WONDER WOMEN 18. RENÉE BEAUMONT.
I am a Canadian New Yorker. I believe in equality, inclusion and honesty. I have been a national team volleyball player, a lawyer, an investor, an advocate, and a fundraiser. I currently work at a firm that focuses on sustainable investing. I am a long-time member of the Public Theater Board of Trustees, and I sit on the advisory board of NYU Stern’s Business and Human Rights department as well as the organic meal delivery company – Sakara Life. I am the founder of Radical Mind.Set. I believe in the power of love. I believe in trying to do the right thing by people and our planet. I have failed (many times) and I have succeeded (occasionally). And last but not least, I believe that it is never too late to be the person you want to be.
What prompted you to start Radical Mind.Set.™? Where did the idea of the t-shirts come from?
I picked the name Radical Mind.Set. before I knew what I really wanted to do with it, to be perfectly honest. I knew I wanted to focus on bringing people together in a positive way and changing—or at least reframing—how people looked at certain issues. I believe that if you can open people’s minds and get people to have empathy for other people’s views—even if you ultimately disagree—you can change people’s mindsets. And if you can change mindsets, you can change the world.
The t-shirts began as a way to take action and to try and make a small difference in this somewhat crazy world we are living in right now. I found it so disturbing that in a country founded by immigrants, "immigrant" had somehow become a bad word. I wanted to change that. My hope was to show that immigrants come in all different shades, ages, genders, religions, sizes and shapes. I wanted to show that immigrants are your neighbors, your friends, your store keepers, your bosses, your employees, your CEOs, your cleaning staff, your taxi cab drivers, your accountants and your baristas. Immigrants deliver your mail, teach your children, immigrants are your doctors, your lawyers, your engineers, your favourite singers and actors. Immigrants start companies you love, immigrants invent things you use—immigrants are the very fabric of this nation. I wanted to show all faces of immigrants and to highlight the important and necessary role that immigrants play in every aspect of our society.
I do want to take an important pause here to note that I am by no means conflating or equating those kidnapped and brought to America in chains, and the systemic and institutionalized racism that exists as a result of that history, with immigrants. I pause to honor that history, to recognize the importance of that history. This is an enormous issue in America and one that needs to be addressed in a multitude of ways that go well beyond me making a few t-shirts. I do hope, however, that in some small way the acceptance and bringing together of the varying faces of immigrants can help bring greater appreciation of the importance and contribution of everyone.
Why did you want to move to the United States?
I moved to the United States originally to practice law, but for me it was really about moving to New York. I wanted to get that “big city” New York law experience that I had read about in books and seen on TV and in movies and then go back to Vancouver and “wow people” with my international experience. When I first left Canada, I had planned to work in New York City for two, maybe three, years. Twenty years later, I am still here. My two year plan was a bit of a flop, but I am pleased to say that I now consider myself a proud Canadian New Yorker.
The notion of radical often evokes violent strategies or alienating views. What is it about kindness that is radical to you?
I really like this question. It started with the name of the company: Radical Mind.Set. The world felt, and continues to feel, very “out of sorts” right now and very polarized on so many issues and, in some more extreme cases, radicalized. So I thought, what if having a radical mindset could be positive? What would that look like? For me, a positive radical mindset meant kindness, optimism and most importantly, inclusion. Just think about that for a second. What if the world was kind, optimistic and inclusive? That should not be a radical concept however, in this ever-divided world we are living in, it somehow feels radical. So, I thought if we could use “radical” as a force for good, we might be able to make some positive change.
How is optimism a radical approach to making a positive change in the world?
Let me just add that without the belief that we can create change, or at least make a difference, I think very few people would ever try. Some people’s approach to standing up and fighting for positive change may stem from an inspired, evolved place, and to those that’s true for, I applaud you. But, for many others, you can just get to a place where accepting the status quo is not okay. To quote Marin Luther King: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And I reached that point in the run-up to the 2016 elections. You had the leader of the free world making it actively okay to discriminate. Immigrants became the focal point for that discrimination, but when you look just a layer deeper, it was—and is—really about race. I wanted to do something. And do not get me wrong, I by no means think that my making a few t-shirts is going to solve all of these issues, particularly the deeply embedded and institutionalized racism. But I had to do something, as small as it may be. I believe that every action, or lack thereof, has impact. So, if we can approach our actions with optimism and a belief and a recognition that we can make change, even if it is small, we are moving in the right direction.
Sustainability is another cause that is dear to your heart. What exactly is sustainable investing, and why is it important?
Yes, it was important to me that the t-shirts were 100% organic cotton, sustainably sourced, made in America and made by those paid a fair living wage. For most of us, we only have this one planet that we and future generations get to live on—Elon Musk is the possible exception, as he is focused on finding a way to live on Mars. Not my idea of a good time, but to each their own! So, assuming we are “stuck” with planet Earth, think about what we have been doing to it.The population has doubled in the last fifty years. We are at 7.5 billion people on the same planet, and it is going to 9 billion quite rapidly. The planet is not getting bigger, water resources are not growing and, as the population continues to grow, we are putting more and more demands on the planet and its resources and it is having real consequences. Did you know that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish? I have multiple stats like that one, that show how much stress we are putting on our planet. At some point, something has got to give. Sustainable investing is about taking a long-term view and investing into companies that are doing positive things. It is about companies that make products or provide services that are consistent with a safe, healthy, equitable and low carbon society. But people do not have to be investors to make this choice. Each of us, as consumers, can make a difference every day by making conscious choices about how we eat, what we eat, where we shop, what we buy, what we wear, how we treat people, and more. Every decision we make has impact. It just depends what kind of impact we want to have. I recognize that some people do not have the luxury of making some of these choices, particularly around things like buying organic food, because today many of the sustainable consumer choices are more expensive, but for those that can afford to make those choices, it is incumbent upon us to do so. We help create demand and as more consumers demand it, many of these goods will get cheaper and more readily available to more people because things like good healthy food should not be luxury items. Sustainable investing is also about finding solutions for the many, not just the few.
Does your experience in finance play a role in how you perform your activism?
I guess, maybe it helps give me perspective as to what is possible economically. The funny thing about this question was my reaction to the fact that I might be considered an activist. For me, I do not think of myself as an activist. I feel like what I am doing is simply about being human.
What is your favorite way to wind down?
Oh, I have many. But I guess my favorite would be to curl up with a good book and my dog, Bob.
My mission is...To have the courage to stand up for those who do not have the ability right now to stand up for themselves. To promote kindness and inclusion. To see if we can change people’s mindset. To find a way to decrease people’s fear of the “other” and to try and demonstrate that we are more the same than we are different, but to embrace and not fear difference. To encourage people to take the opportunity to talk, listen and to really see each other—see people’s humanity. To find common ground. To recognize that we all matter and we all contribute and none of us can ever do this thing called life alone.