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Catalyst President and CEO Deborah Gillis to Receive Honorary Degree from Cape Breton University

New York City, N.Y., May 4, 2017Catalyst President & CEO Deborah Gillis will accept an honorary degree from Cape Breton University (CBU) for dedicating her life’s work to advocating for women’s rights and equality. The degree Doctor of Laws honoris causa will be conferred on Gillis during the 2017 CBU Spring Convocation.  

“Cape Breton is where my heart lives, so to receive an honorary doctorate from CBU is deeply meaningful. I’m proof of the power of education, hard work and the support of family, friends and mentors. They were my passport from a gravel road in Cape Breton to Wall Street, NY,” said Gillis. “I am grateful to the CBU Board of Governors, Interim President, Dr. Dale Keefe and faculty and staff for this recognition of my work as an advocate, opening doors for other women so that we can change the world—one fair, diverse, and inclusive workplace at a time.”

Growing up in a tiny village in rural Nova Scotia, far from any center of power, Gillis was inspired by a group of women who successfully advocated having gender equality rights included in the Canadian constitution. As a result, her high school debate topic was, “Be it resolved that women earn the same as men.” And so began a career dedicated to giving everyone equal opportunity to succeed.

Her early work in the public sector focused on social justice policy issues: employment equity, anti-racism, and LGBT rights. As a consultant and practice leader for two global professional services firms, she advised clients on strategies for aligning talent and business priorities, and championed initiatives to mentor women. Then as a candidate for elected office, Gillis first truly understood the power of role models to inspire girls and young women. That experience and surviving breast cancer motivated her to seek out more deeply meaningful work.

Gillis found it at Catalyst, a leading global nonprofit that partners with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and companies to advance women at work. Joining in 2006 as Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, she then led Catalyst's expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, became Chief Operating Officer in 2012, and was appointed President & CEO in 2014.

In addition to receiving an honorary degree, Gillis will serve as a speaker at the 2017 CBU Spring Convocation. The event will be held on the Cape Breton University campus at 2 p.m. ADT, May 13, 2017. It will also be live streamed.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be honouring Ms. Gillis,” said CBU Interim President Dr. Dale Keefe. She is proof that hard work, determination and education can be the key to success and can create great opportunities to effect change and inspire others with your passions.”

Learn more about Gillis at

About Catalyst

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion. With operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, India, Australia, and Japan, and more than 800 supporting organizations, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work.