Deborah Rosati: Corporate Leader & Board Diversity Advocate

Today we share our conversation with Deborah Rosati, Webnames customer, accomplished corporate director, entrepreneur and co-founder of Women Get on Board, a member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards.

Deborah, thanks for speaking with us. Improving gender and minority diversity on boards and corporate leadership roles is finally starting to get the broad attention it deserves in Canada, and you’re a leader in advocating for progress in these areas, so we’re delighted to hear more about what you do. To start off, can you tell us a little bit about your history and where you got your start in terms of participating on boards?

In 1980, I chose Brock University for my higher education because of the co-op accounting program. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a business man just like my father… so the idea of integrating your studies with your work term was a great path to get business experience.

Professionally speaking, my career has evolved from  senior finance positions in public accounting, technology companies to venture capital to my own venture catalyst firm and now as a leading and serving Corporate Director and co-founder of Women Get On Board.  I have served on 18 different boards since 2000, both public and private companies, public sector and not-for-profit boards.

Can you tell us more about Women Get on Board and the kind of work the organization does?

WGOB is a member based organization that launched in March 2015. We recognized a need in the marketplace to build a community of engaged women and men that support the advancement of more women to corporate boards. Our work aims to connect, promote and empower women to corporate boards. We do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada who are committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.

What are some of the barriers women face getting on boards – both personal and systemic – and how does your organization help women overcome these barriers?

Women do face systemic barriers such as unconscious bias, among other things, and therefore need to be more empowered and encouraged to become confident to lead and serve on boards, and to build their board profile.

Women Get on Board helps to do this by offering:

  • Events to inspire women on their journey to corporate boards by sharing lessons learned and connecting with Corporate Directors, Executives, and our Partners. We welcome men as guests, supporting partners and as a panelist or moderator at our events.
  • Workshops to empower women on “how-to” get board-ready and executive compensation governance
  • An online training program offered to our members called “The Boardroom Blueprint” that prepares them to get on boards and make a positive impact.

We will also be launching a Women Get On Board Directory in 2017 comprised of qualified women corporate directors from our membership. In the meantime, a shortlist of qualified women corporate directors can be requested for your board renewal process.

Do boards with greater gender and racial diversity make better decisions?  What are other benefits of having women on boards?

There is research to support that more women on boards brings better financial performance including higher return on sales and better stock growth. As well, non-financial performance, like bringing diverse viewpoints, skills and experience, can improve overall decision making, enhance a company’s capacity to build a pipeline of potential future women executives and encourage innovation.

If you can give some advice to women who are interested in pursuing a board position, what would that be?

Be fearless — use your confidence to embrace change.
Be independent minded and stand up for what you believe in.
Do the right thing and be ethical in your decisions.
Have courage, be brave, be decisive and be determined.

When you read articles about this topic online, comments can get negative and contentious? How do you respond to detractors who say more balanced representation is not necessary?

I respond in the positive by suggesting that we can all step up today and collectively be Agents of Change. We can make a difference in making diversity a strategic opportunity for board-building.

As we all know, self care is so important to being both effective and enabling is to also support for others. What do you do to relax/revitalize/take care of yourself?

Nurturing one’s mind/body and soul is so vital for a healthy & happy life. I love hot yoga and spending weekends at my lake house to restore and revitalize.

Do you have a motto or mantra that helps you get through your day when things are tough or overwhelming?

Breathe… I also take time to be in the moment and to be present in my mind, body and soul.

We are not only your domain registrar, but also the service provider for your email, hosting and SSL. Why did you choose us and how has your experience been as a Webnames.ca Customer?

I chose Webnames as my Registrar because I use to Chair the board of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) and learned the value of a well established Registrar. I met the co-founders of Webnames, and ever since then have appreciated the importance of a .CA domain name and the value of a domain registrar that can also be counted on for quality email, hosting and SSL services for a small business.

Visit Women Get on Board to learn more about their work, initiatives and upcoming events, and learn more about Deborah at DeborahRosati.ca.

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