Katherine is a pragmatic business leader who cares deeply about U.S. Competitiveness and the state of our democracy.
As the fourth-generation President and CEO of Gehl Foods, Katherine led an aggressive growth strategy, driving transformations across the company–from management and processes, to facilities and information systems. In order to support continued growth, Katherine oversaw the acquisition of Gehl Foods by a private equity firm in March of 2015.
One thing Katherine learned over the course of her career: in order for a company to compete globally, it needs a workforce of skilled self-starters and problem solvers. This is the very definition of competitiveness: businesses are succeeding, while living standards are maintained or rising for average Americans.
Katherine put this philosophy into practice, and Gehl Foods thrived under her leadership. But she is deeply concerned about the path our nation is on, and the inability of our political system to address the vulnerabilities threatening US competitiveness including the K-12 education system and the tax code. Katherine is passionate about ensuring that community and business leaders are aware of the problems and become part of the solution.
In addition to her experience in manufacturing, Katherine’s background includes roles as Vice President at Bernstein Investment Research and Management, Special Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley for Technology and Economic Development, Director of Information Technology Services at Chicago Public Schools, and Organizational Development Manager at Oracle Corporation.
In 2010, Katherine was nominated by President Barack Obama and was confirmed by the US Senate in 2011 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation which mobilizes private capital to solve foreign development challenges while simultaneously advancing U.S. foreign policy and supporting the growth of U.S. businesses.
In the Media
Katherine welcomes the opportunity to share her perspective on U.S. Competitiveness
Businesses can succeed globally while workers have a high and rising standard of living. That's how Harvard Business School defines a competitive economy. As a business leader, Katherine Gehl is deeply concerned that the U.S. is not on a competitive path. For the last several years, our businesses have been making record profits, but workers’ wages have not kept pace. In the words of Michael Porter and his colleagues, the economy is doing half its job.
The challenges we face are systemic, and many require policy action at the national level. Among business leaders from all sides of the political spectrum, there’s fairly broad consensus about the top policy priorities that will help reinvigorate American competitiveness: fix the debt and the tax code, enact comprehensive energy policy, invest in our infrastructure, and strengthen our K-12 education system.
Despite widespread consensus on these issues, our political leaders haven't made any progress. Because of structural factors - like our primary system and redistricting - both our candidates and our elected leaders increasingly reflect the interests of the ideologues and refuse to break ranks and work across the aisle. It's clear that in order to address any of these critical weaknesses, we have to fix the political system first.
As business leaders, we stand on the front line of this challenge. If U.S. competitiveness suffers because of our broken political system, we’ll see it first. Our growth will slow, our ability to hire and pay good wages will contract, and our ability to innovate will suffer.
We can have a future where businesses turn a profit and living standards rise across the board. But it’s going to take an honest reckoning about where we are today and where we want to go. We can and should make our voices heard. Our businesses depend on it. Our employees depend on it. And ultimately our democracy depends on it.