The chief operating officer for MUFG Union Bank Foundation, Kathy Patoff creates partnerships with communities, volunteers and bank employees to meet goals for stabilizing and revitalizing underprivileged communities. She promotes social equity in foundation-supported activities and enterprises, and fosters a community-focused culture at the Foundation. Her colleagues describe her as “an inclusive and inspiring leader. Her devotion for serving the underserved population demonstrates her community commitment, as well her engagement with inclusion and diversity.”

Patoff’s two decades at the intersection of San Diego’s public, private and nonprofit sectors have focused on serving vulnerable, low-income and multicultural populations. Since assuming the role of COO a year and a half ago, she has helped refine the Foundation’s philanthropic strategy, improved the grant process for both the Foundation and grantees, and engaged more bank employees in hands-on community building. “I strive to distinguish linchpin needs, viable solutions, effective partnerships and substantive outcomes from the greater clamor of activities and expectations,” she explains.

When asked about her greatest professional accomplishment to date, Patoff tells this story: “I encouraged our Foundation Board and local business line leaders to direct philanthropic resources to start an in-prison entrepreneurship program. It’s controversial, risky, and quite unusual in financial services, but such efforts are much needed,” she says. “It’s easy to espouse broad principles about diversity and compassion, but more difficult to stand behind them with deeds and resources. We did.”

For Patoff, diversity and inclusion means harmonizing different voices and perspectives, so individuals can feel and act more effectively as one. Diversity also means inviting and respecting different backgrounds and perspectives, which leads to questioning assumptions. That questioning leads to innovation. And innovation affects the bottom line.

Patoff says that, when it came to growing professionally, she was her own greatest obstacle. “I’m slowly learning to find, hear and heed my own voice.”

Beyond her personal philosophy of “Do your best,” Patoff shares these nuggets of wisdom with other women who are building careers: “Find mentors. Ask for help. Be patient with yourself and others. And, stay true to that which matters most to you.”