Meet Caroline Riseboro, a CEO With a Plan for Women and Girls

Caroline Riseboro leads Plan International Canada’s operations as President and CEO. Previously she held roles at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation, as well as World Vision Canada, where she was the first and youngest woman in the agency’s history to serve in the SVP role. Her volunteer leadership positions span across numerous boards and task forces including Imagine Canada, and she has been credited as an innovator and champion of ground-breaking and award-winning campaigns that have engaged Canadians in new ways on some of the world’s toughest issues. Here she reveals the driving force behind some of her gutsiest career moves, and why she’s extremely hopeful for the future of women and girls.



My first job ever was… Walking race horses when I was 12-years old. It was interesting because I worked only with men, and it was the first time I experienced and understood a male-dominated environment. I had no idea how well that would serve me later in my life and career.


I decided to enter the non-profit world because… My first job after university was in advertising. It struck me early on in the role that I was working hard to create more profit for sugary drinks, fast food and telecoms companies. At the same time, as I walked to work I would pass people suffering from homelessness, poverty, mental illness and addiction. The answer was staring me in the face: I have to make sure I am using my talents to make this world a better place.  


I hope to make a positive impact by… Forging a path where there traditionally hasn’t been a path for younger, ambitious women. I want to show everyone that it’s possible to make your dreams a reality. I also want to make a positive impact by living and working in a way that transforms social norms that face women. I want to show young women leaders that it is okay to be different, and in fact, that’s what the world needs from us right now.


“I want to show young women leaders that it is okay to be different, and in fact, that’s what the world needs from us right now.”


My proudest accomplishment is… Different from what most people would expect. I think most people would expect that my proudest accomplishment was becoming President  & CEO of Plan International Canada at age 38, and being a trailblazer and breaking the glass ceiling. But in reality, my proudest accomplishment is that I haven’t given up yet. A lot of being successful is grit, even if it feels like the task at hand is too difficult.


My boldest move to date was… Having a very senior role at a large organization I had worked at for almost 15 years, and leaving to pursue a role at a much smaller one. I realized that while I was contributing, the only way to grow was to venture out of my comfort zone. My other bold move happens on a daily basis, when I constantly try to be authentic and vulnerable. Being a CEO, I think it is important to open up and show women that it is not always easy, but we can push through.


I surprise people when I tell them… That I am more hopeful than ever that women can assume positions of leadership and break glass ceilings. This is because we have finally acknowledged the challenges women face. I believe that we have this powerful, educated group of girls and women growing up as leaders to join the ranks of other women.


My best advice to people who want to make a difference is… To know that we can impact much more change than we realize. If we dream it first, and then put the dream into action by being bold, we can achieve anything.


My best advice from a mentor was… Do it afraid anyway.


“We can impact much more change than we realize. If we dream it first, and then put the dream into action by being bold, we can achieve anything.”


My biggest setback was… Listening to that critical voice in my own mind. It’s that whole notion of ‘can I really do this?’


I overcame it by… Doing it afraid. And I say that because often we don’t realize we have everything we need within us to succeed. And if we don’t, we can build the skills along the way. That is how everyone successful has succeeded. Women often feel they need to be 100% ready, but you’re more ready than you think. The only way forward is to do it.


Work/life balance is… A myth. It is a question that I don’t even want to answer yet again. It puts pressure on women, with this perception of how women should be leading their lives. The better question is do I feel whole in my life and as a person?


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I have an intensely needy creative side that I need to nurture. So much of my work is cerebral and is focused on tackling the toughest global issues.  Creativity is the outlet that I have to explore the ethereal.


I stay inspired by… The people around me. I am inspired by the talent and human potential I am surrounded by that has yet to be unleashed. This is particularly true of the talented team I lead at Plan International.


The future excites me because… We can truly make a positive difference. It will take time. It will take energy. It will take perseverance. It’s taken my nearly 40 years to realize this, but really anything is possible.



Learn more about Plan Canada and Caroline’s work.

Meet Valerie Gerardi, a Woman Who’s Winning in a Male-Dominated Industry

Valerie Gerardi is a Canadian entrepreneur, co-founder and owner of Anvale Homes Inc. a custom home and renovation development company serving the GTA. Her entrance into the building industry, which is still largely male-dominated, was much more than chance or coincidence, the result of a family deeply rooted in the home construction industry and a father who was a renowned home builder in the local community. She has since left her own lasting mark on the industry, serving as an example of how when passion, skill, and a desire to learn collide, there are no limits to where a woman can succeed.



My first job ever was… Working for my father’s home building and development company. I was 15 years old, in grade 9, employed at the corporation as a summer student to assist with administrative tasks.


I decided to continue in the family business because… I was able to learn so much from my family business. I fell in love with putting together projects from start to finish for clients, and I enjoy every aspect of the building process; I have a hands on approach throughout every aspect of the new home building process—from overseeing the design to managing the build construction


My proudest accomplishment was… Being nominated for best custom home in 2013.


My boldest move to date was… Leaving the family business and starting my own custom home building and renovation company Anvale Homes. Then, after meeting with clients to locate them a property, my husband and I realized there was a void in the company. Our hired realtor wasn’t locating the properties, it was me! I made a bold move to go back to school to get my real estate license which helped the company and my clients moving forward.


Being a woman in a male dominated industry is… Not an easy position to occupy. I bring a woman’s perspective to an industry traditionally and predominantly male-dominated, and as a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to be prepared to assert yourself at all times. But I also provide clients with a distinctive viewpoint and understanding of what makes a home truly functional while also aesthetically distinct and appealing. I bring a fresh and unique perspective new home building and renovating.


I get ahead by… Getting up early, which empowers me to get more done. Exercising also keeps my body in shape, motivates my mind and makes me more productive. I’m also always learning new things. I’m a lifelonger learner, I never pass up the chance to learn a new fact or a new skill.


“As a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to be prepared to assert yourself at all times.”


I surprise people when I tell them… That I’m a home/renovator builder and realtor.


Valerie Gerardi on construction site

My best advice to people starting out in entrepreneurship is… To focus on setting & achieving small incremental goals rather than trying to start a business and instantly build your vision of what the company should be in the years to come. Have the full picture in mind, but take the steps one at a time. No matter what your vision, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by all of the steps needed to get to your goal. 


My best advice from a mentor was… The best advice I ever received was from my Dad, my biggest mentor in life. Starting when I was young, he always quoted Confucius and told me, “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life” and that “the greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


My biggest setback was… When my Dad died and the company was torn apart by family members deciding to go in different directions. I had to take a step back to decide what my passion was and where I was heading. That’s when my husband and I started Anvale Homes. I had to start all over again, which was a big challenge.


“No matter what your vision, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by all of the steps needed to get to your goal.”


I overcame it by… Taking one step at a time, planning my goals, asking for help, never giving up, and being true to my self and my passion to help clients build their dream homes.


Work/life balance is… A daily effort. I always made sure I was there to pick up my children after school to hear about their day and take them to their activities, making sure we have dinner together, then making time to exercise, rest and rela to rejuvenate myself.


If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I’m scared of geckos!


I stay inspired by… I get a great sense of accomplishment from seeing a home start from ground up, then handing over the keys to clients and seeing them move into their dream home that my team and I built.


The future excites me because… There are so many wonderful things to do, build, and renovate!



Learn more about Valerie and her company, Anvale Homes