Loyola University Chicago

Loyola Business Leadership Hub

Housed in the Quinlan School of Business

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Mary Burke

Mary Burke

What has been your greatest challenge in your family business and as a family leader?

First and foremost, is the challenge of protecting the family – both individuals and the relationships – from the business. and second, is protecting the business from the family. The foundation for addressing both must include transparency, authentic inclusion, perception of fairness, and excellent communications.

What advice would you give a young woman who isn’t going to work for the family business, but wants to stay connected and informed to be able to potentially take on a leadership role within the family?

Invest the time to be knowledgeable about the business; cultivate good relationships with family members who are leaders in the business; identify ways to be involved – start small; be reliable and successful in those efforts; and make sure those family members with influence are aware of your long term interest.

What advice would you give women to encourage them to be stronger; more confident leaders in the workplace and in life?

Be bold. Be brave. Be you. Stretch your comfort zone, be willing to fail, learn and bounce back, don’t do it alone – build up your support squad, believe in yourself and realize the true value is in the journey.

What is your best tip for women trying to find their place in their family business?

Every family business is different so i won’t narrow it to one tip: develop great personal communications skills, ask for advice, and don’t let your role in the business define you.


Mary is the CEO and founder of Building Brave, a non-profit organization dedicated to women and girls discovering and being their most confident selves. She is on the board of the Burke Foundation, Madison Board of Education, Morgridge Institute of Research and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation.  She co-founded the Avid/Tops College Preparation Program which supports over 1,000 students as they aspire to earn a college degree. In 2014, she became the first woman to win the nomination for governor of Wisconsin from a major party. She has held leadership positions in private, public and nonprofit sectors as vice president of finance for intrepid corporation, director of European operations for Trek Bicycle, and Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce.  Mary earned her BS in business administration at Georgetown University and her MBA from Harvard University.