of the flaws I think, of women in the workforce, is they don't think they have all the attributes for something or all the capabilities. So, that's why my advice always to women is raise your hand, put your name in for things, even if you don't think you're fully qualified, because the process will weed out whether you're qualified or not.


And I was actually a real dark horse for the CEO role at Deloitte. Got tapped on the shoulder a month before the decision was being made, and it worked out. I put together a platform and a vision that obviously the partners liked, and it worked out, but I didn't really technically raise my hand for that. I had someone reach out to me and say, we want you to do this. I originally was like, "Who? Me?" So, even I did that 27 years into my career, Gene. So, women have got to be more confident.


Gene Marks [00:19:46 - 00:20:49]

Have you found over the course of your career that some of your biggest critics or obstacles turned out to be women as opposed to men? And I asked that because if you're like yourself, you're rising up through Deloitte, you've made this decision to have a career. You said your kids are clinging to you as you're walking out the door. But, I mean, you realize, I realize as well, your kids are going to be fine. They're all fine. And you knew that. You knew that back then. But sometimes I hear of, like, mothers that are stay at home, and they criticize women who want to get ahead in their profession because they're not looking after their kids, you know? And then I also hear stories. I've seen it where sometimes women diss on other women in the workplace. They're more critical of them.


And like Cathy, I have a woman that works with me. She's an equity partner in what I do. And still, when people deal with her, they think, like, she's my admin, you know? And it's mostly women who think that she's my admin, you know? Did you get a lot of that?


Cathy Engelbert [00:20:49 - 00:21:48]

Yeah, I would say I didn't have so much because of Deloitte's apprenticeship model. I didn't have so much of women not rooting for me or me not rooting for women, but there are biases out there. I was part of an organization when I was the CEO of a Deloitte, where it was CEOs only. And obviously, I was one of the few female CEOs in the room. And one particular was down in Washington, DC. And one particular incident I remember, which is kind of like what you're talking about is there was like a cocktail party where you met with senators and congressmen and women before. You then went into the dinners with those congressmen and women, which were CEO only, but you could bring your head of public policy, your general counsel, you could bring other people to the cocktail party, but once you went to the dinner, it was CEO only.


So, I'm actually talking to two oil company CEOs. I'll never forget. I think it was the CEO of ExxonMobil and Phillips. And I'm sitting there talking to them, and then we're in the cocktail hour, and then we're breaking into what they call the salon dinners.


Gene Marks [00:21:48 - 00:21:49]

I know it's coming. Go ahead.


Cathy Engelbert [00:21:49 - 00:22:01]

And I start walking in with the two oil men, I'll call them, for lack of a better word. So I start walking in the room, and a woman comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says, that's only for the CEOs.


Gene Marks [00:22:01 - 00:22:02]

Oh, wow.


Cathy Engelbert [00:22:02 - 00:22:18]

And you know what I did, Gene? I turned to her and I really quickly in my mind said, I could do one of three things. I could get really angry, I could get really defensive, or I can do what I did, which I smiled very nicely. I said, oh, thank you so much, and walked in the room with those two men.


Gene Marks [00:22:18 - 00:22:19]

Good for you.


Cathy Engelbert [00:22:19 - 00:22:48]

But, you know, so those things happen. You don't let them get you down. That is the main thing. We as women cannot let that, like, set us back that. I had very few incidents like that. I do remember them, as you can see, vividly remember that particular incident. But I think I remember it more because it was a woman who did that, and she just assumed I couldn't be the CEO. Maybe because I was a woman, or maybe she hadn't seen me before. Maybe there were other reasons, but I surely took it because I was a woman.


Gene Marks [00:22:48 - 00:22:54]

Well, no doubt. I mean, listen, you've had how many thousands of experiences in your life? And that definitely sticks out of your mind.


Cathy Engelbert [00:22:55 - 00:23:53]

Yeah, but I've only had a few of those. And I do think times are changing a little bit on that. We have five generations in the workforce. You and I are the last of the baby boomers. I think that's where those biases exist the most. Then it's Gen X, Millennial, Gen Y, Gen Z, now the digital native. There's Gen Alpha or whatever behind that who are coming into the workforce shortly.


So, every generation, I think, is a little bit different in their biases around men and women and people of color, marginalized communities, whatever. And so I think, like, for the most part, some of those kind of gender biases are gone, but there's no doubt. Like, I used to bring men to my country club, and they would hand the check to the man, and they were the guest and I was the member. It just happens, but you just have to not think a lot about it and just be confident in who you are and et cetera. So, yeah, it's kind of funny now to tell these stories. Like you said back in the 80s there was a lot of that. It still exists today, by the way.


Gene Marks [00:23:53 - 00:24:29]

It still does. And it's funny, as my wife runs a small nonprofit, and she's - I've always said, like, you should join some of the female entrepreneurs group or, you know, like, women's business owners groups that are in Philly. And she's, like, adamant and says, like, no, this should make no difference at all that I'm a woman. I'm just running a nonprofit. But I still think it does. I think it does. I think there are specific issues that women leaders have to deal with that men don't, and I think it's important to have support groups around you. You know, did you? I mean, did you? Outside of Deloitte, you're, like, in this guy's world all the time, and then you get, are your kids? I forget, and I apologize. Boys or girls?


Cathy Engelbert [00:24:29 - 00:24:32]

I have a daughter and a son.


Gene Marks [00:24:32 - 00:24:44]

Okay, so you have a daughter and a son, and you come up to your husband, like, did you have any sort of support group outside of work that were just women that you could go and, like, do shots with and, you know, complain about men?


Cathy Engelbert [00:24:44 - 00:25:05]

Well, no, but having been a former athlete, I also - one of the things I got into heavily when I became a CEO because I realized how important it was, I got into golf. I'm actually now on the USGA executive committee, which is their board, as a not-for-profit. But I also, so, I have a life in basketball and a life in golf now, which is cool.


Gene Marks [00:25:05 - 00:25:06]

Very cool.


Cathy Engelbert [00:25:06 - 00:26:34]

And one of the things that golf taught me is, one, not enough women play golf. Two, most women leaders do play golf because they realize so much happens on the golf course. And I've built so many fabulous relationships with women and men through playing golf, so that, I would say was kind of my outlet once the kids got older – it's hard to do it when the kids are younger, but once the kids got older – and now there's nothing better than both my kids play. Nothing better than going out on a Sunday evening as the sun setting and playing nine holes or even playing 18 early in the day. It's so fun.


But, yeah, I never had tons of women groups. I was so busy, like, you know, in my jobs and role, and I have a huge family, and I'm very family-oriented, too. And, you know, again, with eight being one of eight, and there's, like, 30 grandchildren and great grandchildren now, and half the grandchildren have even had children for my mom.


But, yeah, it's, I was so busy with all of that that it was hard to find time to do other stuff. You know, very good friends with a lot of my neighbors. My whole neighborhood was practically stay-at-home moms, so. And I don't think they ever looked at me differently. They just, they still invited me to stuff. I just virtually couldn't go to a lot of it because they would do 10 in the morning and noon, and, you know, you couldn't do a lot of that stuff, but you made up for it by networking with them outside of the normal business hours. I'll call it on weekends and Friday nights, and even though you were exhausted, and they all wanted to go out Friday night, and I was exhausted and just wanted to sit at home, you would do it just for the camaraderie of.


Gene Marks [00:26:34 - 00:26:42]

It takes a lot of energy. So, you're, you had mentioned before we started recording that you're coming to Philly and you're speaking at Wharton. What are you, what are you talking about?


Cathy Engelbert [00:26:42 - 00:27:32]

Yeah. Leadership. And, you know, it's an MBA class, and kind of my journey, my path, you know, kind of some of the things that changed where I pivoted in my career. So, I basically, even though I worked for one firm for 33 years, I had five different careers during that 33. So, I want to show kind of the youth of tomorrow or the leaders of tomorrow, the next generation of leaders, that you don't have to be stuck in one job. You can be with one firm and have multiple opportunities to do different things.


And so, yeah, talk about, you know, my journey as you know, an executive, a female executive, a CEO, and now kind of in a very, very fun, but hard second act. And so, a lot of people want to know, how could you go from the CEO Deloitte to the commissioner of the WNBA? And so, I'll tell that story, as well.


Gene Marks [00:27:32 - 00:27:35]

Tell me that story. How did you manage to do that?


Cathy Engelbert [00:27:36 - 00:28:33]

Well, you know what we have when you're somewhere for 33 years. At the end of my term – so, CEOs have terms at these big four accounting firms – so, at the end of my, towards the end of my term, I actually was on vacation with the family, and I wrote three things on a piece of paper. I do everything in threes. My strategy is in threes 'cause people can process three things. They can't process more. So, I wrote three things. I wanna do something different, something with a broad women's leadership platform, and something I had a passion for.


And actually thinking, Gene, it would take me to a college or university president or the head of a not for profit. I've been very involved with the American Heart association and their CEO roundtable. I've done other not-for-profit roles. So, I said, it's probably gonna take me there. And then this job came to me through a former colleague of mine who is the head of basketball operations for the NBA. And he's like, you just need to come over for one hour and meet with Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA. And so after.


Gene Marks [00:28:33 - 00:28:35]

And you're a basketball player. So, I'm sure.


Cathy Engelbert [00:28:35 - 00:29:57]

Yeah, I played basketball in lacrosse at Lehigh. My dad was drafted into the NBA in 1957 by the Detroit Pistons. So, I had a lot of basketball DNA. So, when I came over to the office, I was mesmerized by basketballs and logos and everything all over the place. And pictures of Wilt Chamberlain, who my dad had played against, and Kobe Bryant, who I had met, because he's a Philly guy, and I was from Philly.  And, you know, all of this.


I was mesmerized, and I said something different, Check. Broad women's leadership platform – had no idea, I mean, these players are having effects on hundreds of millions of people around the world. And then something I had a passion for. I love the game. So, so, yeah, so that's, that's how I did it.


But to go from a firm of 100,000 people to a league of 140, 44 players is a little bit of a shock to the system, because it's like going from a big company to a small business, medium sized, but big consumer brand. So, small in size and scale, but big in consumer impact. And, you know, can't be more proud of the transformation we're affecting here. But it's really hard. People are like, is it harder at Deloitte or here I go, definitely here, because you don't control a lot of the ecosystem, which is the media companies, who are all led by males and all have a bias against women sports as true media, sports and entertainment properties. But we're changing that scene. We're changing it.


Gene Marks [00:29:57 - 00:30:43]

Well, I want to hear a lot more about that. Obviously, we're almost out of time. One final question I have for you, because we have been focusing on female leadership, being a woman in such a world that you've been in. So, you've got your daughter. How can I say this? I'm not going to talk about my daughter because super proud of her. I've always wanted her to be independent, and that's the question I have for you, you know? Like, knowing what you know now, all the stuff that you went through, knowing what you know, where, you know, the place that women have now in the professional world compared to where it was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, what do you want to see your daughter be doing 20 years from now? What are your hopes for your daughter? Your daughter?


Cathy Engelbert [00:30:43 - 00:30:56]

Yeah. And she and I actually are really close. She lives in Denver, but we talked a lot about her career, what she's doing. You know, in the beginning when she first graduated college, she's like, mom, I'm never going to be like you. And I go, that's not the goal.


Cathy Engelbert [00:30:56 - 00:33:00]

So, you know, the goal is for you to find your passion to do something you like. And, you know, ultimately, one of the things I tell a lot of young men and women, by the way, is, you know, have some patience around your career. Everybody's aspiring to a box or a title called CEO or C something, but I never aspired to any of that. I just aspired to lead, and so I tell my daughter that all the time, and I tell her to raise your hand and do different things.


And even if you think they're risky, and I mean, to put it in a little hoops analogy, shoot when you're open; you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. And I do look back and know that women don't tend to raise their hands as much as I mentioned. And over time, all the experience adds up. So, I say to my daughter, like, you know, find your passion and I'll help you and use your connections and networks. I think this next generation was like, oh, no, mom, you're not going to help me. Oh, no, no, no. You need connections and networking and, you know, meeting more, more people who have more experience than you do. And, you know, you have to reach out and take advantage of every network. Never burn a bridge. I tell her all the time, never burn a bridge with, you know, someone at work. If you don't like one person you work with, don't quit. You know, it usually doesn't mean you're not going to be successful overall. It's just going to mean you're hitting a roadblock and find another department or another division, another something.


She works for a big pharmaceutical company, so she can work in various different med device and pharma and consumer. And so, yeah, I mean, there's so many lessons I know in that little diatribe I just went on. But, you know, and don't put so much pressure on yourself. Social media. I mean, what, what creates so much mental health challenges is everybody's happy on social media, but not everybody's happy. So, and you don't have to know everything. You don't have to be an expert in anything, especially when you're starting out.


So, that's how I try to talk to her about the stresses she feels. Like she should just love her job from day one, and she didn't. And so, she's put a lot of stress on herself as a result.


Gene Marks [00:33:01 - 00:33:24]

Cathy Engelbert is the commissioner of the Women's National Basketball association, the WNBA. She was also the CEO of Deloitte from 2015 to 2019. After being there for, I just keep laughing, 33 years at Deloitte, which is awesome. Cathy, you're awesome. Thank you. Lots more questions to ask of you in the future. Maybe we'll get a chance to talk again, but for now, I really appreciate you spending the time.


Cathy Engelbert [00:33:24 - 00:33:29]

Well, Gene, thank you so much. Congratulations on all your success and good luck.


Gene Marks [00:33:29 - 00:33:36]

Thank you so much, everybody. You've been watching and listening to the Paychex THRIVE podcast. My name is Gene Marks. Thanks for joining. Take care.


Gene Marks [00:33:36 - 00:34:11]

Do you have a topic or a guest that you would like to hear on THRIVE? Please let us know. Visit and send us your ideas or matters of interest. Also, if your business is looking to simplify your HR, Payroll, benefits or insurance services, see how Paychex can help. Visit the resource hub That's W-O-R-X. Paychex can help manage those complexities while you focus on all the ways you want your business to thrive. I'm your host, Gene Marks, and thanks for joining us. Till next time, take care.


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