Speaker: Antoinette Klatzky

A Feminine Voice From the Emerging Future: Transforming Business, Environment and Leadership

“We are stronger than we realize.  We have the immense capacity for resilience -- to rise up and recreate the world we know is possible.”

When Antoinette Klatzky took a part-time job as a recent college graduate in a retail clothing store, she might not have imagined one day working with the iconic fashion designer, Eileen Fisher, to help set strategy for Fisher’s foundation on human rights and climate justice for the next 10 years -- operating at the intersection of transforming business, environmental stewardship, and women’s empowerment. Nor might she have envisioned that her work with Fisher would lead her to help prepare leaders and changemakers around the globe for broader awareness-based systems change.

But that’s what Klatzky has done. As the co-creator and Executive Director of the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute, she facilitates empowerment workshops for young women – having previously initiated a recycled clothing program to fund those workshops and helped diversify the company’s supply chain for social justice and equity. And as a co-creator in the Presencing Institute, led by Otto Scharmer of MIT, she co-anchors a worldwide community of nearly 13,000 participants engaging in shared inquiry: how can we be of transformational service in our modern moment of intersecting crises?

The daughter of a consciously single parent, Klatzky comes from a strong line of independent women. Her mother, after leaving a secure academic tenured career, gave birth to her at the age of 40 as a single parent by choice. Her grandmother, who gave birth to her mother at the age of 40, was the daughter of a Russian Jewish seamstress who fled the pogroms of Czarist Russia. “It’s this lineage of strong women that carried me into this life and to the journey that I have been on,” Klatzky reflects.

Her father’s Indian heritage was a doorway of discovery for universal roots, blending community and family, and deepening into spiritual and embodiment practices like yoga, of which she is a certified teacher. The paradoxical sense of both belonging and difference that she experienced in her childhood within the Jewish community led her to an International Honors Program in college, where she traveled across countries, experienced different cultures, and re-imagined globalization. Upon graduating, she returned to her childhood stomping grounds at the YWCA where she was previously a lifeguard competitive swimming coach – this time to step in as a social justice coordinator, while also taking a part-time job in retail clothing. This would foreshadow the next stage of her life.

As it turned out, Eileen Fisher was looking to establish an institute to teach the company’s leadership practices to a new generation of young women and teenage girls. Klatzky seemed the ideal fit. The company’s leadership practices were heavily influenced by Otto Scharmer’s work at MIT, taking Klatzky deep into the principles of Theory U, a paradigm for awareness-based systems change and organizational transformation that emphasizes deep listening, and radically sensing and “presencing” an emerging future. She was so drawn to these principles that she studied and trained with Scharmer’s Presencing Institute, and later joined its board. A moment that occurred during a Master Class in Germany captures Klatzky’s depth of spirit: in a circle discussing the aftermath of the Holocaust, she spontaneously and melodiously sang a Hebrew prayer. Much of the room was brought to tears. 

Out of Klatzky's explorations, the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute was born.  Beyond simply imparting useful skills, the program distinctively helps young women embark on a leadership journey of self-discovery -- and the authenticity that comes with embodiment. 

Today, Klatzky divides her time at work between the Leadership Institute and Women Together, an initiative of the Eileen Fisher Foundation that supports women in being the change they wish to see in the world.  She also co-anchors the GAIA Journey (Global Activation of Intention and Action), a 14-week online course that she co-developed for the Presencing Institute aimed at profound civilizational renewal. Within the span of 12 days in response to the Covid pandemic, GAIA grew from a small group of friends discussing an idea to 13,000 virtual journeys supported by insights from neuroscientists, indigenous wisdom keepers, psychotherapists, biologists, artists, poets, and academic researchers. Klatzky is still processing all that has transpired.

What keeps her grounded? She lives just north of New York City on Lenape land, and loves her time in the garden, connected to the land. What she calls “home” is her regular yoga and meditation practice. “When I can really come back to myself and be centered in who I am, that is home for me.”

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