Women Worth Watching 2015

Catherine Cornelius Smith

Founder & President of True Blue Inclusion Has Long Been a Diversity Leader


web TrueBlueInclu_SmithDuring her career, Catherine Cornelius Smith has served in the White House, been a trusted advisor to the US Secretary of Agriculture in the preparation for and negotiations regarding the Seattle Round of the WTO, and devised a corporate strategist for a diversity & inclusion platform in broadcasting, publishing, and online media, on behalf of NBC Universal, iVillage, Inc., and its subsidiary Lamaze Publishing, as well as Bonnier Corporation.

Catherine served as an executive team member with Diversity Best Practices where she led relationships and provided consultation to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. She is known for being particularly effective at bringing the best in approaches and solutions to bear on a wide range of challenges and opportunities for chief diversity officers.

“We really don’t yet know what’s at journey’s end.”

Currently the president of True Blue Inclusion, which she founded in 2010, Catherine has also served as vice president of business development for Diversity Best Practices and Working Mother Media Publishing, vice president for iVillage, vice president of strategy and sales at Business Women’s Network and Diversity Best Practices, chairperson at Working Families for Wal-Mart, director of outreach and exporter assistance at the US Department of, Agriculture–Foreign Agricultural Service, and special assistant to the President of the United States.

“Being a woman in my profession has been the best kind of adventure travel,” said Catherine. “There’s something new and unexpected at every twist and turn in the road, full of amazing people from every walk of life. And know what the best part is?  We really don’t yet know what’s at journey’s end.”

 Catherine developed and launched three of the company’s four signature events and revenue vehicles—The Annual Women’s Trailblazer Symposium, the Business Women’s Network’s Legacy Award, and Rising Star Awards. Through outreach and communications, she was successful in expanding public understanding of foreign markets for US agricultural producers. Catherine holds a BSBA in management and marketing from the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

Education: BSBA Marketing and Management, Texas A&M University

First Job: Summer Youth Swim Coach

What I’m Reading: “(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race” by Dr. Yaba Blay

The most important quality a woman leader should have is…

…open ears, open eyes and bullet-proof skin.  Be totally aware of all that goes on around you, and shrug off the snipers.

The career advice I’d give my former self:

It’s not the critics who matter, it’s the believers.

Words I live by:

Be a voice, not an echo.

The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…

…nothing. I have made many mistakes, but I wouldn’t undo any of them. Living through the consequences of any mistake gave me the opportunity to show people, and show myself, what I was made of.

When I really need to focus on a project, I…

…set an impossible deadline, work my network . . . and make sure the wine’s chilled.

My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…

…serving on the White House Staff as the President’s Special Assistant for Advance less than a year after finishing business school. It was the first time people invested in me for what I could grow to do, not my achievements.  No one ever told me I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t capable of accomplishing the work and managing through extraordinary situations. My advice:  Serve leaders who see your potential, not your accomplishments.

Being a woman in my profession has been…

…the best kind of adventure travel.  There’s something new and unexpected at every twist and turn in the road, full of amazing people from every walk of life.  And know what the best part is?  We really don’t yet know what’s at journey’s end.

I’ve learned that failure is…

teaches me how to succeed. Failing is always the very best teacher, success comes from experiencing everything but, and learning from its lessons.

I maintain a healthy personal life by…

…living with Scout and Lucky, our rascally rescue dogs. They unconditionally adore me, even when I don’t.

I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…

…I learned I could see connections and points of intersection most people couldn’t.  I had believed everyone could see how different people, efforts, dreams could connect to elevate everyone.  When I realized it was something special about me and how I saw the world, I knew I wanted to use it to ensure the executives I served had the very best partners, information and access to the people they might need or want to for their own success.