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25 Women | 25 Stories: Denise Brosseau and Jennifer Gill Roberts

Posted By Claire Johnson, Monday, February 12, 2018

In celebration of Watermark’s 25th anniversary, we’ve taken a step back to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished so far and commend the ambitious women – and men who get it – who are leading us into the future.


Today, we're kicking off our 25 Women | 25 Stories series with profiles on our co-founders, Denise Brosseau and Jennifer Gill Roberts, who have truly made their mark on our community and beyond.


Denise and Jennifer shared instant chemistry when they met as MBA students at Stanford University more than 25 years ago. After graduating, they came together to address one particular statistic: Less than 1 percent of venture capital financing was going to women-run or women-founded businesses. Their shared vision: Boost that statistic to 50 percent, if not more.


Together, they founded the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE), which later became known as the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives (FWE&E) – and now is known as Watermark.


Twenty-five years later, we still have a long way to go. Female CEOs still get only 2.7 percent of all venture funding. Yet, according to a study by First Round Capital, companies with a woman on the founding team outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent.


The upcoming annual Watermark Conference for Women is one of the most powerful ways Watermark helps fortify our expansive network, and Denise and Jennifer are proud to have helped ignite that movement.

"I remember so clearly coming to the first Watermark Conference for Women," Denise recalls. "Women entrepreneurs, executives, consultants, newbies, college students – there were people of all walks of life, all energized as women leaders. That energizes me to keep going, to keep fighting. How could that not be the most incredible legacy you can ever hope to have? To create a genesis for a conference where everyone is coming together to make change in the world."


That electrifying power of community is at the heart of Watermark and the Conference for Women. The sense of having a sisterhood to support one another is invaluable to advancing our collective and individual impacts in various business sectors.


 Upon reflection, the two share powerful advice to other women entrepreneurs:

“It’s OK to fail. It’s most important to attract the best and brightest people you can. To take risks, to think big, to think about billion-dollar businesses – not smaller businesses. To think about your hiring advantages, your authentic self and the leadership style that you bring to it.” – Jennifer Gill Roberts



“It is not about playing it safe. It is not about taking the easy road. It is about having a big vision. Finding a partner. Be bold. Take things on and get things done. That, to me, is what I’m most proud of – that we were those kinds of people from the very get go.” – Denise Brosseau


We'll post more 25 Women | 25 Stories via social media, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram and @WeAreWatermark on Facebook and LinkedIn. #WeAreWatermark


We hope to see you at the one of our many Watermark events!

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