On Nov. 9 at lunch, students gathered in the Alan Harvey Theater to hear founder and CEO of Nia Global Solutions Kristin Hull speak about women and diversity in organizations’ leadership, and investments and financing. The event was organized through a partnership between Voice Cooperative (VOCO) lead by seniors Genevieve Raushenbush and Maya Guzdar, and Feminism club led by seniors Katie Fraser and Ko Narter.
Senior Madison Kunke, who attended Hull’s talk, said that it was worth it.
“The talk was extremely interesting and brought new ideas to the table,” Kunke said. “Many people either agreed, disagreed, or had some slightly different opinions on the matter. This lead to great discussions inside the classroom and outside the classroom.”
In addition to her work at Nia Global Solutions, Kristin Hull is a financial planner, the founder the North Oakland Community Charter School, and also writes for her blog called Money Dula. She has a PhD in Urban Education from the University of California, Berkeley, and her organization provides investors with the opportunity to use the power of their investment account to seek financial gain, and to help provide innovative solutions for people and the planet, according to the Nia Global Solutions website.
Senior Katie Fraser said it was interesting having a Piedmont parent, specifically a woman, talk about becoming financially successful in Piedmont.
“We’ve been kind of conditioned to think that someone who handles financials would be a man pretty much,” Fraser said. “I think it’s important to give women a voice, particularly women who are talking about being successful locally, here.”
Hull began her talk by asking students in the audience what questions they have. Then, she said that because her dad set up and ran a business in his garage, she was exposed to economic concepts at a young age.
“Puts, calls, and commodities were a part of my vocabulary,” Hull said to the audience.
Hull said that before founding the North Oakland Community Charter school and Nia Global Solutions organization, and before her financial market work, she was a teacher. She said that before that, she was involved in PHS leadership as a high schooler.
“I was the kid that said, ‘Piedmont’s got enough chairs and benches and whatnot, and at that time there was a big famine in Ethiopia. Kids were starving and dying,” Hull said. “I said ‘I’m fine giving a gift to Piedmont High School, but I want to raise a lot of money for kids that really don’t have it’, and that was my activist self in high school.”
Hull said she started off as a teacher, and then successfully managed loans, partnerships, and creative financing with others to build, renovate, and run the North Oakland Community Charter school she founded.
“At the end [of completing the school] people said, ‘Kristen how did you do that?’, and I just said, ‘Well, I just talked to people and I got a bank loan’, and it became apparent to me in that moment that I felt really comfortable with financial institutions.”
Hull said her organization Nia Global Solutions is named after the Swahili word ‘nia’, meaning intention and purpose, and that the purpose of the company is to help people to feel more connected to their choices around money. It has six solution themes, including investment in healthcare companies and clean energy companies.
“By putting my money into anything, that’s where it grows,” Hull said. “I want to grow the things I care about which are the solutions, and to me that means diversity in leadership.”
Senior Michael Blake attended the talk and said that the most important thing he learned was Hull’s opinion on why diversity is important.
“She said that ‘Everyone has blind spots, and diversity of thoughts, experiences, and perspectives eliminate that,’” Blake said.
Hull said that research has shown that diverse teams are more innovative and lucrative, and that all the companies that Nia Global Solutions invests in are diverse and have women in leadership. She also said that individuals can invest in specific causes.
“Each one of us is an investor,” Hull said. “You get to chose the cell phone and the carrying company. You get to vote where all the profits go to.”
For example, Hull said that her bank is the Beneficial State Bank located in Oakland.
“Beneficial State Bank has an awesome woman leader and a diverse team. They loan to projects in our community to people of color doing awesome work, to women, to small businesses,” Hull said.
Overall, Hull said that there are opportunities for creating good change and impact, including through the investments you chose to make.
“We have that privilege to go out and start what we want,” Hull said to the audience. “I want to help you feel empowered to do that.”