Forte Connect
Leadership

Forté Salutes Charlie Burnett, Veteran and 2019 Edie Hunt Award Winner

Charlotte “Charlie” Burnett – Forté’s 2019 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award winner – is an associate banker at J.P. Morgan Private Bank and lives in New York City, but her life hasn’t always been as glamorous as it sounds now. Growing up outside Raleigh, NC as the second of nine children, Charlie helped raise her younger siblings, instilling in her a deep sense of responsibility. She jokes that although she has never given birth, she already has five children. “I was a little adult at a young age,” she explains.

With parents who served in the military, service was always at the forefront of her mind.  After applying for an ROTC scholarship at Wake Forest University, she received four-year tuition, room, and board for free. Sensing that law school was her calling, Charlie majored in political science and international affairs to build strong critical thinking skills.

The Army: Laying a foundation of leadership

First, she had to fulfill her obligation to the US Army – four years of active duty at Fort Bragg, NC. At the time, women were only allowed to choose non-combat positions, and being a self-described “people person,” Charlie included Human Resources in her list of preferences.

Her first role was as a Human Capital strategic analyst, in which she reviewed large quantities of data to make sure 25,000 personnel were meeting the needs of the command. Her second role was managing a team of 10 people who were responsible for the HR operations of a 500-person battalion.

Looking back, Charlie realizes that she was given a tremendous amount of responsibility at age 22 and that it will likely take longer for her to gain that level of leadership in the business world. She credits her military experiences – “they throw you in and expect you to be a leader” – with helping her boost her leadership skills at a young age.

She also emphasizes the role that values play in the military, which she says, “are part of my DNA now.”

Kenan-Flagler: Serving women (and men) while getting her MBA

After her commitment to the Army was complete, Charlie’s leadership skills served her well when she decided against law school and chose to get an MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. “I came across an article about the ROI of an MBA,” she explains, “so it was a value decision” to attend business school.

Having built a women’s mentorship program at Fort Bragg and knowing that female representation at business schools was low, Charlie was immediately drawn to the Carolina Women in Business group. Friends encouraged her to run for president of the Carolina WIB, which she says “was one of the best experiences of my young career.”

It wasn’t easy – she had a board of 18, many with competing priorities, but that was perfect training for developing business leadership skills. Charlie oversaw Carolina WIB as it put on 75 events throughout the year in addition to an annual conference, the largest student-run event at Kenan-Flagler.

Charlie’s proudest accomplishment is re-branding the Carolina WIB so that it was more welcoming and encouraging of men to participate. “A challenge of women’s organizations sometimes is coming across as genuine but not overly feminine. We wanted both men and women to feel comfortable in approaching conversations,” she says.

Under her leadership, the male allies program at Kenan-Flagler produced some very successful events, and male participation at WIB events increased 15 percent.

J.P. Morgan Private Bank: Continuing her pursuit of gender equality

Since graduating last spring from Kenan-Flagler, Charlie says that gender equality remains a top-of-mind issue for her. As a new associate at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Charlie is grateful to work for a company whose values match her own.

She gives much credit to Forté for her decision to go into finance. “Forté aligns with everything I believe in – increasing the representation of women in male-dominated businesses,” she explains.

She believes strongly that it is important for young women to see more women in business and in positions of leadership. For Charlie, the MBA was not only a fast-track to leadership, but it also gave her, as she says, “a new language that is so important to the world we live in.”

A favorite quote of Charlie’s is “Always push outside your comfort zone.” With a new job, new city, and new experiences, she is sure to continue her path of changing the status quo and creating more gender equality in the workplace.

We salute Charlie and all veterans: Happy Veterans Day.

Learn more about the Edie Hunt Inspiration Award.

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