Natalie Butto: Campaigner for Inclusiveness
Natalie Butto, director, corporate counsel at Starbucks Coffee and committed advocate of diversity, has unique roots. Her Italian father came to Honduras and married her Hispanic mother; they moved to New Orleans, where Butto was born. She’s one of a new breed of first-generation Americans who make up the increasingly diverse American landscape.
“Being a first-generation American, I can appreciate the opportunities that are here,” she says, “and how fortunate I am to be in this country.”
According to Butto, she viewed her background as an asset rather than an obstacle, that there “are opportunities in uniqueness.” For example, because of her roots, she is conversant in English, Spanish, and Italian, and has found her multilingual abilities useful, especially her knowledge of Spanish.
The diversity in Butto’s home life led naturally to seeking and promoting diversity in her corporate and volunteer activities.
“It’s almost become like another career,” she jokes. “It’s not officially part of my responsibilities, but I always had an interest, and gravitated toward it as an advocate.”
This interest, coupled with the progressive policies of the two major corporations where she worked—Tropicana Products, Inc. (PepsiCo) and Starbucks Coffee Company—has provided the opportunity for Butto to take an active role.
During Butto’s six-year tenure at Tropicana, she helped create and develop the company’s Multicultural Network and its Women’s Network. Butto also served on the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In addition, she helped form the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) and has served on several non-profit boards, including the national board of governors for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Butto earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Florida International University, and her law degree from Georgetown. Following graduation, she took a position at a small New York City law firm, where she specialized in intellectual property.
While expertise in intellectual property is a valuable asset, Butto wanted to increase her knowledge of the business world, so she obtained an MBA at New York University. It was the perfect preparation for her position as counsel and assistant secretary with Tropicana. Her duties took in both the legal and business arenas, with intellectual property as one component and marketing law another. The job encompassed advertising, sponsorships, international business, and licensing matters.
Among her accomplishments at Tropicana was her role in organizing the company’s Women’s Network Brown Bag Lunch Series and its efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. Butto coordinated Tropicana’s involvement in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a series of runs and walks that raise money for breast cancer research.
Butto has only good things to say about Tropicana’s and Starbucks’ approach to diversity and their desire to serve the public interest. “It’s been a positive experience working with companies that have such a great brand and positive image. They both have a great record on social responsibility,” says Butto.
Broadening the pool, including everyone, and giving them all the same opportunities are the ideal goals, says Butto. But this is not necessarily the case everywhere, she added, and though most everyone is aware of diversity, subtle issues still exist in many places.
“Diversity is not just about gender or ethnic groups,” says Butto. “Everyone’s different, multi-dimensional, and we need to create environments where everyone feels included and comfortable, and this takes time,” she concludes.
Natalie Butto is someone who takes that time.
Tom Calarco is a freelance writer from Schenectady, N.Y. He is the author of The Underground Railroad Conductor, which is available for purchase online at www.travelsthruhistory.com/books.htm, and the newly-published “The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region”.
From the September/October 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®