Cate Luzio- founding a new path!

Cate Luzio, the extraordinary Founder and CEO of Luminary, can’t recall a time when she wasn’t passionate about empowering women. She ran several global women’s initiatives and events, mentored young women, and serves on the National Board for Girls Inc. But with the opening of her work/wellness/ collaboration hub Luminary, she has taken this passion and turned it into a mission, creating a dedicated space, and vast ecosystem, within which women can connect, support, uplift, and advance one another. Luminary’s tagline—We are in this together—comes directly out of Cate’s own playbook. It is our pleasure and privilege to shine a light on this bright light. Because, to quote Cate, “Real change can happen in the world when women work together on behalf of all women, raising each other up.”


Tell us the story of Luminary. When and how did the idea come to you? Was there an aha moment or something specific that precipitated its creation? And what was the turning point that enabled you to transform this vision into something tangible and real?


After almost two decades in banking and a successful career, I continued to notice the lack of senior women at the top. We read about it, we talk about it, we write and tweet and post about it. However, when I look around, we’re not only lacking women at the top, we lack women in the middle. How can we move the needle if we don’t have more women moving up? I felt a real passion for investing in talent in the organizations I worked for, but I felt like I wanted to do more and needed a bigger platform than one bank or one industry.


After a discussion with my (male) mentor in November 2017, he challenged me and asked, What do you really want to do with my career? I honestly couldn’t answer. I just figured this was it. But that conversation stuck with me. I couldn’t shake some of his comments about figuring out what I was passionate about. I left banking to figure it out and, three months later, I was writing a business plan for Luminary.


One of my strongest skill-sets is taking an existing idea or business, creating a better way of doing things and then executing. I’m a builder. While a great deal harder without the infrastructure of a big corporation, this project is similar. I started with writing a full business plan in March and we’re opening our doors in November. We worked extremely fast because 1) I know there’s a need for this space 2) I know how to execute. I have to credit my experience in banking and 20 years in corporate America for giving me the insight, tenacity and credibility to do this.


Throughout your career, your interest in connecting, supporting, and promoting women has been a recurrent theme. Where does this passion come from? And how do you think women can change the workforce for one another in the years ahead?


I learned at an early age to help others. My parents raised me to stand up for myself and those around me, to do the right thing. Over the years, I received a lot of support from many of the men around me but rarely women, partly because there weren’t that many in banking above me. As my career accelerated, I was very aware of helping others, investing in people and working with them in any way possible – 1:1s, roundtables, speed mentoring, etc. but how many times have you been asked or have asked to have a coffee with someone for career advice? We can fill our calendars with these meetings. I believe there is a better, more efficient, and impactful way to get good advice and build relationships. How can we broaden the impact? That’s the challenge Luminary is trying to solve.


We need ways to get more women into top jobs but in order to do that we need to develop the pipeline in our workforce, specifically women. And we need to commit to helping each other get there. Attracting, retaining, and promoting women is a huge need for so many companies, large and small, and commitment to helping each other is critical – raising each other up. Connectivity amongst one another is paramount, developing a broad network of support. We should be confident in competing and driving for success, but we also need real collaboration. Let’s focus on inspiring each other.



You’ve had wonderful male mentors and bosses, and also those who led you to second guess your worth. Can you share a little bit about all this and what role Luminary has carved out for men?


I’ve had some amazing male mentors (in fact almost all of them), managers, and peers. Throughout my career they have supported me, provided guidance and opportunities. Every single job I was recruited for came from a man. They are a big part of our journey, career influencers, and half of the workforce. They need to be at the table with us, helping to promote gender parity and pay equality. The statistics show that the number of women at the top won’t change or improve without men’s support.


But I have known many men who made me second guess myself, too. Or tried to diminish who I was or my performance. One of my former managers actually told me (a few times) that I did too much, that others couldn’t keep up. He said Cate, you go 100 miles per hour. Not everyone can keep up with the way you work. We need you to go 50 mph here. That’s our speed. Basically, he meant ‘slow down’ so I didn’t outshine him or others. I should have realized then it wasn’t the environment or culture for me to develop and succeed.


Knowing the positive and negative, I wanted to promote working with men while also having a space dedicated to advancing women; although Luminary is focused on female members, we want to include men in various programming, events, workshops and more. We work with men and we need to keep working with them. We’ve developed Luminary in a way that is safe and secure and for women but doesn’t exclude men, particularly for select events but also for meetings. We have private meeting rooms that are for “co-ed usage” should one of our Members want to bring a male in for a meeting or one of our Corporate Members has an offsite or team meeting where they want men to attend. It’s our way of being female-centric but also being pragmatic.


What advice would you give to other women about valuing themselves? On getting pay commensurate with performance? On promoting themselves? Are there common pitfalls you’ve observed? And what’s the antidote?


Be yourself. Stay true to who you are and stand up for yourself, ask for the new job/role, for the raise or promotion or flexible work. You have to ask for what you want but you have to demonstrate why it should be yours. I’ve always worked hard, and then worked harder. And don’t give up. When I was little, growing up with two brothers, my dad told me early on that if I fell down (or was pushed), I had to get back up and walk it off. Get back out there and give it everything I’ve got. I live that every single day.


As far as pitfalls, I think it’s the same old lack of confidence, feeling like you need to check every single box before you go after that new job or role, or falling victim to playing politics. I’ve always tried to let my work speak for itself. As my career accelerated, I believed if I was good enough, I wouldn’t have to play the game. We’re constantly coerced into playing the game, so it’s hard not to join. As a woman, there is heavy competition with men but there seems to be an even bigger competition with women, mainly because there are fewer of them. What do you think those younger women looking to us for guidance see when they look up? If they can’t see it, they can’t be it. They need to see female role models.


Women are constantly pitted against one another and part of what we must do is to stop allowing and engaging in this behavior; and yet, almost every question/comment I get is about the other women’s businesses I’m competing with and how will I “win.” Why? Well, it’s easier to foster competition than collaboration. But can’t I just support those women and what they’re building without explaining how I’m better? I’m giving it my all to foster an environment that encourages women, not hinders. There is room at the table for all of us. Let’s avoid this pitfall or at least narrow the gap!


Lastly, not every woman is an entrepreneur or freelancer. What are ways we can support entrepreneurs and freelancers, but also women who are still in the traditional workforce? And women who are looking to transition from one kind of work to the other?


Whether small or large, we need to build communities made up of female leaders of all ages whilst empowering all of us to make informed decisions to build our very best personal and professional lives. Taking a leap into entrepreneurship or a new role or just trying to advance your career is definitely difficult; there are so many factors against you. However, regret is far worse. Get in the driver’s seat and take control. Invest in yourself and the other women around you. Work together to support, inspire, and help one another. Focus on collaboration over competition. Raise each other up. Both women AND men. Let’s surround ourselves with luminaries of all kinds.


Come check out Luminary and meet Cate in person on Dec 12th at our event with celebrity divorce attorney/ founder of It’s Over Easy Laura Wasser 9-11 am. Register here and bring friends!