Helping Women Get On Board with Getting on Boards!

Deborah Rosati is an accomplished corporate director, entrepreneur, Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) and certified Corporate Director (ICD.D) with more than 30 years experience in technology, consumer, retail, private equity, venture capital and recently cannabis. She was recognized in 2012 as one of WXN’s Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women in the corporate director award category. Deborah is also the Founder & CEO of Women Get On Board, a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to join corporate boards.

On December 19, 2018 I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah at The Spoke Club in Toronto. We chatted over a delicious glass of 2016 California Chardonnay from William Hill.

Shari Mogk-Edwards
Deborah, thank you for taking the time during this busy holiday season to meet with me. How would you describe what you do?

Deborah Rosati
I connect, promote and empower women to get on a Board – each and every day. And I am passionate about doing this. Over the past 18 years, I have been leading and serving on Boards in the Public, Private and, Not for Profit sectors, as well as Crown Corporations. Now I’d like to share and empower other women to do this too.

SME
Let’s talk about your unique journey. Can you share some of your background with me?

DR
I wanted to be a business man like my dad. I started out by taking the co-op accounting program at Brock University, the very first year it was offered. I thought I would gain great experience there. I received a business degree and became a CPA. I love, love, love business.

SME
Can you tell me about how your journey led you to being on so many Boards during your extensive career?

DR
I became a Controller and then a CFO of a start up tech company. In that role, I did multiple rounds of raising private equity and we sold the company in 1999 for $150M. That experience allowed me to develop investor relations and in 2000 I decided to leave the tech industry as an executive and went into the venture capital business. As a general partner in a venture capital firm I served on the portfolio company Boards of early stage tech companies. That’s when my journey of being on Boards began. My sweet spot is in high growth and transformational companies in retail, tech, consumer goods and now cannabis.

SME
Was this the plan for yourself?

DR
No. I really didn’t have a plan. I looked for opportunities. In fact, serving on a board 18 years ago is not like it is today. It wasn’t a profession. There wasn’t ICD (Institute of Corporate Directors). There weren’t courses or the certification as there is today. I have my governance certification now, but in those days I learned through mentors and by the seat of my pants. I think I was successful then because of my financial expertise and my curiosity of business strategy and business models. And I kept showing up!

SME
What led you to focus on Board positions for yourself?

DR
In 2002 I left venture capital and was asked to help tech start up access capital. That was when I started consulting. Because of my background, I was asked to serve on Boards. That was when I decided to become an independent corporate director. Over time, I stopped consulting and focused solely on Board work.

SME
Why did you decide to launch Women Get on Board?

DR
Over the years, I have met so many amazing women. I realized there was a need to formalize a process to enable and empower other women to get on boards. So in 2015, I launched Women Get on Board. I am happy to tell you I have helped connect, promote and empower over 100 women to board appointments. To me this is my social purpose.

SME
What do you love about what you do?

DR
I love meeting amazing women and men who connect with others. I discover jewels and bring their expertise to market. I really love making a difference. I am a curious person who finds what people are looking for and then I help connect them.

SME
What are some of the challenges you have faced launching Women Get on Board?

DR
Being a true underdog. Being an entrepreneur. Figuring out how to differentiate yourself. I lead with being authentic and having a solid understanding of the market. I work with one board at a time, then move to the next. I am building a network across Canada to build more diverse boards. There has been a lot of sweat equity!

SME
Did you experience a pivot point in your career?

DR
I have experienced many pivot points! My first pivot was when I decided not to evolve from being a CFO . Then I discovered venture capital. That opened the door for me to explore. I went from being a certified public accountant (CPA), to a CFO, to a venture capitalist to a consultant to an independent corporate director then founding my own company. I think my curiosity has been a strength of mine because every pivot point helped me with the next one.

SME
It’s very challenging to be as successful as you are. Obviously your latest role is to help others. Did someone help you along the way?

DR
Interesting. At one time a senior partner told me I would never become a Chartered Accountant. This can be very career limiting! However, the office manager at the time helped me so much. He mentored me and believed in me and was always very supportive. After that experience, I stopped listening to what people said I couldn’t do and started listening to what I thought I could do. It was also a benefit that men pushed me during my career and held me to a high standard. I always wanted to exceed expectations.

SME
Do you have any tips or advice for women in business?

DR
Be fearless. Go outside your comfort zone. Find your voice in the boardroom. Help other women and believe in yourself! As for me, I surround myself with supportive people who believe in me. It helps me believe in myself.

SME
What do you like to do in your spare time?

DR
I am a certified yoga instructor and I love practising yoga. By practicing yoga I get inspired to be better and do better. I also have a lake house that is my comfort place with my partner and family. And I love spending time with my grandchildren and being a grandma.

SME
You have made me curious! Do you have a favourite travel destination?

DR
I love getting away to Mexico for a week or two to unwind at a beach. I taught yoga in Negril, Jamaica and that was an amazing experience!

SME
And the final question tonight. Do you have a favourite wine?

DR
I am a white wine fan. I like dry whites from Niagara, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and one of my favourites right now is Lady Bug Rose from Malivoire here in Niagara.

And a special thank you from me to Deborah. I was successful in getting on a board as a direct result of meeting Deborah and joining Getting Women on Board. For more information, please visit womengetonboard.ca

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