Catherine’s Circle: Kim Bartley, CMO, White Castle

Kim Bartley, White Castle CMO.jpg

Author: Catherine Tabor

I have been thrilled with the response to Catherine’s Circle, a place where we acknowledge people who have supported us and shed light on their unique stories. We’ve had great feedback from you, our readers, and from the women we feature. You can check out past features like Kim Eaton, the Vice Chairman of the Board at Aptean or Rhoda Olsen, the Chair of the Board at Great Clips.

Today’s profile is of Kim Bartley, the CMO at White Castle. Kim has an incredible background as a CMO and a professor and is committed to using her power for good, paving the way for more women in leadership and more equality in the workplace. Let’s dive in.

Catherine: I understand you teach Consumer Sciences at The Ohio State University. How did you get involved in that and why is it important to you?

Kim: I graduated from OSU with my MBA and got involved on the University advisory board to the Hospitality Management program. This combination led to an offer to take over a class when a professor retired. So, this is my 7th semester teaching.

There are two primary reasons I do it. First - As a marketing professional, I have live Millennial and Gen Z groups to talk to and watch and learn from every week and that interaction is 'free' except for my time. The second is more personal. I love this industry and want those in it to enjoy it as much as I do and have as much success.  

Catherine: Have mentors played a role in your career? 

Kim: Yes, the key one was here at White Castle, my early boss, the COO. He encouraged me, trusted me and advocated for me during our ten years together. He would listen and ask questions, never dictate. Through that process I learned how to think better, to make better decisions about leading people and how to better work with others. 

Catherine: How have women mentors played a role in your career?

Kim: I have had women peers give me great advice but not a person I could call a woman mentor like we describe in mentoring today. I was the 'first' woman in many roles and so busy with my family that finding women for that role was difficult, plus there were very few to choose from. I use that experience, however, to help others have better options than I did. 

Catherine: What’s the best piece of career or life advice you ever received?

Kim: I've made plenty of mistakes that have shaped my life and career and practice the mantra - learn from your mistakes and don't repeat them, both personally and professionally. What others did for me was help me with the learning and correcting along the way. I've gotten professional counseling to help in the toughest times and that counseling helped me remember how much was my choice, helping give me back control instead of giving into the circumstances I felt were affecting my perspective on life and career. 

Catherine: How do you pay your mentoring experiences forward?

Kim: I am now mentoring about 6 individuals at their request; most are for short periods of time and mostly college or post-college aged. I do a lot of networking on many people's behalf to open doors or connect them to what or whoever might give them direct and tangible support. 

Catherine: Do you have a quote or philosophy that guides your career decisions?

Kim: It’s hard to put one thought together on that but I think I act as follows - If you are a not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I'm a person who continually learns, is curious and contrarian in many ways to stereotypes. My philosophy is to provide equal opportunity; it means equal chances to learn followed by equal responsibility and accountability for your choices once you have had an opportunity. 

Catherine: What can we do to support more #WomeninTech and female leaders?

Kim: Be open to learn from the cultural work experiences and provide solutions, not just identify the problem. As I've noted, the learning is there to find, the stories are ready to be told. Now what? Developing solutions which include more than 'policies' and corporate apologies must be the next step.

It is now time to take my experiences and the experiences of others and provide ways to develop approaches to embracing diversity in the workplace. These are tough conversations to have about the differences between flirting and harassing, between equal opportunity, skills development and diversity planning and so much more and it is often not transparent to our teams just how tough it is to discuss. Leadership must embrace from the top of that unconscious bias and recognize situations preventing those doors of opportunity from being opened to all will not be tolerated.

Catherine: How do you de-stress after a long day? 

Kim: I love murder mysteries (I'm a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society) so my husband and I will watch a foreign show and proceed to identify together the 'who did it' as it unfolds.  

Catherine: How do you celebrate your achievements?

Kim: I'll send a note to my husband, my biggest advocate, friend and supporter.