2019 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award: Charlie Burnett

2019 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award: Charlie Burnett


– Okay, so what we’re going to do is move into our Edie Hunt Inspiration Award, and this is an annual award. It was named after our very
first board chair, Edie Hunt. She was instrumental in
getting Forte started. She was just unwavering in her support. She was extremely passionate about the issue of advancing women. She was head of human capital
management at Goldman Sachs. A real mentor to me, and so I’m thrilled that we’re able to have
this award in her honor. Before I announce and
introduce the winner, I do want to say that
I’d like to recognize our five finalists, because
they all did exceptional work while they were in business school, and it’s one of the things
that we know inspires you is to see the work of other MBA women that have gone before you, and we want to share their stories. So first off, Caitlyn Gillespie at Cornell Johnson School of Business. (audience cheering and applauding) Jessica Schlater at USC
Marshall School of Business. (audience cheering and applauding) And we have three of the
finalists who are actually in the audience today, so
I’m separating them out. Hailey Alexander, who’s at
University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. (audience cheering and applauding) If you could stand, yes,
excellent, thank you, Hailey. Bayless Beard at USC
Marshall School of Business. (audience cheering and applauding) Bayless.
(audience applauding) And Charlotte Burnett at UNC
Kenan Flagler Business School. (audience cheering and applauding) Congrats to all of you, we
were extremely impressed with all of your accomplishments,
you’ve done so much, and it’s really just inspirational to see everything that
you’ve accomplished. I would now like to announce
our Edie Hunt Award winner for 2019, her name is Charlotte Burnett. (audience cheering and applauding) She goes by Charlie, I’m
gonna do a little intro here, but she goes by Charlie
and she’s an MBA graduate, obviously, at Kenan Flagler. She was the President of
Carolina Women in Business, and they really were
working to foster a culture of respect and increase female leadership throughout the MBA program in the school and also develop a really
strong male ally program. She’s been a leader
across campus and a mentor to undergraduate women,
something that many of you can think about as you go
on to your MBA campuses. I’d like to give you a
quote from her application. One of the people that submitted
a recommendation for her said, “Through her
compassionate and approachable “leadership style, her
hard work and her focus “on always making a place
better than when she found it, “Charlie Burnett has
served as an inspiration “and role model for women.” Her summer internship
was with J.P. Morgan, where she’ll be starting full
time in the coming months. So please welcome Charlie Burnett. (audience cheering and applauding) ♪ Don’t forget it ♪ ♪ I’m unstoppable today ♪ ♪ Unstoppable today ♪ ♪ Unstoppable today ♪ – Thank you so much. The people are what make Forte
such a great organization. And thank you to the incredible team who made this conference possible, and most importantly, for
your investment in women. I’m so honored to be here today and receive the Edie
Hunt Inspiration Award. But before I started, I
thought it was only fitting that I share with you my power word, but it’s actually a power
phrase, and it’s, own it. And I think it’ll make a
little sense after my story. To start, I wanna share with you a story of a classmate that I
personally was inspired by. Her name is Angela Gershivilli, and if you read Angela’s
resume, a few things are clear. She’s incredibly smart,
graduating with her Masters in financial mathematics. She worked for over 10 years in equity and derivatives trading
for an investment bank, and she can speak four languages. I, on the other hand, can only speak one. Always eager to network, I decided to ask Angela to lunch one day. In the hour lunch crammed between
our packed course schedule I learned there was even more to Angela than was on her resume. For starters, she was
already a mother of one, with another on the way. Angela’s path to business
school was unconventional. She grew up in the Republic of Georgia and lived through the Georgian civil war, where she was displaced
and lived in a refugee camp from the age of 11 to 13. Despite that, Angela scored the highest on university entrance exams and was awarded a
scholarship to university. Angela remained unwavering on her path, and it’s not surprising
that she went into labor during our accounting final exam, where she finished the exam and then drove to the hospital to deliver
her beautiful baby boy. (audience laughing) I realized that Angela did
something I could learn from. She embraced what made her unique. During this serendipitous
moment over lunch, I realized that her
story was so compelling because she owned it. But she owned it not just
because of what she did, but rather how she embodied her story and her willingness to get uncomfortable, try new things, bring fresh
perspectives and stand out. It taught me the importance
to own my own story, which meant leveraging my
unconventional background as the second oldest of
nine kids, an army veteran, an army paratrooper,
and now an MBA graduate who’s pursuing a career in finance. Today is not about me, it
is about each one of you. Each of you have an
incredible story to tell. Each of you have experiences
that are meaningful and life changing. Each of you has confidence, drive and what it takes to contribute
in a significant way. Some day you will have the opportunity to share your story, and
your story is important. There are women who
will be forever changed because you shared something
that connects with them, and ultimately comes back
to embodying the words of Michelle Obama. “Even when it’s more real
than you want it to be, “your story is what you have,
what you will always have. “It is something you own.” So, similar to Angela and
myself and several of my peers, many of us agreed on
two guiding principles to owning your story, which
I will share with you today. First, get uncomfortable
and try something new. You’ve probably heard it already, MBAs over commit, myself among them. When speaking to several
of my female counterparts, we noticed a common trend. We got involved, rolled up our sleeves, and contributed to our community. However, many of us stuck to areas in which we already had competencies, and we were missing meaningful
opportunities to grow. UNC Carolina Women in
Business conducted a study of club leadership, and we found
that female club leadership was underrepresented in
clubs in traditionally male-dominated industries,
investment banking, private equity, real estate, and corporate finance, for example. More interestingly, the respective boards also lacked diversity
compared to the clubs with female leadership. This finding represents a
larger microcosm of society. Women remain underrepresented
in male-dominated industries. In a recent study it
was found that only 12% of global CFO roles are filled by women. As women MBAs and Forte members, I challenge you to run for
student body president, to be club leaders, to
explore new industries, to do case competitions,
to lead your study teams, and most importantly,
to get uncomfortable. Use your next two years by being willing to dive into areas that you
might not have prior experience, and you will find that
you will undoubtedly grow more than you can ever imagine. With that remember, growth
and comfort do not co-exist. And as important as it
is to get uncomfortable, Meryl Streep said it best with, “What makes you different or
weird, that’s your strength.” Diversity is your strength, bring it. Nowhere is the diversity of thought more important than in business. When I started my MBA
journey, I never thought my gender would play an important role, especially since women in MBA programs are three times more represented
than women in the army. Much to my surprise, I
realized that certain aspects in the army, such as wearing a uniform, equal pay, and even a
formal rank structure made my experience with regards to gender less significant compared to
the nuanced world of business. When someone shook my
hand in business school, instead of seeing an army
captain, they saw a woman. I realized that woven into
the challenges of my gender there were opportunities for
me to leverage my experiences and strengths, and for me, this meant applying my leadership
experience in the army to lead Carolina Women in Business. When you’re on a study team
or in a case competition, and often one of a few
women, seek opportunities to provide a different viewpoint. Your perspective is needed and important. For example, with a significant minority of venture capitalists being women, what opportunities are being missed to make a meaningful
difference in the world because they lack diversity
on their investment teams? It is more important than
ever that we celebrate what makes you unique, whether it’s how you approach a problem,
a unique perspective, or an intense passion. In fact, economists have found that teams that operate in parody are
more creative and productive. The effects of diversity on the
startup world are undeniable where women founded companies
outperform companies founded by men by 63%. I highlight these facts
not to make the argument that women are better than
their male counterparts, but rather to demonstrate that you are an integral part of this equation. Every single one of
you has a unique story. Know your strengths and
vigorously seek opportunities to apply them. So, there will be times
throughout business school when you will question, should I be here? The answer is simple, yes. Business needs more perspective, people questioning the status quo, and most importantly,
people who are willing to use business to make a positive impact. What makes you different
or weird is your strength, so don’t conform, celebrate
how you are different and never stop being uncomfortable. Congratulations on beginning your journey. I can’t wait to see how you own your story in the next two years. (audience cheering and applauding)

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