2019 Honoree

Angela Roseboro

Chief Diversity Officer, Riot Games

“…They are kind of my sheroes (US women’s soccer champions) in standing up. We just need to have more voices that are unafraid to speak up. I would say this as my own opinion, but if we’re not speaking up and saying things about how to get more women into places of power, and if we’re not being unapologetic for asking for that and for demanding for that, then I don’t know if I can depend on others to do it.”

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

You’ll hear me talk about overused virtues and humbleness later, and I think that is one that is overused, so it’s hard for me to talk about what a Power Woman is. But, for me, what I love about people I look up to is that they are people who are just comfortable in their own skin and own who they are unapologetically. It is someone who is courageous and who owns their words. So, someone in the face of adversity still has the courage to speak and have a dissenting view and to own that and be unapologetic about it. I would also say people who are just passionate and determined–even if you fail, you get back up, brush yourself off, and do that again. I see that in a lot of qualities in some women that I truly admire. I would also say a power woman is someone who is authentic too. You can have someone that’s powerful, but if they’re not authentically who they are, then…I want someone to be very, very real and own flaws. I think I would also say someone who has a vision or a North Star of where they’re going, and I think that changes. Once you hit one milestone, you continue to look for a new vision, and that’s what I consider to be powerful. But, basically, being able to stand in their skin and be comfortable in who they are, are the biggest qualities that make a Power Woman.

With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Is it a global approach or a specific issue that you are passionate about?

I’m passionate about all women, let me say that first. So, I do think it’s global, but my role models are why I get up–my two daughters. When I see this next generation of women in Congress just doing powerful things or just young women standing up here sharing their voices, one thing that drives me is the fact that I want my girls to not be afraid of their voice and to feel powerful in who they were. I try to be a role model for that. But, when I first started to work, I didn’t always feel that way. I balance the pursuit in the role that I play, in any other diversity role. It is always about me making sure that, in my deeds, or even when I speak on behalf of other women, that they’re voices are amplified. My job is to amplify those voices and make sure that they’re at the table and to use whatever platforms I have to be able to o that. So, at Riot, one of the things that was important to me in doing the diversity things I do was that I be at the table. Typically, this role will be reporting into someone that is not the CEO, or you’ll have to fight your way to be heard. But, at Riot, I’m at that table. I think it’s three women and maybe eight men. And, one thing that I’ve always said is that we contract with each other and say, “If you feel spoken over, I’m going to make sure that you’re heard.” So, we contract before we go into any setting to make sure we are amplifying each other because unconscious bias raises its head wherever you’re are, so being able to sit next to someone and know they’re making sure that you’re heard, when I start to see that, something interesting happens. We’ll speak up and say, “Hey, that was a good point.” And then, you start to see the men model that behavior as well. So, I think it’s super important for women to be at the table. I’ve been doing this work for a long period of time, and, over the past few years, I have loved seeing more women become CEOs and lead things because I do see a difference when I talk to a female CEO. I think in my pursuit of gender equality, I have to be the role model of it. I have a position that allows me to speak up for that, and I think it’s a global issue, so I talk about it ad nauseam, like all the time. And, more importantly, for young women who can’t find their voice, I spend a lot of time making sure that they feel powerful in the room. Sometimes when I talk to young women, they don’t have the words. I talk about being older, I’ve gone through some of the experiences that they haven’t. I give them words. If someone talks over them, I give them the words to say. They get to a point when they’re in a jam and I tell them to say things, like, “Well, let me process that and get back to them.” I spend a lot of time giving people the words to express without being deemed a bitchy woman or an aggressive woman, which are these crazy labels that we sometimes get, but I spend a lot of time saying, “Here’s a word you should use so you can be heard.” I think we all should do that. I think it’s our responsibility to do that for other women. That’s one of the few joys I get–when I can develop and help women. I think we all have to think of that in our obligation. I’ve been reading articles lately of women not helping other women. I understand what it’s like to be in those shoes, so I do think we have to pay it forward and amplify, and I have to be unapologetic if we hire other women and not have to talk about why I did or feel like someone is going to ding me because I hired one who looks like me. It’s crazy, but I think that still exists. Let’s do it together. Let’s be unapologetic about it. I do recognize that my job is to call these things out, and I call them out not to make people feel broken, but to enlighten people on how to work together. It’s men and women, we both have to be in this together. I think that, again, in the role that I play, I get to voice that. I keep half joking, but I also think up until I feel more confident and comfortable, and I don’t think I’ve always felt that way, and once you get comfortable in your skin, you’ll be amazed. At the end of the day, I’m not afraid of my thoughts or what I think because they’re my thoughts and I own those unapologetically, but I also try to do it in a way for people not to feel broken, and do it in a way that is more collaborative and less isolating–unless I have to be. Sometimes you need to let people know who you are. It’s funny, on the other side of that, me speaking out hasn’t always worked in my favor, or me having a view that’s different hasn’t always worked out for me. But, at the end of the day, I also know there’s something better along the path, and I’d rather be who I am and be true to me, and it has cost me. I’ve cried about it. Should I have not said anything? Should I not have said anything and then still be in that position? But, I look back and think, “You wouldn’t have liked that. You wouldn’t have been who you were. Is that more important than fitting in?”

Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in the Climate Change debate?

I do. I think climate change…it’s two separate prongs in my mind. It’s the planet that we need to preserve, and it’s education. And, I would love to see more women in Congress. I would love to see more women that are at the table because when I think of marginalized groups or underserved communities, either in the U.S. or globally, we are impacted–and it’s not just women, people who are poor too. It makes our costs go up. If you don’t have access to health care, this climate change impacts health, and I think women are disproportionately impacted by that and bring a different perspective. When you think about third world countries, who goes out and gets the water? We have to make sure that we’re at the table and that our voices or our experiences are heard and we make the changes we need to because we experience it differently, and in this intersection of gender and race, I would say women of color might even be more impacted by climate change. I do think there is a role and I think it’s in government, in industries, in gas, and oil. You would think about things differently, or even Walmart, because we’ve got one planet and–in the pursuit of all things not plant related, like the pursuit of money–we’re harming our planet and someone has to take a look at that. We don’t call her Mother Nature for nothing. I think we have to have those experiences and be able to show that perspective. I do think we play a role, and if government and industry are making these decisions, then we have to be more fairly represented, and women of color as well.

Do you believe industry and commerce (and government) should factor into a ten year plan the costs involved in mitigating the effects of Climate Change? According to an Oxford University supported survey, the total global economic cost would be €200-350 billion per year by 2030. This is less than one percent of the forecasted global GDP in 2030.

I look at this question and I want to say that it’s an issue. I think there are still people who downplay climate change. They see the hurricanes and tsunamis and all these things that are happening and they still don’t think that climate change is an issue. I think I want us to start there. I want us to declare that this is happening in the climate. If you just think about it, being hotter…or, the tsunami was my wake up call, like “how does that happen?” I want us to declare that it is real. I think there are different points of view that don’t even acknowledge it, and I want to see them acknowledge it. Once we do that, then we can put in resources. This is why we need women at the table with different perspectives who are not in pursuit of the dollar, but in pursuit of what’s happening to our planet and what’s happening to my children and their children. I would just love for us to say it is real and then have leadership to put money behind it. So, I think the answer is obviously yes, but before then, I’d love for us to address it as a real issue and not just keep talking about it and debating whether it is or not. I still see people debating it and I find it strange.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

So, I have two answers for that and I don’t know which is the better answer. But, of course, I want Oprah’s job. You know why? Because when I think about powerful women, all the descriptors that come to mind are being comfortable in your own skin, being vulnerable with shared experiences, being undeterred in driving your passion, being passionate about everything you work on, and Oprah is all of these things. Just to be that smart. I would love to shadow her and do her talk show, but also the way she inspires other people to act and influence–that is a big passion of mine. So, I would love her job for the day. And, the second…I’ve been thinking about this because the debates are happening, but I would like to be the Chairman of the Democratic Party. I want to sit down and talk about what our strategy is and focus on our ten year plan or our five year plan. So, those are the two jobs I would do for a day. To be able to inspire and touch people in a way that causes them to better themselves is so powerful and to do that by using your own experiences is super powerful. From a strategy perspective, I just want you to have a strategy regardless of your political party–I’n an independent. So, to your question, we can address climate change and homelessness, which blew my mind when I moved to California. Those are real things for me.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

There’s two. One I think is Rosa Parks. I had the opportunity to meet her when I was a kid and the silent power…she wasn’t a Martin Luther King, but what she did start a movement with something so small, and that one insistence where she did not move and she refused to get up even though it was planned and she was trained, was powerful and it started a movement–that had to be so scary. This is what I talk about when I say be courageous–she had to have so much courage because she didn’t know how it would go. So that’s one, and then Gloria Steinem is the other. As a kid, I grew up in the 70s, I would watch her speak and she was what I thought a woman should be–speaking out and still being a woman. She’s this really classic feminine power, and even at ten I just said, “Man, I want to be like her.” She taught me not to be afraid and that you have a voice, and I just thought that was really cool.

In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take (e.g. affirmative action)?

When we have a universe that is 50% women, I don’t think that the power is distributed the way it should be. For 50% women, we should have 50% female CEOs, 50% of all jobs, 50% of Congress–we should be 50% of power players and I think we have 3-5% women CEOs, and we’ve been doing this for a while. It doesn’t mean women are not capable. It still tells me that there is something that is stopping us from moving through the ranks, so I would love to see more women in leadership roles. I think it takes courage to push ourselves through that. I don’t know if I think it’s affirmative action, because there are women here. I think what we’re talking about is systemic change within how women move and talk about distributing power, making sure that women are not just in entry level roles and we see some representation as women move through the ranks. So, I think it’s not getting women in, it’s moving women through and getting them to parts of the organization that allows our voices to be heard. That’s incumbent upon organizations. I love the U.S. women’s soccer team. They are kind of my sheroes in standing up. We just need to have more voices that are unafraid to speak. I would say this as my own opinion, but if we’re not speaking up and saying things about how to get more women into places of power, and if we’re not being unapologetic for asking for that and for demanding for that, then I don’t know if I can depend on others to do it. I am loving the women in Congress, the young women who are unapologetic and are holding people accountable. I want us to be held accountable for the brilliant people that they’re bringing in and not overlooking women in key roles, and when people are saying, “I can’t find talent,” I’m right there saying, “Yeah you can.” “No” should not be an option. I’ve been doing this role for twenty years and I thought my job would be done in five. At least I thought I’d see more women in high positions, so I’m loving this new generation of women who feel much more empowered than I think we did. So, getting us to do more in Congress, to aspire, to do more things in senior roles; but also, if you’re not in that role, just recognizing your voice wherever you are. The saddest thing for me is when I say women are still pioneers in corporate settings. Really? In 2019, I’m still saying you’re a pioneer in engineering. That is sad.

Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block in the workplace and what you did about it?

There’s so many. There’s two times that I can really speak to. There was one when I was pregnant with my second child and I was working and I had to tell one of the leaders that I was going to have a baby and he said to me, “Oh that’s a shame, we had such high hopes for you and now you’re on the mommy track.” And I’m like, “What’s the mommy track?” I had never heard of it, and I asked him to explain what that was because I didn’t think I applied to be on the mommy track, and he said it like it was a compliment and, yet, I just blew my career because I decided to have a baby. When I had my daughter I had a choice: I could go back and prove this person wrong, or I could say “Yep, you’re not really ready.” So, I said to that manager at the time, “What is this mommy track that you speak of? I’ve never heard of it.” He couldn’t really articulate what it was: “Oh, you know, you want to spend more time with your child.” I said, “I do, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do the job.” That was a moment when I had to educate. And I did go back, and I remember working, trying to prove that person wrong, and getting blocked for a promotion, and now being on the other side of that, I get to sit in these discussions where we’re talking about promotions. Fast forward, I remember going back and asking why I didn’t get the promotion, and that was a big thing for me. I was in my 30s and I went, “Ok, why didn’t I get the promotion?” And they said, “You know, maybe next year,” they never really talked about it. I ended up leaving, but I really wish I stayed. I was so frustrated that I ended up leaving. I got a better job, but that’s when I realized I was blocked. Somebody was in the other room having discussions about me and said, “She can’t do this next job because she has a baby” and that was just flooring for me. I remember not telling people I had kids at work because I didn’t want that to be a blocker. I look back at it now and realize how ridiculous that is. My kids are such a big part of my life that I decided not to talk about them so it wouldn’t block me. It wasn’t until men started talking about their kids that I felt comfortable talking about mine, which was really interesting.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? NY State recently outlawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?

I’m saying this as a human resources professional that I think that’s a good start, but it’s deeper than that. It’s systemic. Even if you stop asking now, the fact that when I come into the workforce, I’m probably at a disadvantage to men. At my first job, I maybe made $18 and men made $30–I’m just making this up–so it starts from that first job. So, even if you didn’t ask me, my salary is probably less because, historically, I’ve just been paid less. But, even if you don’t ask me, I want to make sure you pay me equitably, regardless of what my past salary was. So, I think that’s a start, but I also think companies need to make sure they’re paying men and women equally, and for promotions. At some point in that life cycle you have to make sure promotions and pay are fair, and you have to make sure that you’re doing audits to make sure there isn’t a group that has been adversely impacted. I think you have to continue to do that throughout the life cycle. Even if I said today we are paying people equally, the next year I may not, so this is something companies will have to continue and challenge and put in processes systemically to avoid these things. And, it speaks to job roles–you have to put women in roles that are going to pay higher. I do think it is a great first step and signal. But, I think now we have to make sure we’re getting paid the same and both getting promotions in every life cycle of an employee. It’s not a one and done, it’s a continual process that you’ve got to put checks and balances in, but I do think it’s a good first step.

Have you seen changes in the political landscape for women over the past few years? If so, what are they?

I do and I love it. I love their energy and I love their power and I love how unapologetic they are and their courageousness. I think we need it. I feel that, in politics, you get stagnant in some ways and the voice of the people start to diminish, and I’m seeing that now. So, to see more women in Congress and to show that to other young women is incredibly powerful. I don’t want them to diminish their voice. I like that they were grassroots and didn’t have a lot of money backing them. I like that this was their passion, so I feel much more encouraged, and I hope the trend continues with the women who are stepping in. I also think it’s tough to encourage people to run for Congress. What would make someone do that? So, I’m also just admiring them anyway because of the amount of connection to your community is so cool. I thought about why I would ever go into that line of work, because I imagine it’s tough, but I’m so encouraged by the people who are doing it because I imagine it’s not always fair and equal, but man, they’re sticking together and I love it. I want them to keep doing it. And, I want the older generation to embrace this younger generation because I think, sometimes, you see a contention between baby boomers and millennials, and I want them to embrace each other and to support the change–we need everybody to do it and be allies. It has to happen collectively.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

I think there’s a lot of defining moments, one of them is when I was told I was on the mommy track. I grew up in Chicago in an inner city and I was the first to go to college. My sister was pregnant when she was 17 and my brother was incarcerated, so I was the youngest child. When you grow up in an inner city, you are taught to be tough and not to show vulnerability. I remember in high school I was always suspected to be smart, but it was because I was such a child who probably had anger issues, probably was very hair-triggered anger thing–no one took stock in me. I was just labelled the bad kid. I had a principal who was my math teacher. I was very good at math and she would tell me that I was smart. She was the only person to tell me that I was smart in my life, and at that point I think I was 16. You grow up in this place where nobody gives you encouragement and everything you needed was in a two-mile radius: the store, your friends, etc. I didn’t go downtown into Chicago until I was maybe in high school because I didn’t need to. So, for someone to tell me I was smart, that changed me because I thought, “maybe I am.” So, I went from the middle of the pack in my class to the top ten in my class, and my teacher encouraged to take this college entrance test. I thought I did well, and I did better than the average of African Americans, but she told me I could be better. My biggest regret is that I never said thank you to this woman who told me I was smart, and she was also my principal and my math teacher. She changed how I thought about myself, and that was truly defining. I grew up thinking what I didn’t want my life to be like. I never thought about what I wanted my life to be. So, I had this woman who, in one word, encouraged me to be smart and that kind of changed who I was at that point.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I have so many mentors. When I first started getting into corporate I remember saying, “I’m not going to get into this political game. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to get into politics at work,” and I remember my first mentor said, “Angela, you’re in the game whether you want to or not. You have to decide how you want to play it.” And that was profound for me. That was just like, “Oh, ok. So you don’t opt out of it. You just decide.” That was the best piece of advice because I was so anti-politics at work, but he said, “You’re in it, so you might as well decide and choose.” It helped me navigate, it helped me understand that there were times I needed to be forceful and times where I needed to be soft, be compromising, and I could still be authentic to who I was. So, he empowered me–a man. I was in my twenties and it’s something I still think about today. I think men approach it differently. Sometimes I take it personally, but we just have a different approaches to things, and I don’t know if I would get away with it if I went at it the same way they do. When I started to get into diversity and I was trying to be more empowering of women and people of color, he said to me once–and he’s still my mentor to this day–“How did women get the right to vote?” And he asked me how African Americans got civil rights. He said, “White men had to vote and make that happen. It’s not either-or, we’re both in this together to make it happen.” It’s weird, but it’s true. He said, “Congress did that, and who was in Congress?” So, that told me that we have to be in this. We don’t move unless we’re all in it.

There are many studies that support the idea that a female presence in the board room increases the bottom line and leads to healthier work environments. What can we do to continue to support and enhance the presence of women in high profile positions?

I think California– and I think the UK–is talking about women on boards and I think that has done a lot to open the conversation. I think that’s starting to raise the level of discussion and people can argue whether it’s the right or wrong thing, and I think it’s the right thing, it’s kind of equalizing things, but I think that’s a good start. I love that. I’ve seen more women get tasked on boards and not because they’re a woman, because they’re great. That’s the other part of this that you have to balance. They’re women and I think that’s awesome, but they make boards greater because they bring a different perspective, a different nuance, and balance it. When people say, “you got it because…”–these are highly qualified people! These are highly accomplished people that now boards get to see and experience their brilliance in a way that they may not formerly got to. They bring a different perspective and a different angle and approach to things that helps companies be better. So, I hope people get that part of it and understand that the statistics about the percentage of women on boards is how to make the company better, and not just being on a board because you’re a woman–no one wants to feel that way. You get on a board because you’re highly accomplished.

Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If so, why is it prohibitively expensive? If not why not?

My husband’s an educator. I think education should be a sacred cow that you cannot touch, you can only invest in. It’s the one equalizing thing that we have. I also think it’s interesting that you pay entertainers more than you pay teachers, the people who are responsible for shaping the next minds. I would love to see teachers be highly paid for the work that they do. I would love to see education not take cuts and have it available to everybody. Coming from a person from the inner city, it is the one equalizing thing that I had that allowed me to sit at that table. It’s the one thing that people couldn’t take away from me that I earned. However, I had to go to school part time because I had to pay for it myself, but you can never take that away. I think if you want to succeed as a country, as a nation, as a world, you have to have people who are educated and it should be accessible to people who want it and need it. I don’t subscribe that everybody needs to go to college. You’ve got to do what your passion is, but I do think it should be available to everybody because it’s the thing that allows you to be equal. For me, it was such a self-esteem thing. When you grow up and feel like you’re in a marginalized community…I was always intimidated by people based on the school they went to, and now I can have a conversation about art. I’m not deep in anything, but I’m broad in a lot of things, and it’s that education that allows me to just have simple conversations that I would have been too embarrassed, or just felt I wasn’t good enough, to have. Education, to me, was an equalizer and I would love to see everybody feel like they belong and I think education is that way.

What is your favorite book (fiction or nonfiction)?

Book of Joy.

What do you most value in your friends?


Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?

I think if it was one thing, it would be disorganization. I’m not organized. I wish I was a little bit more organized.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Humbleness. I love humbleness, but I think sometimes, particularly as a woman, we’re taught to be so humble that we don’t always talk about our accomplishments. It’s become taboo to talk about what you’ve done well.

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