Pledge 1%’s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way.

What is your name and title?

 Joni Roberts, Founder and Chief Evolution Officer at Evolution University.

Briefly (1-2 sentences) describe your current role.

My role is to empower changemakers to evolve our world through education, everyday actions, and entrepreneurship. I help people make meaningful change for themselves, their companies, and the world by aligning their purpose and actions to social and environmental sustainability initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

How did you get here? Please share any quick stories from past work experiences.

Education became a surprise love of mine 13 years ago after returning from an entrepreneurial venture in Romania. Now I combine both of these passions into creating a more joyful, prosperous, and sustainable world with my startup school for changemakers.

In your opinion, what’s the #1 decision or move you’ve made that has helped advance your career?

To keep learning and growing even when your career isn’t where you want it to be. Diversify your skill set and be agile and adaptable to new opportunities when they arise. Sometimes saying “yes” came from necessity and those experiences made me better by pushing my boundaries. Embrace what shows up and see where it goes.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned this past year?

That the world can come together to solve tough problems. We witnessed and experienced how from the top down and the bottom up, nations and citizens participated in managing and solving one of the biggest health and economic crises humanity has faced. 

I believe this is the beginning where over the next decade we will draw on the best of humanity to reimagine and recreate a world that is much better than the one we have now. It will be hard, and it will also be the most exciting thing we will have ever achieved as a global community.

What’s the number one challenge you face as a woman in your industry?

Being underestimated.

Do you have any mentors? What does mentorship mean to you?

Mentoring is the way we spread knowledge and uplevel humanity. We see this happening in the natural world all the time. Educators have many opportunities to influence others in positive ways and I enjoy it immensely. I look to people across many fields for inspiration and knowledge. Personally, I would like to have a mentor to help guide me and my company to the next level.

What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

Surround yourself with people who see the best in you and help you to cultivate your passion and purpose. Receive feedback from people whose opinions you value. Not everyone is qualified to give constructive feedback. Some people are dealing with their own unresolved stuff and may be projecting that on you.

What is one thing companies can do, big or small, to help create an environment that advances women into leadership positions?

Whenever I see an executive team or board of directors that is all or nearly all men, it’s a red flag for me because the decision-making will be based on a narrow set of perspectives. We all need to think like this, then do something about it where we can.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the next year?

Evolution University is a startup. I balance goals and intentions with what I cannot plan for that emerges. For example, my goals for the summer were to develop two new courses. Instead, I developed a new EVOLVE Framework in sustainability featuring a Compassion-Centered Stakeholder Approach. The ideas were sparked from a blog article I wrote. Another example is a comment I made on a Simon Sinek post, which led to sharing out a leadership practice I created a few years ago. That became a book I just published called Celebrations, Appreciations & Frustrations: A simple, yet powerful practice for bringing MORE connection and authenticity to our relationships. I am very happy with these developments, although I did not plan for them. What I did do is create a foundation of knowledge cultivated over years from where these ideas can spring forth.

Is there a cause that is particularly close to you? If so, why this cause and how did you get involved?

I believe compassion is the foundational mindset for creating better relationships and a better world. It’s not just about being kind as compassion can also be fierce by taking a stand for something you believe in. I got involved in compassion training in 2012 by founding MOREcompassion after going through some challenging personal relationships. I wanted my relationships to be better. A compassion mindset is what I believe will transform our experiences with one another and the world we share. 

A MOREcompassion course for people and the planet is available for free on Evolution University as part of our spirit of giving and provides a way to generate discussions and competencies for individuals and teams.

When did your company join Pledge 1%? What does your impact program mean to you?

Being a member of Pledge 1% is automatic for any company I am a part of or when advising others. Evolution University was incorporated in January 2020 and joined Pledge 1% in February 2020. 

From experience, I know that when you give, you grow. It’s a reciprocal energy exchange.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Any interesting (or unique) habits or interests?

I am all about nature immersions. This is how I decompress, get grounded, and ready for the next project. I live in Florida on the St. Johns River and near to the ocean, springs, and forests. I go for hikes, swims, and love to camp. It’s magical. 

What’s been the one (or two!) things that have helped you navigate this past year? Any tips or tricks to dealing with remote work?

I’ve worked remotely most of my career. What I love about 2020 is how the world got onboarded with Zoom meetings and virtual conferences. I was able to attend conferences in the past year that I otherwise would not have due to time constraints and travel costs. It’s opened up more opportunities for global knowledge sharing and collaborations. This is part of the upside of 2020 that we can take with us into the future.