Deborah Gillis

Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Growing up in Glencoe Station, Nova Scotia, Ms. Gillis was inspired by a group of women who successfully advocated to have gender equality rights included in the Canadian constitution.

While completing her graduate studies in political science at York University in Toronto, Ms Gillis returned to Nova Scotia to serve as a legislative intern at Province House. After earning her Master of Arts in 1989, she joined the Ontario Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, providing policy advice to the Premier of Ontario during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional negotiations.

Ms Gillis served as Chief of Staff to former Nova Scotia Liberal Leader, Danny Graham, and was a candidate in the 2003 Nova Scotia election in the riding of Inverness. She was also appointed as the Liberal candidate in the federal riding of Halton in 2009.  It was during her time in politics that Ms Gillis first truly understood the power of role models—and the urgent need for more of them—to inspire girls and young women. This experience and surviving breast cancer motivated her to seek out more deeply meaningful work.

Ms Gillis found this at Catalyst, a leading global nonprofit organization that partners with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and companies to accelerate and advance women at work. Joining in 2006 as Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, she went on to lead Catalyst’s expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, became Chief Operating Officer in 2012 and was named global President and CEO in 2014.

In 2016, Ms Gillis was named as one of Canadian Business magazine’s 10 most influential Canadians, that same year she received the Foreign Policy Association Medal. In 2017, she was appointed to the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.