Dr. Georgette Zinaty
Dr. Georgette Zinaty is the Executive Vice-President and Practice Lead for Corporate Class’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion where under her leadership the practice has witnessed significant growth financially and in profile. Dr. Zinaty holds a Bachelor degree in English and Political Science, a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Liverpool, a Master’s of Science from the Henley School of Business and a certificate on Leading Strategic Change within Organizations from Harvard University. She holds a Doctorate in Business Administration—from the Rotman School of Business and the Henley School of Business. A frequent contributor and thought leader to Forbes on issues of leadership, inclusion and business, she has been a frequent global panelist, keynote and a public speaker, including two TEDx talks, and most recently at the World Diversity in Leadership Conference alongside Martin Luther King III, world leaders and Julia Gillard Former PM of Australia. She is the recipient the Canadian University Productivity Award as well as the Stepping Up Award in recognition of innovation in the workplace. Recognized as an “Immigrant Woman of Inspiration” by the publication Canadian Immigrant and by the Premier of Ontario and Federal Members of Parliament in Canada for her volunteerism and work in the community. She is the Founder of a non-profit called WHEW! Women Helping Empower Women and published a book on the scarcity of women and diversity in leadership called Why Not YOU? where 100% of all the profits go to support WHEW! She has been awarded the CILAR Aspiring Innovator of the Year Award which recognizes Black, Indigenous Peoples, and People of Colour who are aspiring innovators from across Canada positively impacting their communities. She serves on as a Senior Advisor to Nobellum a non-profit social and technology enterprise for Black founders in STEM as well as the Board of Advisors for the Entrepreneurship and Leadership Learning Alliance (ELLA at York University), Fund Director at the Creative Hub 1352 and is the Co- Chair the inaugural Canadian Chapter of ChIPs, a global organization that supports women in intellectual property and technology.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I am an immigrant to Canada, our family fled war in the Middle East. I knew very young that I wanted to pursue a university education recognizing education would allow me freedoms and ability to take care of myself and others. I started working at 14 and saved enough money for first year university, worked every summer and while at school. The experience taught me to manage money, recognize fiscal empowerment and to thrive. I was highly involved in extracurricular work and found passions, interests and learned about team dynamics and leadership as well as myself. I got a job at the University of Toronto while writing my final exams and thought I would be there 6 months; more than two decades later I had a stellar career in various senior leadership roles and took pride in many accomplishments and milestones set. My role models were often men I worked with who I watched lead with integrity, kindness, strategy and learned from that – they were often also my biggest advocates. Women were less so and I was determined to change the game and impact the future of other females. During all of this I continued to invest in learning, completing an MBA, MSc and my doctorate. It was upon the completion of my DBA that I made a career pivot and decided to focus on my passion – helping women, marginalized communities and future leaders. It has been the most rewarding work I have ever done.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
There have been many. When it came to women, I developed a program 5 years ago at U of T and it was based on all the things I felt women needed to know and skills to develop. Upon completion of the program the women completed anonymous forms and the feedback included comments like “Georgette changed my life and how I saw myself and skills” “She made me realize my voice matters” “I know now I have a right to have a seat at the table” etc. I knew then this was where I can have an impact and make a difference in the lives of others and the ripple effect of this.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
Women, helping them and my own experience where this was not the case. I believe there is plenty of room for all to shine and in collaboration over competition. It was therefore important for me to create a place (virtual and non virtual) to feel a strong sisterhood and see we are all better and can rise together. We can be trailblazers that pave the way for the next group and generation.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
We launched Women Helping Empower Women in the middle of Covid and it was challenging. However, we pivoted as the world did and have grown our membership and impact as we continue to grow. I learned a great deal about pivoting most recently when we had ideas and content lifted from our website. We shifted strategies to refocus on our purpose and unique value to our members and global community. I am happy to report that setback was actually a gift as it allowed me to rethink strategy and move towards collaboration over competition and we have taken off in a way I would not have imagined a year ago.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
see above. I would add that COVID for me was an opportunity to really get a number of things off the ground. I was perhaps most productful in the two years Canada was shut down primarily because there was nowhere to go. So I wrote a book, published in Forbes, started the non profit, coached, got on a number of boards and the list continues. I focused on developing key relationships and the path forward.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
My kids – they are amazing human beings, kind, thoughtful and understand the importance of community work and giving back. As parent and in particular a woman who has a her career there was often criticism men don’t face (are you being a good enough mom, how can you travel and leave the kids, etc) yet, I learned that quality of quantity when it comes to time, being a role model for them to be proud of and showing them what is possible as young men and women. Emulating the possibilities for them.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
Never underestimate the Power of One and Power of Us meaning that each person, entrepreneur is a trailblazer shaping a new path for herself and others whether she realizes it or not. Women helping and supporting women is critical to changing the world and seeing the success of another woman not as our failure (or we don’t measure up) but rather as a success for all to celebrate. Embrace it and never ever let what are called ‘boundaries‘ define or limit you.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
Perspective is everything and nothing is impossible if your perspective is right
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
This is the future of leadership. The data shows that the best leaders during the pandemic were indeed women because they were able to retain and support their staff during the most troubled time in the world. Women need to lean into their authentic selves and trust they can do so exceptionally
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Network UP means connecting with women and men who are going to open doors for you, be your champion and help take you to new levels. Don’t network just across and don’t underestimate the impact of networking career wise and personally.