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Kate Byrne: “Build diverse networks”

I am hopeful because I see that more eyes and hearts are opening, more arms are interlocking on behalf of what is a human issue. Everyone is standing together and continuing to do so. I see this movement growing rather than being a passing fancy. This will be our new normal — when something horrific […]

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I am hopeful because I see that more eyes and hearts are opening, more arms are interlocking on behalf of what is a human issue. Everyone is standing together and continuing to do so. I see this movement growing rather than being a passing fancy. This will be our new normal — when something horrific occurs all of our voices gather together to call it out, demand change and continue to do so until we see it done. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We will never, never, never, never quit”.


Aspart of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Kate Byrne.

Kate Byrne is the President of Intentional/SOCAP Global, the purpose-driven platform whose brands Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), SPECTRUMTotal Impact, and Conscious Company Media, are at the intersection of business, meaning, and money. In this role, Byrne brings her deep knowledge of cutting-edge technology, integrative marketing, and digital publishing to generate impactful revenue, create innovative partnerships, lead purpose-driven teams and promote social good.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Igrew up in the house that my grandpa built back in 1928 in a small town in Marin County, CA. The youngest of four, I was a surprise, meaning my closest sibling is nine years my senior. I mention this because it had a tremendous influence in my life and taught me a lot about listening, the power of voice (or the misery of not having that power), and the importance of never underestimating all whom you meet. I had a mom who was ahead of her time who urged me from an early age to travel, be financially independent (gives you choices), be open-hearted and minded, appreciate the wonders of the world and the value of a great sense of humor (it can turn a gray day bright and keep things in perspective.) My Dad was an independent insurance broker who was incredibly gifted with people. He worked hard, but we ate every dinner together and he was the coach of my soccer team. He was diagnosed with depression when I had just graduated from college which taught me a lot about how people can triumph over adversity. They both instilled in me the reality that while by no means wealthy, we had more than some and as such, we had the responsibility to help others by sharing what we could.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Believe it or not, I loved Memoirs of a Geisha. There were three key pieces that struck a chord with me. Resilience: I appreciated the resilience of the protagonist and the practicality that she showed. Power: I enjoyed watching her bloom and step into her power, taking it back from those who had taken advantage of her. I think all too often as women are stepping into power, they tend to have a few energy leaks in their effort to be liked or followed. The age-old issue with being a pleaser. Ownership of her whole-self: As we grow older we come to face the totality of ourselves and learn not to be so quick to judge both others and forgive ourselves for our less than proud moments.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work? I have two actually.

The first is “All who wander are not lost”– this relates to the path I have taken in my career. Far from linear, I’ve addressed my career from a more project or adventure-based orientation. In short, I, a Boomer, was millennial before it was a thing. By doing this, I gathered all of the skills necessary to do my dream job AND I have an enormous network that is both deep and vastThe second quote I live by is “Things happen for me, not to me”. Saying this helps me make space to look at a situation from a bit of a distance, giving my mind a chance to catch up with my heart, seeing that there is a lesson in what is happening, and it is taking place for my highest good. I’m always amazed at how the hiccoughs that initially upset me, were in the long run a huge blessing leading me to something better than I had originally thought up.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

As a leader, my job is to paint a picture of what could be then hand brushes out to my team to help paint the picture. I’m there to ensure that the team has all of the resources they need and clear away obstacles. I work in the service of the team and the overall company itself. There is no task too small for me to do — I roll my sleeves right up and dive in when needed. A good example of this is we recently held our Spectrum event, a 3-day long virtual gathering in service of getting more funding and resources to founders of color. The program had very little visibility. Through my network, I secured a friend of mine, Ellen McGirt, a senior editor at Fortune, and the author of a renowned blog on the race to join as a moderator, she elevated our work tremendously. Separately I brought on my dear friend and PR pro, Diane Stefani and we worked with Sree Sreenivasan, the social media guru, and Jonathan Burton at Marketwatch to cover our work. At the end of the event, we needed to write a blog to announce our 20 Game-Changing Founders of Color awards, but nobody had written one. I wrote that blog in real-time while the award announcement was being made….and no one was the wiser.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

I am a big practitioner of breathwork, mindfulness and yoga. I have a tremendous amount of energy — seriously, you don’t want me on full Caffe- coffee. My husband jokingly says I am my own sun. You can imagine what happens with a dash of stress mixed in. Every morning, I do a series of breathing exercises, meditate for 15 minutes and then journal. I state 3 things I am grateful for, and 3 things I’m excited about. A little mind game I play with myself is I write the very thing I’m stressed about in either the grateful or excited about the column, so I get myself thinking in the manner I suggested in my belief that things happen for me, not to me. I then see in my mind’s eye the positive outcome I want to achieve. I find that this informs me of steps that I need to take to make it so. I also find that it gives me the drive to actually do the steps rather than simply rolling my eyes, declaring, “but I don’t wanna!”. I walk in the woods with my dog to clear my head first thing in the morning and if even for only 10 minutes at the end of the day to “walk the day off”.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I believe we’ve come to this point because FINALLY, we all are realizing that this is a human issue, one for which we are all accountable. It has been all too easy for many to see the news and say oh isn’t that too bad and not do anything about it because it wasn’t actually directly impacting them. All are complicit for doing so. MLK said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” When you see such over the top hatred, violence and injury to another human, day after day, week after week, you seriously cannot continue operating in the old way. COVID19 is a significant player in this because we all were impacted simultaneously. We all had the time to slow down, think and actually become aware of all that was going on and sadly, has been going on forever really in some shape or form. Our children have started speaking out. If they have the eyes, heart and courage to voice the inequity then how is that we the “grown-ups” can’t?

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?

I’ve been working on diversity and inclusion efforts for a while now. Prior to coming to SOCAP Global, I worked with an Australian VR firm to develop a VR experience that uncovers unconscious bias in the workplace. My thinking in developing the experience was that if people had more empathy, and literally had the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of another, they could better address and recognize their unconscious bias in shame and no blame environment. Acknowledgment is the first step towards healing.

At SOCAP Global, we have done a solid job externally building out what has fast become one of the most respected and engaged conversations in building an equitable economy today, our Spectrum initiative. The impact investing world has long been primarily homogenous, lacking color. Through a generous grant from the Kellogg Foundation we successfully built a robust and comprehensive program with multiple touchpoints to engage local, regional, national and global leaders in service of driving resources, be it financial, talent, opportunities and services to founders of color. We will be launching our second annual digital webizine, featuring the top 20 Game-changing Founders of Color this Fall during our SOCAP conference in additional support of the effort. The key to the success of Spectrum is the involvement of the community. This program has been built from the start with the voices and ideas of the community, literally built for the community by the community. Racial equity and social justice have always been a part of the conversation at our annual SOCAP 4-day gathering. Spectrum gives us the chance to really do a deep and broad dive. We’re able to address all stakeholders, public, private, academicians, artists, investors, students — it’s truly a multi-stakeholder conversation.

We are doing our best to leverage our platform and educate our community about the many facets of diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve begun a webinar series discussing equity both from an individual lens and that of a company. We’ve held a great conversation with Aaron Clark, CEO of Equity Solutions as well as delved into the next phase of diversity and inclusion, equitable organizational design, with Aubrey Blanche, Director of Equitable Design, at Culture Amp. Finally, we are looking to hold a summer film fest sharing the Fundamental film series, created by the Global Fund for Women so as to address the situation from a global angle.

As a company, we were in the process of building out our small team with diversity in mind, as well as hold anti-oppression training when COVID19 hit. As soon as our hiring is able to begin, we continue the work we had started which includes casting a broader net, engaging others in the process. We are actively building our board with a diverse lens activated.

COVID19 has forced a fast pivot to the virtual theater. We embrace this as a huge opportunity for us to get voices that were previously unattainable to be among us and have our events more accessible to the community at large. We have adjusted our pricing model along with increasing our scholarships so that the point of entry is more accessible.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

It’s the smartest practice a business can have as it drives the greatest innovation, builds the strongest foundation, and will result in not only solid financial results (the enhanced performance results of those companies with diverse boards, leadership teams, and employees is well chronicled now) but attract and retain great talent. In order to be relevant in today’s world, your business needs to reflect its customer base. It also drives cost savings as companies with greater diversity are healthier (lower absenteeism which impacts productivity) and happier overall. As leaders, we need to be seeing opportunities and challenges from as many vantage points as possible. A diverse team brings to light aspects of a business missed by those with a homogenous base.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society.” Kindly share a story or example for each.

1 . Acknowledge there is a problem and vow to do something about it. Get active:

Personally/Start early — Learn about the issues at hand, read books, articles, social network groups, support products, stores, restaurants owned by people of color. Have conversations with your children and share what you’ve learned so that as they go out into the world they come from a place of empathy, compassion, informed belonging. Girls Leadership, a terrific non-profit, has done some great research demonstrating the change possible through early intervention.

Professionally — Make equity a regular part of your all team conversations. Start a DEI task force to ensure this is a part of your company DNA. This group can help the overall organization finds ways to get active in the community. Set regular check-ins and have the question, “Did I do something that made you feel that you did not belong?” This will give you real-time feedback on how those around you are experiencing you. It will help you uncover blind spots and inform you of unintended microaggressions. Words matter!

Financially — Review your investment portfolio if you have one, companies review your 401K plans and make sure that a portion is going towards companies lead by founders of color. Donate to an organization that is working to build true equity.

Community — Volunteer and support racial equity efforts, be it marches, campaigns and other advocacy opportunities. Demonstrate your form of activism — ping or ring a city official. Attend a city council meeting and get involved in local efforts to ensure all are recognized.

Nationally — VOTE!!!

2. Build diverse networks — Every profession and industry have networks, some are racially-based. Form partnerships, do joint programming, cross mentor one another. The impact will be palpable. Make sure that any organization that you sit on the board of practice this as well.

3. Conduct pay audits and adjust accordingly — Katica Roy, the wise gender economist shares shocking inequities regularly. Black women on average make .61 cents to every white person’s 1 dollar. Over her lifetime she will lose roughly 950,000 dollars — close to 1 million dollars. This has to stop. Her Latina sisters are not much better. This very well will not be able to happen overnight, but you will need to build a plan as to how to get there. Execute that plan and share the results of your progress internally and with your board.

4. Practice diverse hiring practice: Keep in mind that diversity goes beyond race and gender:

Blind CV review — No pictures, this will diminish potential gender and racial bias.

Diverse hiring committee — Make sure that your hiring team is diverse in and of itself, taking in to account the broadest definition of diversity — gender/race/senior/junior staff members/introverts/extroverts

5. Pay it forward — when somebody approaches you with an opportunity, be it a job, speaking, blogging, interview, suggest a person of color you know so that their needs, their voice, their perspective is elevated and heard.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am hopeful because I see that more eyes and hearts are opening, more arms are interlocking on behalf of what is a human issue. Everyone is standing together and continuing to do so. I see this movement growing rather than being a passing fancy. This will be our new normal — when something horrific occurs all of our voices gather together to call it out, demand change and continue to do so until we see it done. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We will never, never, never, never quit”.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are two actually. Michelle Obama whose mind, authenticity and sense of humor (and let’s be real her amazing sense of style) I admire greatly.

The other would be Oprah Winfrey. As a fellow woman in media, I admire how she has built her business and love the way she grew it by including her spirituality and humanity. These are two very real people who kept it very real as they became more public. They didn’t lose themselves. Humility and grace personified.

How can our readers follow you online? I’m at @kbs2cents on twitter, https://www.linkedin.com/in/katebyrne/ on LinkedIn

https://www.facebook.com/kate.n.byrne.3 on Facebook

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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