Stellar Women: Embracing Diverse Teams with Beth Finkle & Corinne Cartwright

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Embracing and celebrating inclusion and diversity is imperative. During this episode of our Stellar Women podcast, BDO’s Beth Finkle and Corinne Cartwright share why embedding inclusion and diversity into their culture is important for them personally as well as for BDO as an enterprise.

I had the opportunity to co-host the episode with Mila and Mary. We chatted with Beth and Corinne on what BDO has done to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and how to instill confidence in yourself when you may be the only female in a pitch meeting or important client call. We also dove into the importance of mentorship and sponsorship and how these individuals can help shape your career and be your voice in the room.

Beth Finkle

Beth Finkle

Director, Business Development

BDO

Corinne Cartwright

Corinne Cartwright

Senior Manager, FTS Managed Services

BDO

Transcript

Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I'm your host, Mary Rechtoris.

Mila Taylor: And I'm your co-host, Mila Taylor.

Nico Marroquin: And I'm your guest co-host, co-host, Nico Marroquin. I'm on Relativity’s sales team based in San Francisco, and I'm super passionate about all things IDB, particularly when it comes to talking about elevating women in tech.

MT: And we are so happy to have you on Nico. This will be a really fun episode. Just a reminder that Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech.

MR: Nico, excited to have you here. And for our listeners, we have a full crew here on our Zoom call in addition to Nico, Mila, and myself. We are chatting with BDO’s Beth Finkle and Corinne Cartwright. So, hey, Beth and Corinne; thanks for joining us today.

Beth Finkle: Hi there. Glad to be with you today.

Corinne Cartwright: Thanks for having us.

MT: As Mary mentioned, we have not only a packed house on the Zoom, but we have a ton of questions that we want to get through so I'm going to jump right in. Beth, I'll start with you, because we've actually chatted with you before. During Relativity Fest, Stellar Women did a session with Women in e-Discovery and it was super well received. I'm really excited to be continuing the conversation here with you. On a personal level, why is diversity important to you?

BF: Well, diversity, for me, it's important because—I think I said it in the last one—equality, fairness, and justice are the fundamental rights that all human beings deserve, regardless of their country of origin, their race, their gender, or sexual orientation. When you look at this historic year celebrating 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, women are certainly in a better position from 100 years ago. Yet, there's still a lot of work to be done. I am personally committed to the important work that needs to get done by continuing the conversations on why diversity matters and walking the talk, embracing the differences, and having conversations with my friends, with family, and doing outreach within our communities and at work.

MT: Great. Thanks for sharing—and Corinne, we will jump over to you.

CC: For me, diversity is really important, I think, mostly in terms of bringing people together and understanding people's different backgrounds and ideas. I find that no matter what project I'm working on, whether it's an internal project to get something done or a client-facing project or project in my own community helping out with the Girl Scouts or something of that nature, when we have multiple different perspectives coming into any sort of problem-solving activity, it seems like you get a much more wide-ranging perspective on what the solutions to that problem can be. I think without doing that, if we're all looking at the same people that are just like us and yessing everybody to death and getting all of the exact same ideas over and over again, we're not growing. We're not changing, and we're not coming up with new, creative ways to solve problems. That's from everything as simple as the projects that we work on to larger political movements. So, you know, just like Beth said, [we should be] embracing everyone and making sure that we're embracing their perspectives. That's been important for me as well in my career.

NM: Corinne, are there any moments in your career that stand out as to reasons why this has become a priority for you in particular as a leader in the space?

CC: I would [say it was] during a presentation that I did to a law firm when we were pitching. We were in our RFP meeting. I was one of two females in the room. You know, there was a lot of really tough questions coming from a lot of senior partners who were very homogenous. I don't know if it's because we were women or if it's because of other experiences in our lives, but we were able to answer the questions in a way that made them think a little bit differently than the way they would have thought. We ended up winning that bid. I didn't give the answer that everybody else gave, or the answer that I thought maybe that they wanted. I gave the answer that was our solution to a more complicated problem.

MR: Women often face kind a double-edged sword, right? If you communicate too assertively, you're categorized in a negative light. But if you're soft-spoken and defer to others, then you're not competent. So, did you learn from Women in e-Discovery or other female leaders on how to navigate those waters when it comes to communicating effectively without letting people's perceptions impact your career?

BF: What I realized is that I have a lot of information. I know a lot, but I know I have a lot to learn. I legitimately deserve to be in the room. Have that confidence and never lose sight of who you are. Start with that and embrace that; I think that is very telling. It's very apparent to others in the room when you walk in there knowing you deserve to be there. You have something to share with. You have knowledge. You have experience. You are there for a reason. So, I think that I spend a lot of time coaching women about finding their voice and tapping into that—whatever that voice is, so that they can feel confident at these meetings. I will add to what Corinne said earlier … having the broad, broad kinds of women within WiE and in the industry was really game changing for me. I love technology, but I don't profess to know it. I always wanted to learn from others. I was fascinated. I have this innate curiosity about what people did and I learned a lot from them. In turn, I was able to pass that forward. So, yes, I think being able to assert yourself and not worry about what others are going to think. I think you have to enter a room and just have that confidence that you deserve to be there. You have the skills and the knowledge to be present and to speak up. You can't worry about what the other person is thinking. To Corinne’s point, she didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. She led with what she knew was the best solution for them and she won the deal.   

CC: I'll piggyback on the that point on the sort of double-edged sword that women face, right? You don't want to be pushy and bossy, but I don't like to be in a room with a man who’s pushy or bossy either. It's about having an honest conversation. If you have that voice and you have that confidence, your ideas will come out better. It's very difficult to get your ideas out when you're so nervous or you're so worried about what other people are thinking or what you're wearing. So, have that confidence and be prepared. Preparing yourself in advance, whether that's what you're going to wear—make sure you're not standing around for nine hours in really uncomfortable shoes. We’ve all been there. Make sure you're prepared and know that you do have value. Your information might be very different from what somebody else is thinking. So, speak up. We want to hear it; sit up and be confident and make sure you're telling your story and you're contributing in a way that you feel good about.

MR: Preparation is always helpful, because if you feel like you know what you're talking about and you do know what you're talking about, it instills that confidence in you versus if you walk in kind of unsure about what you want to articulate to that room.

CC: I learned that one early in my career. Winging it a couple of times, you don't feel so good about it.

MR: The one time that it doesn't actually work, you're like, “Alright, that's enough.”

MT: The worst is that you’ve had a poor conversation and then later in the day, when you're in your car or showering, you have it so much better in your head. You wish you could just be like, “Wow, why can’t I be this smart and this articulate person?”

MR: You text the person: “To my earlier response, I want to amend it slightly…”

NM: So, Beth, on a macro level, why is BDO making IDB be a priority?

BF: It's a factor of who our leader is. Our CEO is so invested in ensuring that we all have the opportunities, we have the job training. We just completed leadership training, and a big portion of that was all about diversity and inclusion in terms of why it's important, how to recognize it, how to be respectful … So, to me, that commitment starts from the top down.

NM: And, I think it's one thing—and it seems like this is a hot topic across many companies—it's one thing to talk about it. But the fact that there's actual action being done is great to see. Can you just talk about where you are specifically in your journey toward becoming a more inclusive and diverse culture, and the steps you're taking to further this effort within BDO or within your network or community?

CC: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m new to BDO so I’m connecting, understanding, and meeting all of these new people who are now my colleagues. I can say that, you know, almost everybody that I talked to is super smart, mostly smarter than me. And I always think it's better to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are. And it brings you further. BDO is committed to diversity and inclusion; there are people whose first language isn't English, there are people of different colors, people of different backgrounds, people in different countries, and people in different time zones. And it's just fascinating to work with them and to be intentional about it. Let’s make sure we're including everyone on not just the work things, but other stuff such as an afternoon happy hour. And I'll say there's a great group here in Atlanta. We inherently have a very diverse community in population, but also at BDO. We have some great conversations around diversity and inclusion and intentionally not missing those sessions. You know, your calendar gets busy. You have a million trainings that you have to do and all the client calls, but it’s about making sure you take out time to attend them.

MR: You hear from people who might not know a lot about the benefits of diverse teams, that it's just like fluff or like the feel-good stuff that doesn't have an impact and your day-to-day work takes precedent. But this is really a part of what makes teams, individuals, and companies successful. It's not fluff—like, this is important work and the research shows that. I think that's a really good point that it shouldn't be something like, “Oh, I guess I'll have time. I can make it happen.” You should try to go because they’re just as, if not more, important than a meeting on a deliverable or a project.

NM: Yeah, and I think sometimes, what might be fluff to some people is reality to others. There can be people in an organization where if they don't feel included or they don't feel like it's a diverse enough work environment, and their work and creativity are actually stifled because they feel as if they don't actually belong. So, the very stuff that people can perceive as fluff is the very fluff that sometimes hold people back, which unintentionally holds companies back from progressing.

CC: I think that's right on Nico. And that's what I want to teach my daughter and women that I mentor. Make sure you invite everyone. So, you know, kindness, really. I think Beth and I talked about that: to be conscious and kind. Maybe someone doesn't feel super confident, and you can tell. They're not speaking up in the meeting. Maybe send them a note after and say, “Hey, I know you're really good at this topic. Did you have any other thoughts that maybe you didn't say at the meeting?”

BF: And, I think that's where the inclusion begins, right? You can have a diverse workforce, but you need to include them in activities, participation, and giving them the opportunity to speak up and share. And we heard that during our training this week. A lot of people are reticent to speak up about the things that they're feeling or the way that they were spoken to. So, [it’s about] actually giving them that platform where they can articulate any sort of issues that they might have had, or challenges, even if it’s something that's in their personal or family life. That's also a struggle for women. And, you know, BDO recognizes that as well, right, with our flex time. And there are so many different things that we can do to improve. I’m just so grateful that we're with a company that has really taken a lead on this and is committed to it. It’s not one-size-fits-all, right? It is something that’s measured. You can tell by your employee retention. You can tell by how you are going to market and the client experiences that you're having. The diverse teams will help to understand the client better. It really is a formula that is so successful. BDO has recognized that formula will help us get closer to our clients and give them the exceptional client experience that they deserve.    

NM: Along with time, I feel like it also takes sponsorship and then folks like Corinne and Beth to move initiatives forward just on the topic of sponsorship in general. Coming from a background where opportunities and access to people wasn't there, for me, finding mentorship and sponsorship within the workplace was crucial to figuring out what type of professional I am and finding my place. Corinne, can you dive into the distinction between the two and any applicable use cases for each?

CC: Yeah, so to me, a mentor is really somebody who's maybe paving the way before me, right? My mentors may be women in higher roles like VPs. I go to them for advice as a sounding board. I recently made a career change and came back to e-discovery. And I called on a lot of my male and female mentors to understand who I am, like you said Nico. They helped me figure out what is important to me and how can I make sure that I take the right steps to get there. In contrast, I think of my sponsors as really a lot of my friends. These are people maybe that I grew up in the industry with. We were working on projects, learning how to produce an Excel in native format. They know my experience and they can sponsor me to their senior leadership to say, “Look, we know she does a good job,” and sponsor me up through the organization. And internally, same kind of thing. [Sponsors are] people that are going to say good things about you behind your back.

NM: I think also those sponsors find opportunities to be able to put you in the right position to see you shine bright immediately. They raise their hand for you because they know that you say yes, and they know that you're the right person for the job.

BF: And to your point, Nico, you can say, “Hey, you know, that person does a great job on this. Why don't I refer her?” And over my career, I've had more work coming from those kinds of referrals from former clients or people that were looking out for me. They knew the kind of strengths that I have, the integrity that I have, and knew that I would do a great job for them in the end. And that trust is developed over time, but it's around a common purpose. Some of my sponsors and people that I sponsored arise sometimes around hobbies. Sometimes it's around friendships, or sometimes it's around success. I don't see it as a formal like, “Oh, will you be my sponsor?” But if I did want one, I think that pre-COVID, I would have invited that person, and I have done this, to coffee. I was very curious about what they did, how they got there, and developed a rapport and a relationship. Now, we have to do that over virtual means. People want to help, so it could be a starting point.

NM: I’ve found a lot of success in asking blatantly my managers in the past, “Hey, if any opportunities come up for this, I'd really like to be considered. I'm not too sure what's going on in terms of initiatives for this, but if this ever does come up and you're privy to those conversations, I would love to just preemptively throw my hat in the ring.”

MT: Thanks for everything that you guys have shared so far. It's been really enjoyable and insightful for me. I hope our listeners are feeling the same thing. I will leave you both with the last question, which is: Any advice for female leaders looking to progress careers in 2021?

CC: I don’t know what 2021 will bring. Certainly, I wasn't ready for 2020. But you know, this has been a bumpy year for me. In terms of 2020 in general being a pandemic, and then I started a new job in 2019 and then got laid off in 2020. In terms of still moving forward and progressing my career, I think my advice would be to lean heavily on your network. Invest in your network. Make sure that you're understanding and contributing to your network and helping each other. I've helped other people that got laid off because I've been in a similar situation. For Women in e-Discovery, I'll give props to them for offering that platform to help women build their network, especially in our space. For 2021, I think it's still going to be difficult. We're going to have to do that virtually still for at least the better part of it. I think we need to power through and make sure you're still attending events. A virtual holiday party won't be nearly as fun as a regular holiday party. But I think we should make sure that we stay connected and engaged.

MR: Definitely won't be as fun. It will be a little different.

BF: I love that, Corinne. I really like the part about passing it forward. We've all been in places this year and places that we never expected to be this year. We’ve had such a fundamental change on how we communicate with each other. And, it doesn't look like we'll be in person for quite a while. Stay connected to your network, find ways to network not just in your industry. Start looking at other organizations. Go to your clients and ask them to network. I worked with someone last year and she had she brought together clients from different regions. It wasn't just where she lived. They were across the country and they were so grateful to talk to somebody that had the same pain points, over wine. So, they ate and had a virtual happy hour. And I thought that was really genius way of connecting people that might not have known each other. She took it to the next level, so kudos to her. But I also think it's a good time for 2021 to sit back, think about your goals, and maybe reset them. Think about enhancing your skills and be aspirational. We never thought that we would be faced with what 2020 gave us. I'm hoping that it taught us to be resilient and to prepare us for the good things that are coming our way. I just want to close with be kind. My mom always taught my sisters and I treat others as you want to be treated. Be kind. Be courteous. It really does go a long way.

MT: I love that. Thanks for sharing, both of you. And, Nico, thank you for being a Stellar Women co-host. It's been really fun to have you on. And Beth and Corinne, thanks for chatting with us. I've really enjoyed it. And I hope you've had a fun time, too.

BF: Thank you for having us.

MR: Thank you both. And for Stellar Women, I'm Mary Rechtoris.

MT: And I'm Mila Taylor.

Both: Signing off.

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