Influential Leaders

Kelly Schmitt

CEO, Benevity
Recognition Year(s): 2022
Area of Impact: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
School: Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary
Location: Canada

Kelly Schmitt is the CEO of Benevity, a certified B-corporation—one that is verified to have met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and that balances profit and purpose.

At Benevity, Schmitt and her team believe things can always be better, and the areas of diversity and belonging are no exception. To date, two important efforts have been effective at making progress in these areas. First, Schmitt models the behaviors that drive diversity. Second , she recognizes that diversity does not imply inclusion or equity in and of itself; it requires ensuring that diverse voices are heard and that people can show up as their true, authentic selves so that they are free to do their best work.

Schmitt’s team at Benevity comprises 53 percent women—extremely rare at a tech company—and that increases to 60 percent at the executive level. An additional 31 percent of its workforce are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, and 30 percent of its executive team are also in this category.

The harder part, in Schmitt’s view, is inclusion and equity. To ensure all voices are heard, Benevity has employee resource groups and holds discussion groups on topics that raise awareness of bias and oppression. They regularly review pay and promotions, ensuring those are free from gender or ethnicity bias, and Benevity supports #EducationForReconciliation to increase awareness about Indigenous issues. Benevity is also in the process of incorporating training for leaders to support them in hiring for and building inclusive teams.

After growing up on a farm in a small town, Schmitt attended Haskayne, where she served on the Intercollegiate Business Competition strategy team. She credits this experience with taking her out of her finance box and stimulating her to think both more strategically and outside of her comfort zone. 

Schmitt also became president of the Accounting Students Association, where she began to realize that leadership wasn’t about the leader at all: it was about helping others to be their best authentic selves. 

Schmitt inspires future business leaders by being an example of what is possible when you live your values and believe in yourself. She started out in corporate finance in the oil and gas industry, both traditionally male-dominated areas. Schmitt has many memories of being the only woman in the room, when she had not yet found the self-confidence to speak up and have her voice heard. She switched to technology—also typically male-dominated—however, she found two forward-thinking male mentors who walked their own talk on diversity and inclusion.

Schmitt pays it forward through her involvement with the TELUS Spark Science Centre, as a board member and past Finance and Audit Committee chair. The center promotes curiosity, innovation, and collaboration and encourages children and adolescents to pursue higher education and careers in science and technology. Schmitt believes that engaging more children with science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun and experiential way makes it a great place to facilitate learning that will inspire the next generation of leaders in Calgary.