(Photo by Terence Duffy)

Women in Leadership: Cathilea Robinett

Our annual salute to extraordinary women breaking barriers and rising to the top

Back Article Mar 16, 2023 By Robin Douglas

Cathilea Robinett

CEO, e.Republic

When it comes to being a strong leader, “No matter who you are or no matter what your style is, you’ve got to be really comfortable with who you are,” advises Cathliea Robinett, CEO of e.Republic. “Women just have to do it better, right?”

Robinett learned a lot from the women who raised her. A near-fatal accident left her father in the hospital before Robinett was born. He returned home a year later but never fully recovered. She was often supervised by the eldest of her three sisters, Deborah, while her mother cared for her father. “My sister was my first big role model,” she says. “She was so motivated.” Thirteen years her senior, Deborah was a constant source of encouragement. “She was the first person in our family to go to college. From the time I was little, she would always tell me there’s nothing you can’t do. She made it possible for me to see that women can do anything they want.”

Robinett has taken her sister’s example to heart throughout her journey at e.Republic, a Folsom-based media and research company focused on state and local government and education. The company, originally called GMW Communications and renamed in 2000, is celebrating its 40th year in 2023. Currently, e.Republic has just over 200 employees around the country, with 105 based in the Sacramento region. “Our mission is to make government and education better,” explains Robinett, a Humboldt County native who started with the company in a marketing position over 25 years ago. She became president in 2016 and was appointed CEO in 2021. “My goal is to drive that mission through strategy, stability, growth and expansion,” she says.

“My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning. … I use this time to first listen to music, use a gratitude app, work on my Spanish lessons, read inspiring quotes and journal.” 

Cathilea Robinett, CEO, e.Republic

Which leads to some big news that happened recently: In December the company was sold to Leeds Equity Partners, a private equity firm out of New York. Robinett, who led the sale with Chief Financial Officer Paul Harney, says it will change the trajectory of their company. “Being part of Leeds Equity Partners will enable us to tap into their strategic investment expertise, market knowledge and deep industry relationships,” she explains. “This will allow us to expand our products and services to be a better resource for government and education officials and the technology companies who serve this market.”

The experience pushed her out of her comfort zone. “It was the most intense eight months of my life,” she says. “Going on various calls pitching your company to major investment firms and not knowing what questions they’re going to ask you — I really had to think on my feet.” Now, she says, she feels like she knows the company inside and out. 

Education is a priority for Robinett. The company typically holds three conferences in the Sacramento region each year that focus on technology, leadership and cybersecurity. “We also have a news service for technology companies on how to sell to the state of California,” she says. “It really enables those companies, even the small entrepreneurial companies, so they can do a better job at that.”

In and outside of the company, helping other women succeed is one of her biggest passions. In 2014 she spearheaded a Women in Government Leadership program that ran for five years, where each year 25 women from around the country were selected to participate. The program boasts alumni such as newly elected state Senator Angelique Ashby and former state controller Betty Yee. She also strives to be a mentor to female employees in the region.  

When it comes to finding a mentor, Robinett says the best thing to do is find someone you like or admire, then just be bold and ask, adding that most women typically want to support other women. “I think it’s the duty of female leaders, right? Because younger women are standing on my shoulders just as I’m standing on my sister’s shoulders and other women who have come before me.”

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