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Banking exec’s startup aims to help women rise to the top at work

Natalie Mayrath

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Cate Luzio rose to the top in her field by raising her hand and taking risks. But during her 20-year tenure in top positions at at JP Morgan and HSBC, she noticed a trend: women were being hired, but they were getting bottlenecked in middle management.

“You have a lot of women at a junior level and then you have a select few at the top,” Luzio says. There are fewer women in managerial roles, and when women look around them or look above them, they don’t see a big change from when they started. “So if you can't see it, you can't be it,” she says.

This observation sparked a new direction for Luzio’s own trajectory. In a sharp career pivot, she wrote a business plan and set out on a new mission to help women see a path toward advancement, and arm females across women-focused industries with tools and resources to propel them to the top.

“I was at the table. You think you've made it and then you realize not only do you have to work harder, you better become a role model and start looking into that pipeline and developing those women that need to come after you,” Luzio says. A few months ago she launched Luminary, a collaboration hub for women across industries who want to expand their networks and advance their careers.

Luminary occupies an 11,000 square foot space in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. “It’s more than a workspace,” Luzio says. It has a beauty bar, workout facility and membership tiers that allow flexibility for members’ budgets. Each tier is based on the amount of time you spend in the space, but all tiers allow access to Luminary’s events and programs.

What sets Luminary apart from its competitors such as The Wing and wework, Luzio says, is its carefully curated list of programming, courses, and workshops designed to enrich sustainable networking and learning beyond the traditional coffee dates and business card swaps. Luzio aims for an ecosystem rather than just a workspace.

“It’s for the woman who might be pivoting, the woman that wants to invest in herself and learn how to public speak, or the woman who needs to learn how to read a P&L,” Luzio says. “Let’s forget the business cards, and let’s build a bigger and broader platform.”

Luminary also looks to be a resource for companies looking to hire women from a deep, diverse talent pool. Aside from Luminary’s membership base, Luzio is developing a web of company partnerships across industries so members can tap that network for career solutions, and Luzio’s staff can facilitate introductions when companies come looking for specific profiles or skill sets. By opening multiple lines of communication, she envisions a heightened confidence in her clients.

“We [women] often feel a bit intimidated to ask for that help. Men don't, they just do it, they just ask,” says Luzio. “At Luminary I think that is going to naturally happen because you're in a safe environment, whether you work in finance or you work in fashion or media. Let’s start having the conversation – there's no shame in asking for help and women need to do it more.”

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