By Maria Saporta
One of Georgia’s most influential organizations advocating for more women in the corporate world – OnBoard Inc. – has named Lisa Robinson as its new president, effective June 1.
Robinson has been a long-time player in Atlanta’s business, civic and nonprofit community. She currently serves as a partner of the Bell Oaks search firm, a role she will continue while running OnBoard.
The new position of president will replace the executive director position, which has been held by Rona Wells for the past 16 years. Wells will continue to do OnBoard’s annual survey of women on the boards and in the corporate suites of Georgia’s public companies.
“We are so grateful to Rona for her years of service to OnBoard and fully support her decision to retire as executive director,” says Kelly Gay, chair and CEO of OnBoard. “We want to thank Rona for her interminable commitment and contributions to the organization over these many years and look forward to having her continue on our Board.”
Gay went on to say that Robinson’s “nonprofit experience, enthusiasm for the mission and demonstrated success throughout her career are outstanding fits for OnBoard’s goals and plans as we continue to support our mission of increasing the number of women in executive leadership roles and on corporate boards.”
Before joining Bell Oaks, Robinson was vice president of philanthropy for the Woodruff Arts Center when Virginia Hepner was its CEO. She also has worked as vice president of advancement for the Visiting Nurse Health System and as vice president of advancement for the Marist School. She also has held numerous volunteer roles in local nonprofits.
“I’ve been a member of OnBoard over the years and have witnessed how it elevates women in Atlanta,” Robinson said in an interview Thursday morning. “During my time at Woodruff, Virginia showed me how to help other women. The big opportunity here is to reach more companies and more women so we can have a greater impact.”
Robinson has two adult daughters so she said she has a vested interest in making sure there’s greater opportunity for women in corporate America.
“Research has shown that companies do better when they have a diverse board and a diverse C-suite,” said Robinson, who wants to expand OnBoard’s reach to more Georgia companies.
“One of the challenges of getting women on corporate boards is that companies want women who come from the C-suite,” Robinson said. “If we don’t have women in the C-suite, it’s harder to get them on corporate boards.”
OnBoard has provided board training to get women prepared to serve on corporate boards. It also has provided a match-making service to connect companies with potential women directors.
Those efforts have been paying off.
In 2019, for the first time ever, the top 50 of Georgia’s public companies had at least one woman on their boards. It also was a record year with 17.4 percent of all board seats on Georgia’s public companies were held by women, up from 11.2 percent in 2014.
“I’m seeing enormous progress,” Robinson said. “Companies are recognizing the value of diversity of all kinds of hiring.”
Robinson said her work with Bell Oaks and OnBoard will complement each other because of the synergies between both organizations. She also will look to build relationships between OnBoard and more Georgia companies and nonprofits.
With all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson said OnBoard is considering several options to bring people together, such as smaller, more intimate gatherings.
“I look at it as providing a menu of alternate ways for people to connect,” said Robinson, adding she’d like to have some smaller meetings outdoors. “There could be a real benefit for some individuals.”
Robinson said OnBoard is fortunate to have an active and engaged board of directors who really work hard.
“They are really dedicated to the mission,” Robinson said. “Rona Wells has done a tremendous job, and she has generously agreed to serve on the board. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.”