It’s a key lesson that both Jenn Harper and Deborah Rosati (BAdmin ’84) have learned on their paths to success.
The respected business leaders, who each received an honorary doctorate from Brock University on Tuesday, June 13, touched on the concept while delivering their Convocation addresses, sharing their experiences and offering inspiration to the Class of 2023.
Harper, CEO and founder of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc., said the idea of representation has been engrained in the company since its inception.
“Our mission and vision is helping every Indigenous kid on the planet see and feel their value in the world,” she said. “We craft sustainable colour cosmetics made for everyone.”
An Anishinaabe woman and member of the Northwest Angle #33 First Nation in Kenora, Ont., Harper said that as her company’s success grew, the significance of its mission became more apparent.
When she attended a 2022 event at the Toronto Eaton’s Centre, where Cheekbone products are sold in Sephora, a billboard promoting her company brought her to tears.
The experience left Harper reflecting on how, as a child, she never dreamed she could someday own a successful company working with stores across North America.
“When you grow up in poverty and don’t see yourself represented, how are you supposed to envision your future?” she said.
Time spent with two Indigenous youths at that same Toronto event also left Harper thinking about the importance of representation.
“Driving home, that little girl and young man will never not know what’s possible for them, because they just met a woman who looks like them, who comes from a community like them, who just built a company that’s available in an organization like Sephora,” she said.
From the onset of her career, Rosati, the founder and CEO of Women Get on Board Inc., was also determined to offer the representation she previously could not find in the business world.
As a child, she dreamed of becoming a “businessman,” just like her father.
After graduating from Brock’s Co-op Accounting program in 1984, she quickly found herself as one of few women navigating her professional spaces.
She was often mistaken for the “coffee girl” or an executive assistant and was not taken seriously as an aspiring woman business leader.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Rosati said she was able to find success through hard work, determination, fortitude and resilience.
While she had supportive mentors during her career in the tech sector and as a corporate director, they were always men.
“They were my sponsors, my allies and my confidantes. They pushed me to excel in my career, follow my destiny and not be defined by someone else,” she said.
However, she yearned to find more female role models to draw inspiration from. When she was unable to do so, she became driven to create her own community to support the next generation of women in business.
Through Women Get On Board, an 850-member social purpose company, Rosati strives to see more women in leadership roles and on various boards.
Driven to help others advance in their careers, she said she sees herself as a “community builder and a catalyst for change” — and hoped to remind Brock’s newest graduates that they too can create meaningful change.
“Be the best version of yourself, dare to pursue your dreams and passions, and positively impact the world around you,” she said. “Remember to face the challenges and opportunities of the future with confidence and determination.”
Brock’s 113th Convocation continues Wednesday, June 14. At the day’s 2:30 p.m. ceremony, the University will present an honorary doctorate to Brock graduate Kyle Dubas (BSM ’07), President of Hockey Operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
From June 12 to 16, about 3,500 graduands from seven Faculties will receive their degrees. All ceremonies take place in the Ian D. Beddis Gymnasium of Brock’s Walker Sports Complex and will be livestreamed online at brocku.ca/livestream
For more information and a full schedule of Brock’s Spring Convocation, visit brocku.ca/convocation
Watch Harper’s full Convocation address below:
Watch Rosati’s full Convocation address below:
Discover the full collection of Convocation photos by ceremony on Brock University’s official Facebook page.