We asked Katie Burke, COO at The Corporate Governance Institute, to share with us some insights on her experiences and how she draws inspiration from the environment around her, role models she had during her careers, practices or approach she has taken in their organisation to create a more inclusive workplace, and what does the slogan “Embrace Equity” means to her.
Katie Burke is Chief Operating Officer at The Corporate Governance Institute where she leads the product development, operations and talent development teams. Prior to this, Katie was a senior manager at the Centre for Effective Services where she played a lead role in scaling the organisation, building the team and developing partnerships. Katie also worked in strategy and management consulting in Ireland and France with financial services, healthcare, public sector and non-profit clients. Katie is an experienced board member of national and international organisations and author of many guides on implementation, used in policy and services in Ireland and internationally.
Voltedge: What is your current role and how long you have held this position?
Katie: I am Chief Operating Officer at The Corporate Governance Institute, where I lead the product development, operations and talent development teams. I started in this role last summer.
The Corporate Governance Institute is the global leader in the education of existing and aspiring boardroom directors. We work with leading board members and industry practitioners to create and deliver world-class education and certification for the modern board director. We are based in Ireland. The people who take our courses come from all over the globe and over 50% are women. All courses are available online, providing flexible options for our busy delegates.
Voltedge: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Katie: I regularly draw inspiration from the teams I work with. So now, I am inspired regularly by the ingenuity, optimism and ‘get on with it’ attitude of my colleagues in The Corporate Governance Institute. It amazes me what they achieve and what problems they can solve in such a short timeframe – and usually with a smile and a sense of humour. In my previous roles, I often took inspiration from smart, truly dedicated people working in the client organisations I engaged with, be they clinicians, public servants or non-profit leaders.
Voltedge: During the course of your career, was there a role model or mentor that stands out for you?
Katie: There are a few fabulous women who have been role models for me – although I’m not sure they know it! Several years ago, I worked closely with a senior executive in one of the Health Boards who is now chief executive of one of the largest local authorities. I learned a huge amount from her about navigating complex political environments sensitively when delivering major initiatives, knowing how and when to stand your ground and when to compromise. She also juggled a growing family with a full-on job, in a very open way.
My previous boss, Nuala Doherty, is also one of my role models and she continues to be a sounding board and friend. She is super smart, tough as nails, great at connecting up things and people and at finding a way through murky waters. And she is also warm and understanding. She engenders a huge sense of loyalty and belief amongst the people who work with her.
Voltedge: What does the slogan ‘Embrace Equity’ mean to you?
Katie: This visual, which I came across a few years ago, about the difference between equality and equity, summarises what I think in terms of ‘embracing equity’
What’s the difference between equity and equality…
For me ‘Embracing Equity’ in a work context means supporting each individual with their individual circumstances to enable them to achieve similar outcomes to others. This means we can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach and we need to have flexibility and options for people. It is also important to be transparent about the options so everyone knows what options are available.
Voltedge: What practices or approach have you taken in your organisation to create a more inclusive workplace?
Katie: At The Corporate Governance Institute, I am so enjoying working with a plethora of smart enthusiastic women and men from Ireland, India, Brazil, Bosnia, the UK and France. It is a diverse workplace and we are fortunate to have a team that values diversity and inclusion.
As a company, we are very conscious that we need to pay attention to our policies, our practices and our language to ensure they work for different members of the team, with different needs and priorities at different stages in their life. Often this means offering a range of options to staff and having some flexibility in how they are implemented.
Voltedge: What is your favourite quote and why?
Katie: I love this verse from the American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman, who advocates for the environment, racial justice and gender equality. At the age of 22, she delivered the poem ‘The hill we climb’ at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January 2021. This is the final verse of that poem and it really resonates with me:
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.