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The State of Women in the Workplace, with Rachel Thomas and Alexis Krivkovich

The State of Women in the Workplace, with Rachel Thomas and Alexis Krivkovich

We sit down with Rachel Thomas, Co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org, and Alexis Krivkovich, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, to discuss the 2022 edition of McKinsey and LeanIn.Org's Women in the Workplace report, including why women leave the workforce, how to retain better representation and leadership, and the ups and downs of hybrid work and flexibility.


0:00:00.5 Maricella Herrera: Hi, everyone. Before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade on June 24th, which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to help at I encourage you to speak up, take care and spread the word.


0:00:46.0 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.

0:01:04.9 Megan Oliver: Hi everybody, welcome back to the Ellevate Podcast. I know mine is not the voice that you are used to hearing right off the bat. It's producer Megan here. I am just coming in to say that we have a super special episode for you guys today. So as I'm sure many of you all know, McKinsey & Company's annual report, Women in the Workplace just released its 2022 version. It is the report about women's experiences in the workplace we... It's just incredible data that I know Ellevate loves, but I don't know anyone who doesn't use this report, [chuckle] who doesn't follow this report, and just to see the status of women in the workplace. So the 2022 edition of it just came out and we actually got the chance to talk to Rachel Thomas, the Co-Founder and CEO of, and Alexis Krivkovich, the co-founding Author of the report, and we get our chance to sit down and talk to them just all about the report, about the data that's in it, about what changes have happened this year, about the changes women are experiencing at the workplace and it is so incredible.

0:02:14.3 MO: So get ready for an amazing conversation between Maricella, Rachel and Alexis if you're following this report. If you're not following this report, definitely be sure to give this a listen and definitely be sure to check it out, because this has really become the gold standard for women in the workplace. Without further ado, let's go ahead and cut to that interview now.


0:02:49.8 MH: Very excited today to be here with Alexis Krivkovich and Rachel Thomas. Alexis is from McKinsey, Rachel is the Co-Founder of Lean In, and you all work together to put out the McKinsey and Lean In Women in the Workplace report, which has been going out for the last eight years. And that last one just came out yesterday, which is very exciting. I wait for that report every year by the way.

0:03:20.8 Alexis Krivkovich: Oh, that's so nice to hear.

0:03:22.9 Rachel Thomas: It is nice to hear.

0:03:25.2 MH: What trends have you seen over the last eight years that have been eye-opening to you?

0:03:31.2 RT: The biggest thing we're seeing this year is we're in the midst of a great break-up. Women are just as ambitious as men in leadership, but they're leaving their companies at the highest rate we've ever seen and at a much higher rate than men. And here's why this matters, we know women are already dramatically under-represented in leadership, and now companies are losing the few women leaders they do have. And just to give you a sense of the scale of the problem, for every woman director who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company, so that's one up and two out.

0:04:06.0 MH: That's big.

0:04:07.2 RT: That is big, and that's our message this year, is companies really need to pay attention to it, they have a big pipeline problem.

0:04:15.3 MH: So, I wanna touch on two things here. First, I love the term the great break-up, because we've talked about the great resignation, the great reshuffle, the great everything, but break-up I think goes to the heart of it 'cause there's this dissatisfaction that's driving this.

0:04:30.3 AK: Yeah, I think that's such a great piece to pause on for a moment because they're not leaving the workforce, they're just leaving you. And I think companies need to keep that in mind, that this is the moment where women leaders who we've long known disproportionately show up in the workplace, the type of leaders that companies want to see, they do twice the sponsorship, they cover the majority of the DE&I objectives, they check in with employees more on workplace well-being, on balance, on workload, so they are strong critical leaders, but 75% of companies admit they don't reward that stuff formally. And so now you've got women leaders saying, "Wait a minute. What's the ROI? What's the return on this extra investment I'm making? And if I don't feel like I see it here, I'll go somewhere else to get it."

0:05:25.5 MH: I love it. It's not... Here is... It's not me, it's you. [laughter] It's very clear.

0:05:32.2 RT: Yes. Yes.

0:05:35.4 AK: That's right. And I think if you put the positive spin on it, what it says is companies that are getting this right, that have a track record of strong promotion equitably of talent, all types of talent, including their diverse talent, they're gonna win, and they're gonna be the places that attract these women, because they're not exiting the workforce entirely importantly, they're seeking out a better experience, a fairer experience, and one that matches the effort they're putting in.

0:06:04.1 RT: Yeah, and to Alexis' earlier point, they're gonna win attracting and retaining these amazing women leaders, the very leaders that are doing more to invest in employee well-being, they're doing more to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, as Alexis said, they're more likely to sponsor other employees, are more likely to show up as allies in the workplace, so they're gonna be attracting the very talent they need to really move into the future of the workplace and create a culture that works for everybody. So all ships will rise if organisations can figure out how to hold onto those precious women leaders.

0:06:40.0 MH: My God, you are talking my language here. This is so exciting because I... Also to me, I hear a lot about how women are just leaving, or minorities too, to be honest. And my question is, but if we're all leaving, how are things gonna change? But you're right, we're going to places that value us and therefore, the tide will lift all boats. I wanna go back to something Rachel said at the beginning, which was, "It's not that we're not ambitious." I've read so many articles recently and so many comments on women are less ambitious now, that they were in the past.

0:07:25.6 AK: Yeah, it's so interesting, in fact, what we see is the opposite, so women remain as ambitious as men in wanting the next promotion. What they don't want is the top jobs, the way the top jobs are defined today with all the constraints surrounding them. And one of the issues about the top jobs today is three out of every four of them in the C-suite is held by a man, 19 out of every 20 is held by someone who's not a woman of colour, and so you don't have representation today in leadership that looks like the breadth and the diversity of profiles of what great leadership could look like. And so you have this disconnect where women are highly ambitious, and in fact, what we see is women under 30, their ambition has grown through COVID. They're even more ambitious than they've ever been before, but they have an expectation about where they wanna put that ambition. And I think they're rightly challenging the pretty narrow, confined way we've historically defined what those rules need to look like in order for people to succeed.

0:08:33.2 MH: What do you think... Are they looking for more if they are to look at a top job for example?

0:08:40.3 RT: So the same things that women in leadership are prioritising, young women are prioritising too. They wanna work for organisations where they see opportunity, and we know that in many organisations, women still receive more signals that it's gonna be hard for them to advance. Just one of 100 facts we could share with you, is that women leaders are twice as likely to be mistaken for someone more junior than men leaders.

0:09:08.9 RT: And so women are going through the workplace and receiving these signals that it's gonna be harder, so it's not surprising they wanna go to workplaces where they don't think they're gonna receive as many of those signals, workplaces that are incredibly invested in diversity, equity and inclusion. The other thing that we know is that they place a higher premium on flexibility. And this is likely because women tend to be doing more at home, working that double shift, and also we would argue, they're doing more at work. And then finally, they are deeply committed to employee well-being and to diversity and inclusion, and they expect their companies to be committed to it as well, so you see that for women leaders, and you especially see it for young women, these rising women leaders, all of these things are even more important to them.

0:09:55.2 AK: Yeah, it's... And you put it in the day-to-day context and you just think it's easy in the data to dismiss away some of these things, it's not a big deal to be... But if you've worked so hard to get into the room and to earn your equal spot there, and then someone asks you if you're gonna bring the coffee or if you're gonna take notes for everybody, or I had a colleague who was in a meeting the other day, really important high stakes meeting, and someone turned to her and said, "I'm surprised you've been able to be this successful given you look like a little girl."

0:10:28.2 Speaker 6: Oh my God, that's not even a microaggression.


0:10:29.4 AK: And we're just sitting there going, "Wait, what?" And it just sits out there. These moments and they're the little... They're the fractional stop that... I don't know a man who's ever had to grapple with that and then turn around and crush it. And women have those experiences all the time. They say something, then someone sitting next to them says the same thing and it's attributed to the other person. And this happens... In particular, this happens with very high frequency for women of colour, and the degree to which they describe these experiences, these micro-moments in the workplace. And I think one of the most fascinating things as a result is that women of colour, women with disabilities, LGBTQ+ talent, they describe a better workplace now, that there's more hybrid and more remote in it, in part because they don't face these micro-moments that are so discouraging and undermining.

0:11:30.2 RT: Yeah, and just building on what Alexis said, all women are experiencing these undermining microaggressions that get at your confidence and that can really slow you down. Alexis told one story and we could spend the rest of this podcast telling stories about things that we've heard that have knocked us off our ground for a moment. But we know that for women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, they actually start to veer into being fully disrespectful and othering. For example, those groups of women are more likely to be criticised for their demeanour. To hear comments like, "You look mad," or, "You should smile more." They're more likely to have co-workers comment on their appearance in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. And so one of the things... Microaggressions is the term that's used to describe these slights or cuts, but I've had so many women of colour and women with a traditionally marginalised identity say, "Microaggressions? Macroaggressions?" And I think that that is a point worth pausing on. And regardless... They add up, regardless of who you are.

0:12:36.1 RT: Depending on your identity, they actually hit pretty hard, and it's hard to be your best self, it's hard to show up in the workplace when you're experiencing them on a regular basis, and yet, despite all of that, we know that women of colour are actually more ambitious than White women, and so one of our messages for years has been if you wanna get more women in leadership in your organisation, you should be doubling and tripling down on supporting and advancing women of colour and other women with traditionally marginalised identities, these women are ambitious despite the extra headwinds.

0:13:12.9 MH: And yet they're the ones that are being left behind the most.

0:13:16.7 RT: That is exactly right. If you look in the pipeline year over year, and I'll talk about women of colour, 'cause that's the pipeline data we have, but women of colour are advancing more slowly than White women, and more slowly than men of colour. So as a result, when you get to the C-Suite in organisations, only one in five C- Suite leaders is a woman, but only one in 20 is a woman of colour, and we need to change that.

0:13:41.2 MH: We absolutely need to change that, and I understand the death by a thousand cuts of microaggressions, I always write about how I'm an emotional Latina according to people. But it gets hard. Of course, people wanna leave. Do you think... So I know you've talked about in the reports in the past and in this year as well, about the broken rung, is that also I'm assuming much more pronounced for minorities?

0:14:15.7 AK: It is, although I think if there's a bit of a bright spot in the data we've seen over the past two years, that it's closing, and I think that's something to point out because it suggests that companies are starting to put the attention that's very necessary and very deserved for not just talent in general, or women and men, but really all forms of diversity, and in particular, the experiences of intersectionality and like Rachel was talking about. So what you see though overall, is that the broken rung is really persistent.

0:14:52.7 AK: For every 100 men who moves forward, only 87 women do, and 82 women of colour. Now, a couple of years ago, that number for women of colour, you were a Black woman, it was more like 56. So great that we're moving our way in the right direction, but still these numbers 82, 87 to 100, they may feel small, but we're talking about the very first step up to manager... This is the moment you typically see a bigger paycheck, you get a mandate that's larger, these are jobs that parlay into other bigger opportunities, and to be leaving that many women behind, that many women of colour behind means you set up a pathway you can really never recover from. And that's what we see with most companies, if they start off behind, they never regain that ground.

0:15:43.2 RT: And by the way, this is the second pipeline problem. We've talked about women leaders leaving at a higher rate than men leaders, and on top of that, most organisations have this broken rung, so that means you're advancing fewer women into leadership and now you're losing more women in leadership. And companies have worked hard over the last 10 years, the progress has been slower than I would like, and I think all of us here today talking would like, but they have made progress on gender equity, but if they don't address these two areas of the broken rung, that progress is really going to unwind.

0:16:18.8 MH: That's really true how for years and years, I think back in the day, you would always hear the problem of the pipeline of people coming into the workforce, and now it's really not women coming into companies, but actually being promoted into management roles, leadership roles and then leaving. And I do wanna come back to specifically the management part because in your report, you do say that managers play an essential role in shaping women's and all of the employees' experiences which I truly believe, and this is something that I wholeheartedly think managers make or break culture, so if we're losing some... If we are having less women come into these roles, what's that impact going to be in the culture of organisations?

0:17:16.2 AK: Yeah, I think it's exactly the right question. When you think about when people leave a company, they're really leaving their manager, 'cause you experience a lot more in your day-to-day by the person who manages and oversees your work than you do by what's happening up in the C-suite, particularly if you're not close to that level and you're early in your career. And the reality is there's a growing gap between what's expected of managers and how they're being trained and rewarded. So most companies will admit that... 80% [chuckle] will say, "I'm asking more than I was two years ago. I want my manager to check in on well-being, I want them to help support advancement, I want them to promote inclusion and diversity on their teams." But less than half of all manager trainings even cover these topics. And most managers say, "I don't even know where to begin on a lot of this," and so it's not surprising that all talent says, "Wait a minute, I don't see these things happening day-to-day." There's a huge disconnect between what the company says they're asking their manager to do, and what the average individual says they experience from their manager.

0:18:26.2 AK: And if you're a woman who already faces these other headwinds we just talked about, having a manager show interest in your career, help with your workload, encourage respectful behaviour from others, that stuff matters a tonne, but less than half of women will say that they see their manager doing those types of activities on a day-to-day basis. So I think there's a tonne here to unlock in getting managers set up for success and truly, you get it right, you'll not only help your women attrition challenge, you're gonna help all your talent really rise.

0:19:05.6 MH: Yeah. Аnd it's interesting, 80% saying that they're asking them to do more, and the more comes from all of these cultural aspects, more about business culture, it comes about from the DЕI, from checking in on wellness, from checking in on their advancement, and that's... Most managers are just thrown in without a map, [chuckle] just go.

0:19:32.3 AK: Well, and the great irony is, in a lot of companies, the way you get the job of manager is 'cause you were really good at doing the job before, which probably means you got some of the least coaching along the way. And so the chances that you actually already know how to coach people from all different backgrounds, all different experiences, who need support on all these new things that you were never asked about before is just... It's magical thinking.

0:20:04.7 MH: Yeah, I'm fascinated by the whole effect of management, and you do mention about performance review and how a lot of these extra things... Not even extra things 'cause honestly, I do believe that team morale, employee retention, they're all part of your role as manager, but they're not taken account into your performance review, then if they're not measured, how much do you really put into them?

0:20:35.0 RT: That's exactly right. We know this, that in most organisations, what gets measured and what gets rewarded is what gets done, and so one of the really telling findings from this year is almost all companies, 93%, they look at business goals and business metrics when they're evaluating their managers, of course, they do, that makes sense. But they're not looking at metrics linked to employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion, they're not looking at employee morale, they're not looking at employee retention, a sense of belonging on teams, and that really matters, that matters because as Alexis unpacked so beautifully, we need our managers to be showing up differently, and that's not an indictment of managers, that's a message to companies they need to do more to set them up for success and give them the wherewithal to really show up as the demands of being a manager have changed, particularly as we're switching to more and more flexible work and people are not even all in the office together.

0:21:37.8 RT: And then the other thing that's gonna be great if companies actually start to build these metrics into performance reviews, who is that gonna end up recognising? It's gonna end up recognising disproportionately the women managers who were already doing this. So that's gonna lead to more money for them, more advancement to them, and I think companies are gonna have a better chance of holding onto them if they start to reward that important and critical work that often goes unrecognised.

0:22:04.5 MH: Absolutely. I wanna go back a little bit to the flexibility and hybrid work, because you're saying the hybrid work and flexibility are game changers for women, but there has been this debate and maybe it's quieted down a little bit of will that hybrid work, which will be taken advantage of, this flexibility to work remotely by more women and minorities who actually will benefit a lot from them, will that impact them in terms of their visibility and therefore in terms of their potential for growing in their careers?

0:22:46.4 AK: Yeah, it's a really important point to think through because there's certainly that risk there, that you create a new community of difference that's built about who's in and getting face time, who's out and not getting the physical face time. I think it's worth starting though with the recognition that everyone wants to see more flex in the future workplace. That doesn't mean an entirely remote world, but in many cases, it means more incorporation of virtual hybrid models than we had pre-pandemic, the vast majority of employees, men and women, want to see that. And frankly, most companies that we surveyed said they don't anticipate going all the way back, in fact, only 7% said that they were headed into a mode of trying to get everybody back into the office the way it was before the pandemic. So our sense here is that there's something about how do you take the bright spot from this forced experiment around hybrid and remote work and incorporate that into a future value proposition that is appealing to all employees, but is particularly valuable to women and individuals of colour, because the workplace they experienced before wasn't as positive for them?

0:24:14.5 MH: Yeah.

0:24:15.1 AK: The number one thing women said they wanted to see more of before the pandemic, was greater flex in the model. And so my anticipation is that what you're gonna see is something where we land, somewhere where we take the best of that and create that and make that available to employees without the expectation that that means we move all the way into a virtual world.

0:24:35.1 MH: That makes sense. And there are many, many, many good things about flex work and hybrid work, I'm a fan. Was there anything specific that surprised either of you in the report this year?

0:24:53.5 RT: And it goes back to this conversation around flexibility, and I couldn't agree with Alexis more, I think for many companies, it's not gonna be 100% remote, but that one in 10 women only wanna work mostly on-site, I think that's really telling, and as we already discussed, it's not just about flexibility, it actually is delivering a better day-to-day work experience for them. But that makes me also wanna step back and really pause and because that is really pointing to that the cultural work overall needs to improve. We don't want a workplace where working from home is markedly better because you experience fewer micro-aggressions and you feel more psychological safety. We want a workplace where regardless of where you work, a coffee shop, your kitchen table or at a desk in an office place, that you feel respected, valued, included. So I think it really speaks to at the same time, companies need to be focusing on how to get flexibility to work for everyone, so those that are remote or hybrid and they're more likely to be women, are not penalised, they don't face flexibility stigma, which we know is alive and real.

0:26:11.7 RT: That's one thing companies really need to be thinking about, but they also just need to be continuing to invest in making the culture of work better for everyone, so we get to a workplace where regardless of where you're working, when you're working, you're judged or you're evaluated based on results. And that you feel like you belong and you feel like you're welcomed, and so that really is the future of the workplace. And what's exciting is I think as companies continue to navigate this big seismic shift towards flexibility, it's forcing the intentionality, the creativity, the trial and error that I think is actually just gonna get us to a better workplace overall.

0:26:53.2 MH: Rachel, you just blew my mind, 'cause I think we tend to think a lot about flexibility because of the benefits of caregiving or being at home or whatever, but when you look at the numbers like you guys have and look at the number of micro-aggressions and look at those data points about how othering the experiences can be or how bad the day-to-day work environment can be, you're right, we have to change the culture, it has to become a place of inclusion and belonging. It's just a different way to look at flexibility.

0:27:36.7 RT: Yeah, that's right, and for all employees, regardless of where and when they're working. And that is literally the future of work, and I think what happened is we glimpsed what that could be like during the pandemic, all of us. And so what you're seeing is all employees but particularly women employees saying, we don't want to go back, we're not gonna return to business as usual, and I think that's what's really fundamentally driving the great break-up.

0:28:01.6 MH: What can women... And we talked about young women, so we can say specifically then, how can they make their voices heard and particularly when we're talking about this environment of work right now?

0:28:17.5 AK: Well, one thing is really vote with your feet and think about where you wanna put that high-octane energy you have in your career, towards a company that's going to reward you for those efforts and those that have a track record. I think increasingly young women are gonna look at leadership levels as they're evaluating the companies they consider and say, "You talk about the importance of diversity, do I see it in your numbers? You talk about how much you value inclusion, do I hear that from the employees who work for you?" And one of the most exciting things for me this year in the findings has been the degree to which some of the actions around diversity and inclusion that we saw a few years ago are really becoming table stakes, meaning the vast majority of companies have put practices in place and that companies that are leading on measures of diversity, both women and women of colour are disproportionately now leaning forward on a number of other practices that used to be considered maybe experimental and are now clearly associated with those who are breaking away and out in front. And these are things like I don't just do bias training, I actually have mechanisms to interrupt it in the moments that matter when we're having decision meetings about talent.

0:29:42.7 AK: I don't just talk about and track measures of diversity, I create accountability in my leadership, I put teeth behind it. And so not... You can't join an organisation and in your first five weeks, [chuckle] go influence those policies, but you can increasingly, one, choose companies where you hear them talking in specifics about the actions they're taking, not just in principle about how important diversity is. And two, be asking your leadership, do you see these types of steps being taken, are they looking at the research? Are they innovating consistently? Are they reflecting on the culture of the workplace they've created and trying to improve it every single day?

0:30:27.0 MH: What would be, in your opinion, the number one thing a company could do to improve or fix some of these issues?

0:30:37.9 RT: Yeah, that's a very interesting question. Two things come to mind for me, but let me step back in that I agree with Alexis' larger point, that what it... From a 10,000 foot perspective, companies need to move beyond the basics, they've to start pushing, forging new ground, trying different things and moving from a single intervention or a one-time training to really figuring out how to get their commitment to employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion in their policies to really make sure that they're fully integrated into the day-to-day of work. That said, two things I think organisations should really focus on, one, fix your broken rung. My guess is if it's at the manager level in most organisations, but if it's even at another level, a little bit higher up, find that broken rung and really make sure that promotions are equitable, monitor the outcomes, make sure they are, and if they're not, root out the bias aspects of your process and make sure that women are also being put up for promotion and getting the same opportunities at the same rates, and then the other thing that we already talked about is, managers are on the front lines of all this.

0:31:57.4 RT: I think organisations rise and fall based on how their managers are showing up, so make sure it's not just expectations of managers that are rising, training's getting better, managers are getting the support that they need to be showing up as their best selves. 'Cause over the last couple of years, we've just asked more of managers, have we taken anything off their plates or created some space for them? And then really putting teeth into performance reviews. If you're not showing up as a good people manager, if you're not fostering inclusion, that should be part of your performance review, the expectation should be that all managers are starting to do those things well.

0:32:37.1 AK: And if I can add a third to the list, de-average your data. Too many companies pat themselves on the back because they're at 40%, 50% women, they're increasing ground on women of colour, but if you look at where that talent sits and how it's distributed across the company, it's all in hot spots. I've got an unbelievably diverse team but they're all in HR and marketing and this one business unit. That's not diversity in the way you want it. And that won't lead to pipelines that are healthy over time, and companies can do a lot more to take the high-level story they're looking at in their data and be willing to really dig in and explore it at the granular level, the level that would tell you where is it working for me and where is it not?

0:33:30.5 MH: Well, thank you so much. I know we're over time, but thank you so much for answering all these questions and for the work you do with the report, I really mean it, it's very... It's something I look forward to every year because part of me wants hope that things are getting better, but also because it's really enlightening on to just what the future of work should and could be.

0:33:56.7 RT: Thank you so much, we really appreciate it. And we were emailing, all of us, the big, big team across Lean In and McKinsey that works on this, we were emailing last night, and it is just... The back story on this is it's so amazing to see what women can do when we come together and we collaborate and we bring the best of ourselves, and so we really do put a lot of energy every year into getting this report out into the world, so thank you, we really appreciate that.

0:34:26.2 AK: Really, it's such a pleasure. Thanks so much for having us.

0:34:29.3 MH: Thank you. Do you have two more minutes for our lightning round or do you need to leave? 'Cause I know we're over time.

0:34:36.1 AK: Happy to.

0:34:36.7 MH: Okay.

0:34:37.2 RT: Yeah, me too.

0:34:38.8 MH: Great, I'm just gonna ask you some... 'Cause we went... Usually, we talk a lot about our guests' story, but we went right into the data...


0:34:48.5 MH: So...

0:34:48.9 AK: We love data.

0:34:51.2 MH: I'm with you here.

0:34:52.2 RT: We tend to do that.


0:34:54.7 RT: In fact, we often overdo it.

0:34:58.0 MH: I am with you on the... It's just fascinating. So it was my fault, I dug deep, just jumped in and didn't have time to ask a little bit more about where your... How you came into this work, because it is, I think, interesting both to understand how this project came to be. Actually, could you answer that? How did this start eight years ago?

0:35:28.9 AK: Well, I'll tell my story. I graduated university and my class was diverse, it was full of women, as we've had in this country each of the past 30 years, at least 50% of college graduates have been women, and I entered a workforce where at leadership there wasn't diversity that I expected to see, but I figured we just hadn't arrived yet, and that it was a generational thing, and then I progressed and the further I got, and increasingly, as I became part of leadership, I looked around and I said, "Well, this looks a lot more like 20 years ago, than what I thought I was gonna find 20 years later." And I started asking people why, and I felt the answers weren't specific enough, they weren't data-driven, they were very anecdotal, and I couldn't figure out how we would change the picture if we didn't actually understand what was going on. And so for me, it coincided with when I was having my third daughter and I was sitting there going, "Okay, I've got a generation to fix this. [chuckle] I better get started now," and that was really the driver for me, was wanting to see real change with real speed happening in the workplace and creating the dataset that would allow us to do that.

0:36:47.5 RT: It is so interesting because honestly, we could switch a couple of details and I would tell almost the very... I would answer the same question almost the very same way. So the one thing that I will add is when we started this collaboration eight years ago, I'll speak for myself, I think the original vision was the power of data to really drive change in organisations, we could point to weak spots, we could point to opportunities, we could give data-driven recommendations for how companies can move the dial, and we've had some great examples I think, of us achieving those bold results. I think we've seen the broken rung start to close up, it's still broken and that's not okay, but it's closing up, we've seen companies add new policies and programs, and they've explicitly said it's based on seeing data or findings in our report. But the one piece of it that I did not expect, that I have just gotten so much from personally is how many women reach out. And they say a couple things. You hear, "I sent the report to a manager," or "I sent the report to someone in HR in my organisation.

0:37:58.2 RT: Thank you. The report is doing the hard work for me," that's one thing you hear a lot. And the other thing you hear, lots of different words, but the message is you hear, "I feel seen. I feel validated that my experience is actually supported by big data, and it's not just me saying I'm having this experience, the Women in the Workplace Study is saying that this experience is real and that companies need to address it." So I think that piece of it, that it's not just driving change in organisations, it's actually validating and empowering the women themselves, has been something that over the years, I have just... It gets me up every morning when we're working early or it keeps me up late every night when we're working on this report to get it out, because that type of change feels really meaningful.

0:38:48.7 MH: That's so powerful. The being seen is... We sometimes underestimate the power that that has in creating and just keeping you going.

0:39:03.9 AK: Yeah, and helping others see that this experience you're having is not yours alone, it's not you. [chuckle] You said at the beginning, it's not you, it's them. And giving the confidence that that's the case.

0:39:21.5 MH: Okay, now I'm gonna go to the lightning round. If you could time travel, where is the first place you would go?

0:39:34.3 AK: Oh my gosh, I'm gonna go 20 years in the future to see how much we've fixed.

0:39:38.4 MH: I like that.


0:39:39.5 RT: Oh my God, that answer was so good. I was sitting here like I don't know, I really don't have any answer.


0:39:44.9 RT: I'm gonna with Alexis, I'm gonna go with Alexis 20 years in the future to see how it looks as our daughters are entering the workplace and what their experience is and hope that we can really point to changes that maybe we played a little, little bit of a role in.

0:40:02.2 MH: Love it. Would you rather explore outer space or the bottom of the ocean?

0:40:12.1 RT: That's easy for me, outer space hands down.

0:40:15.9 AK: I'm gonna take the ocean floor.


0:40:20.2 MH: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

0:40:26.8 RT: So I...

0:40:27.0 AK: Oh, I know this.

0:40:28.1 RT: Oh, you go.

0:40:30.0 AK: Go ahead Rachel, go.

0:40:31.0 RT: Well, I always joke I'd like to be able to... I call it bleeping. So I'd like to be able to just close my eyes and travel to anywhere in an instant. We call it bleeping in our house, and I would really like to be able to do it.

0:40:43.7 MH: That's a good one.

0:40:46.6 AK: I think if I could operate on four hours sleep, then I could be all the different people [laughter] I aspire to be in one lifetime.

0:40:56.8 MH: Oof. That just made me tired, Alexis.

0:41:00.7 AK: No, no, but I wouldn't be tired, that's the thing.

0:41:03.2 MH: That's a point, right.

0:41:03.8 AK: I'd be refreshed, I might actually run that marathon, you never know.


0:41:11.3 AK: Anything's possible.

0:41:11.7 MH: Anything is possible. What's the best piece of advice you ever received?

0:41:20.0 AK: The best piece of advice I've ever received was use a filter on all the advice you get.


0:41:28.4 AK: And I love that because actually when you reflect on it, you get a lot of advice that you go, "Really? That's what it's gonna take? I'm not sure I'm up for that."

0:41:40.2 MH: I'm stealing that, that's great. How about you Rachel?

0:41:48.0 RT: Oh I don't know, I feel like Alexis, you get a lot of advice as you travel through your career. I think it's a classic, but it really matters, is just do what you love, do what you're passionate about, and put everything you've got into it and then everything... Things fall in place for you, and so I've been at the foundation for 10 years November, and I really do wake up every morning, really grateful that I'm doing work that feels like it makes a difference, that feels like a real luxury and I don't take that for granted.

0:42:23.0 MH: That's amazing. And 10 years... I've been here 10 years too. It's a... I know that feeling. Finally, this is the last one. What's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:42:38.0 RT: Oh, I'll jump in this, I think this all the time. So like Alexis, I came out of university and I just thought the world was a little bit different than it was. I thought we were further along on the journey to gender equity than we were, and then when I started to work at Lean In and started to really get steeped in all the data around women's experience, there was a moment where the light bulb went off, and a lot of this is not about Rachel Thomas as an individual, this is about me and my gender, that the things I'm taking personally, I shouldn't be. So I wanna be able to go around woman to woman and girl to girl and say to them, "It is not you, it is the culture. And we're working hard to change it, but in the meantime, it is not you and you just keep doing your thing," so that would be the one thing that I'm most...

0:43:31.8 AK: Perhaps similarly, I'd say your difference is your superpower. What we need more of is more variety, more different ways of being leaders, more variability and thought from top to bottom in our organisations, and showing up with difference doesn't mean you need to conform, it means the workplace needs to shift to embrace you.

0:44:00.6 MH: I love it. I love those sentiments. Thank you so much for this and for humouring me with the lightning round. I always think...

0:44:09.0 AK: So much fun.

0:44:10.2 RT: It was really fun. Alexis' answers were awesome as always, it was great.

0:44:14.2 AK: Well, that's such a treat. Thank you for covering this in the conversation. I think this is really great.

0:44:20.3 MH: Thank you.


0:44:27.7 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website,, that's And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.