As a director at Charter School Business Management Inc. (CSBM), Michelle Lopez oversees a team of financial consultants who manage in excess of $150 million of public funds for the clients they serve. Because she believes strongly in her clients’ missions, Lopez goes above and beyond the norm for a financial service provider by serving as a financial thought partner for school leaders and board members, helping them make sound financial decisions.

In addition to ongoing team coaching, Lopez provides crucial professional development focused on fiscal management. She also trains and mentors less-seasoned finance and operations staff members, so that they become comfortable with complex charter school finances. Through these endeavors, she has been able to share her knowledge and have an even greater impact on the charter schools and the communities they serve.

When asked her views on diversity and inclusion, Lopez had this to say, “Diversity is something I never much paid attention to until I came to CSBM. At this company, I’ve seen that having people with different backgrounds, perspectives and thought processes is a true asset. Seeing different cultures and experiences represented in one place signals automatically that difference is accepted here and you will fit in. For me, it means that I never worry about being judged based on my gender, culture or religion. It means all of us can focus on doing our best work.

“Being female is just my gender and my anatomy. Being Puerto Rican is just my culture and where I was born. Neither of these things dictates my ability or potential. To me, believing this is true for all people is the essence of inclusion.”

Eighty percent of the people on Lopez’s team are women, and she offers them each this advice as they follow their respective career paths, “Believe in yourself, and do not shy away from speaking up or dealing with difficult situations. A firm handshake, eye contact and confidence will have you owning a room. Don’t worry about how you look.”