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Saint Mary’s alumna examines women in the workforce

| Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Saint Mary’s alumna Mary Burke presented as a keynote speaker on women in the workforce for the College’s 11th annual Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference (DSLC) on Monday.

20160404, 20160404, Caitlyn Jordan, Rice Commons, SMC DSLC Keynote SpeakerCaitlyn Jordan | The Observer

According to the Student Diversity Board’s website, Burke, who graduated in 1985, has had over 25 years of investment banking experience within the food industry. She specializes in financial restructuring, recapitalizations, turnarounds, private and public placements of debt and equity capital, as well as providing corporate finance and strategic advisory services. She is currently a founding partner of Lakeshore Food Advisors, LLC.

In her talk, she said there is more to a career than just the money made.

“Sure, we work to make some money … but I think another way to look at it is, we are all looking for meaning, engagement, challenge and satisfaction,” she said.

She credits her conceptions of being female in a male-dominated field as stemming from advice that a former boss gave Burke when she was one of the only women in her field, she said.

“My boss pulled me aside and said, ‘Mary, there are not really many women in the work you are doing. So whatever you do, people are going to remember,’” Burke said. “So I took that to heart, because there really are few women that I work with. Most of the clients that hire me are men.

“I still believe today that if I work hard, maybe a little harder than others, and am a little better than others … that it will be remembered,” Burke said.

According to Burke, women have to work harder to prove themselves in order to thrive in a male-dominated work world.

“Whatever you want to do, hard work is what brings promotion and satisfaction,” she said. “No one deserves to be promoted or receive a pay raise without hard work.”

The U.S. women’s soccer team and their recent lawsuit demanding higher pay exemplifies this point, Burke said.

“Had these women complained and sued four years ago and really hadn’t proven themselves, they would not have been as well-heard as they are today,” she said. “Work rewards are not going to come to you for just showing up. You need to work hard, and find some meaning in it.”

“ … It’s the only way because, I will tell you, there are women I have worked with over the years who will complain and bellyache about this and that,” she said. “Just if you work harder on this or that — try a little harder — you get the work done and you’re going to succeed. And that goes a long way.”

Burke believes the gender gap between careers will vanish someday, but only if the conversation continues, she said.

“We have to keep talking about it,” she said. “We have to make an effort. When you’re the boss, make sure you pay people equally. You have to pay it forward. I think what the U.S. women’s soccer team did was great, but they didn’t do it when they were nobody. They got really good, and then got to pay it forward for the rest of us. I think those conversations are important.”

However, Burke said the data regarding differences between pay for men and women needs to be examined critically.

“I think we have to look at the data, too, because I do sometimes think a lot of women are in nursing, education, social sciences, while the pay for those jobs is not necessarily the same as in investment banking, which is almost all guys,” she said. “So we have to be careful with the data. But the men and women who are nurses, they deserve the same pay for the same work.”

Other keynote speakers Kristi Pellegrini and Bree Newsome will speak Tuesday as part of the Conference.

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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