Catherine Mayer is a bestselling author, journalist, speaker and activist. She is the co-founder and President of the Women’s Equality Party and co-founder of Primadonna, the festival celebrating brilliant writing, music and ideas and giving prominence to women, launched in 2019.
Her books include Amortality: The Pleasures and Perils of Living Agelessly; Charles: The Heart of a King, and Attack of the Fifty Foot Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World! Her most recent book, the memoir Good Grief: Embracing Life at a Time of Death, includes letters written by her mother after both women were widowed at the start of the pandemic. Launched in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in December 2020, it will be published in the US and Canada in July 2021.
She has worked at The Economist, held deputy editorships at Business Traveller and International
Management magazines and spent 11 years as a foreign correspondent for the German news weekly, FOCUS. In 2004, she joined TIME as a senior editor, later became London Bureau Chief, TIME Europe Editor and, finally, Editor at Large. She was the founding executive director of the think tank Datum Future and also consults on the opportunities and challenges of data technology.
Catherine was commissioned by the Globe Theatre to write and perform an original piece for its 2020 Voices in the Dark series, Notes to the Forgotten She-Wolves.
She performed Hello Boys with Grayson Perry at the Bridge Theatre in 2018. Her one-woman show Catherine Mayer: FFS toured the UK and Ireland in 2019.
She was the lead candidate for the Women’s Equality Party in London in the 2019 European elections. She served as the elected President of the Foreign Press Association in London from 2003-2005. She is on the founding committee of WOW—the Women of the World festival. She was a judge for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The winner of the FPA Story of the Year in 2010 and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize the following year, she has also been named in Total Politics’ Top Political Journalists, WIE Women in Excellence 2013, Progress 1000 Evening Standard Equality Champion 2016, Oxford University Suffrage Champion 2018, Gender Equality Top 100: Most Influential People in Global Policy 2018 and, with Sandi Toksvig, NatWest Spirit of Everywoman Award 2018.
After the February 2020 death of her husband, the musician Andy Gill, she took on his unfinished projects, releasing two EPs by his band Gang of Four, and announcing a tribute album, The Problem of Leisure: A celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four featuring globally famous musicians and scheduled for release in May 2021.
Catherine’s speaking topics include:
The Future of Media in the Digital Age
During a 30-year career at some of the world’s most renowned current affairs magazines, Catherine saw first-hand how digital technologies initially enabled news organisations to flourish and then destroyed the economic models supporting them. Catherine discusses and assesses the repercussions not just within the industry but for democracy and our understanding of the world, as well as forecasting developments in new media.
Seizing the Turbulence: How to embrace change
Tumult tends to make people and organisations cautious, but progress is often born of turbulence, not stability. Catherine explains why resistance may not only be futile but damaging, and how to find silver linings even in the stormiest of circumstances—including pandemic, political and economic upheavals and personal loss.
Tough at the Top: Hard lessons in leading and being led
Catherine has been a junior employee, a middle manager, the head of departments and organisations and she is also the co-founder of two start-ups, the Women’s Equality Party and Primadonna Festival. She discusses what she learned from bad bosses and good and from her own mistakes and successes about how to manage and how to inspire.
From Lightbulb Moment to Growing Enterprise: How to turn ideas into reality
In March 2015, Catherine came up with the idea of the Women’s Equality Party. By July it was registered with the Electoral Commission. In May 2016, it gained 350,000 votes at its first election with one in five Londoners backings its mayoral candidate. In 2019 it won its first council seat and gained more than 25% of the vote in some areas of the UK. Primadonna Festival made its debut in 2019 and one year later, after running a virtual festival during the pandemic, announced its receipt of an Arts Council England grant and plans to upscale and move to a permanent new home in 2021. Drawing on these experiences and on case studies she has conducted as a journalist and author, Catherine sets out her blueprint for making things happen.
Difference Works: Why true diversity and inclusion is about much more than ticking boxes Organisations know they need to improve the diversity of their workforces—but they often don’t know why. Catherine unravels the confusion surrounding diversity and diversity programmes, highlights the dangers of creating echo chambers or cultures that suppress dissident opinions and demonstrates the value of more inclusive cultures.
Wonder Women: How unlocking female potential benefits us all
This addresses some of the key points in the Difference Works keynote, but looking in more detail at the subject of female participation in the economy and the workplace. Why is it that organisations struggle to retain women and how can they improve that record? And why the rewards of doing so are huge.
Inside the Royal Family
Catherine spent two years researching her biography of Prince Charles and many more years behind the scenes covering the Royals. She gives insights and tells anecdotes from the strange world she dubs “Planet Windsor” and also highlights the surprisingly pervasive influence of the Royals on public life.
“Very inspiring and engaging...we liked the way she spoke from the heart and gave her personal story. She sets a tone of openness and trust which was exactly what the session needed.”
“Catherine was an absolutely fabulous addition on the night – razor sharp, great sense of humour, real and extremely engaging. She is right at the top of her game and therefore able to be challenging but without alienating the audience.”
"As a result of Catherine being on the panel, we were able to create the level, strength and quality of debate we really aspired to – and have an enjoyable, fun evening along the way. The feedback from our guests was that she had taken our panel to a new level.”