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None of Us Are Free Until All of Us Are Free, with Freada Kapor Klein

None of Us Are Free Until All of Us Are Free, with Freada Kapor Klein

We sit down with Freada Kapor Klein, Founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, to discuss sexual harassment in the workplace, closing opportunity gaps for lower-income individuals, and the need for intersectionality in everything we do. We also discuss her new book, "Closing the Equity Gap: Creating Wealth and Fostering Justice in Startup Investing," which has been met with acclaim from Al Gore, Serena Williams, Valerie Jarrett, and more. Find out more at


Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go, learning follows. Harvard Business School Executive Education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at That's

Megan Oliver: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, conversations with women changing the face of business. And now your hosts, Maricella Herrera and Megan Oliver.

MH: Hey, everyone, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera. I'm the CEO of Ellevate Network and I am here with the spectacular, now 30-year-old Megan Oliver.

MO: The spectacular, that's very... If you ever read, it's giving me... If you ever read Spider-Man comics, you'll find that Spider-Man comics, there's always an adjective. It's like, amazing Spider-Man number 12, spectacular Spider-Man number four. And so it got to the... Yeah, it got to the point where like literally anytime it's just the regular Spider-Man one, people will call it Adjectiveless Spider-Man number eight. [laughter] And so like when you were like the spectacular Megan Oliver, I was like, I'm Spider-Man.

MH: Spider-Man, Spider-Man. You know that in some places in Spanish, well in Spain actually, instead... So in Spanish, Spider-Man is Hombre Araña, right? Like literal Spider-Man. And that's how we call them in many places in Latin America. But in Spain, they call him Speeder-man. So they just don't translate, they just pronounce it in Spanish.

MO: I guess that works.

MH: Fun fact of the day. [laughter]

MO: Yeah. It kind of makes it sound like he's like a speedster, like the Flash, like speeder-man.

MH: Speeder-man, yeah. But I'm not a fan of speeder-man, I'd rather say Hombre Araña.

MO: Yeah. It's more fun. It sounds prettier anyway.

MH: [laughter] It's a mouthful, but anyway, what's been going on?

MO: So I, as I mentioned last week, I recently got back from my trip to Lake Placid where I got naturally a whole bunch of books because I can't stop buying books. And so I got a ton of... Part of the reason I justified it was because they had a ton of like winter Olympian biographies and autobiographies that are not really carried elsewhere because they know a lot of tourists are there for the Olympics. But I also picked up a book that I'm pretty sure I'm gonna have to send you that I've been reading and I'm already like halfway through, which is called American Murder Houses.

MH: Ooh.

MO: Yeah. And it's by Steve Lehto or Lehto. And basically it's just a rundown of like 29 different houses that are still standing that famous crimes happened in. And kind of what happened to them over time, 'cause some of them became like a museum to it. Like the Lizzie Borden house is now like a bed and breakfast and you can go see the Lizzie Borden house. Whereas some of them are like just privately owned houses. The one thing I kind of wish he does have the addresses in there, which he says he's like... I literally only had to Google this 'cause it's all public record, but like he is very big about saying, "If these are privately owned, please do not bother the people."

MH: [laughter] Don't go and stand outside.

MO: And be like, "Hey, we heard about the murder that happened here." So I'm kind of heavy on that, but I'm like, I do get that he was like, it's literally as simple as a Google search to get the addresses to these houses, it's not like I'm revealing anything that nobody else would know. But yeah, so really cool and just like so interesting to go through, just of specifically ones that are still standing. 'Cause he covers a couple of different ones at the beginning where he's like, "I'm not gona do these because the place has since been demolished." But it's really interesting. The most interesting thing about it is seeing how they evolved over the years of like what they became and what became of these houses that had horrible crimes that they're in. So yeah, it's really, really interesting.

MH: That sounds like something that would be up my alley for sure.

MO: Oh yeah.

MH: Yeah. I do... I'm basic that way. I like true crime. Yeah. I'm back to listening to my favorite murder again which I had taken a break 'cause really the running less time really, really puts a dent, I guess in my podcast listening.

MO: Yeah. I can imagine.

MH: Yeah. Yeah.

MO: I've had to be really intentional about it literally since moving to New York because it used to be my podcast time was my morning drives.

MH: Yeah. The commute.

MO: Yeah. A commute is such a good time. And then at least like in New York for a while, when I was working in person in places, I would have at least a commute that way and so I could listen to it. But when you're working from home, sometimes it's just like, I'll do it like while I'm in the bath or like while I'm cooking, the one time a week that I cook. I need to be better about cooking, but I'm not going to be. [chuckle]

MH: Yeah. I'm doing it. I'm trying to go for walks so that my toes get back to the... I don't know, my body gets back to using it as it should [laughter] 'cause I'm pretty much out of the weeds by now. So I'm hoping to be able to run in a few days. So I'm gonna be back on my podcast binge. What have I been into? Last week I talked about my trash TV binge, which I continue, [laughter] I'm sorry to say it's still there. It is still that.

MO: No such thing as a guilty pleasure in my book. Only pleasure.

MH: Yeah. I'm still going through that. So there's not a lot much, not much more than that.

MO: We are on this earth too short of a time to feel guilty about things that give us pleasure.

MH: Yeah. And the book I'm reading currently, I'm reading a few to be honest, I'm always reading like three books. But the silly novel before you go to bed book I'm reading right now is Lessons in Chemistry, which I hadn't read. And I kept seeing it in Libby and the library app and it's pretty cute. It's about this scientist in the 50s. She's a woman so she faces a lot of discrimination and hardship, but it's about how she falls in love with someone who is also a scientist and what happens in like her life. It's really good and it has a lot of like, I don't know, those moments of wow we've come a long way, but also we still have so much to go when it comes to gender equity. Which brings me perfectly... [laughter]

MO: To this week's guest.

MH: To this week's guest, yeah. Actually that's a great segue because today my conversation is with Freada Kapor Klein and she is... Talk about someone who made strides for women. She is an entrepreneur, an activist, an investor, and a pioneer in the field of organizational culture and diversity. She is also the co-author of the forthcoming book Closing the Equity Gap, Creating Wealth and Fostering Justice in Startup Investing, which she wrote with her husband and business partner. But honestly, my favorite of all of her accolades is that she co-founded the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion, the first organization in the US to address sexual harassment. So that's how much of a badass this woman is and we had an amazing conversation and I hope you enjoy it.

MO: I cannot wait for this one.


MH: Freada, thank you so much for being here.

Freada Kapor Klein: It's an absolute delight.

MH: I am so honored, really. And I'm not just saying this, I am so honored to have the chance to talk to you. I will say Megan, who books our guests and interviews, had promised me I would have some incredible activist, philanthropist, social justice kind of people coming in. And when I saw your name, I was very happy. [laughter]

FK: Great. I'm honored.

MH: So I'm really excited. For our listeners who are not familiar with your work, can you give us a little backstory of who you are and what led you to what you're doing now, what brought you to where you are today? I know it's a big question.

FK: That is a big question. It's a great question. So first of all, I'm old and so my backstory is long, so I'll try to be pretty brief here. I have always been a social justice activist. So I was cutting school in middle school to go picket for the farm workers. I co-founded the first group on sexual harassment in the United States in 1976, probably before some of your ardent listeners were even born. And I've had sort of what I see as an unbroken commitment to issues of social and racial justice. And that has taken me through the nonprofit and the for-profit and the investing worlds with some great adventures.

MH: Tell me a little bit about the different... So I mean, you're talking about social justice. What do you think made you want to go there, even as you were a young kid picketing for farm workers?

FK: Well, I have always felt that none of us are free until all of us are free. And so I've always thought that one of the things that's sadly lacking too often in the US is a big sense of empathy. And for us to be a little bit humble and to remember that unless we are a member of a Native American tribe, we are all immigrants to this country. And some people are willing immigrants and some people were brought here enslaved. And I think we need to really think about how do we get to build this country together in a way that honors and exposes many terrible things about our past, but what were some of the good founding principles that we can continue to leverage today?

MH: How do you think... I agree with you on empathy, and I think it's also a muscle, empathy. We can become more empathetic leaders, that's a big part of how we should be presenting. How do we develop that empathy?

FK: Well, I think your characterization of empathy as a muscle is fabulous because what that says is we can get stronger and stronger and we can develop it in different ways and we can do that individually and we can do that as women from different backgrounds doing that in a group class of exercising our empathy muscles. So I think it requires being true to some principles. I think every now and then we should stop and ask, if I take this step as a leader, if I put this practice into place, if I make this move, if I make this acquisition, if I make this investment, who benefits and does someone suffer from it? Or is there a way to achieve what I'm trying to achieve in more of a win-win framework? And for me, spending a lot of my time as an investor, we invest in what we consider to be gap-closing tech startups.

FK: And by that we mean the core business has to close a gap of access or opportunity or outcome for low-income communities and or communities of color. So we're not just looking at, gee, was the founder a woman or was the founder a woman of color or is this product for women? We are looking at which women? And we're looking at who benefits if this company becomes successful and does it widen gaps between haves and have-nots or does it close those gaps? So one of the ways that we can develop this empathy muscle is to always ask ourselves those questions. Who benefits if I make the following decision and have I inadvertently left someone behind?

MH: I love that and I love that you have those very specific questions and I do want to go into your venture capital background and funding and the type of companies that you fund because to me this is a big way in which we can make a difference. But I wanna go back to 1976 first. [laughter]

FK: Okay. The time machine.

MH: The time machine. That's what I strive for. You mentioned you created the first group against sexual harassment. Correct me if I'm wrong. The Alliance Against Sexual Coercion.

FK: Exactly right.

MH: And tell me... I mean, to me, being in this space now in 2023, seeing things go backwards in many ways, I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to create something like this in 1976. So I would love to hear your experience when starting it.

FK: Well thank you and thank you for that display of empathy. That's a great modeling. It was indeed difficult because sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, was a joke back then. You were unlucky if you had a boss who chased you around the desk. It was not seen as his problem. It was seen as your lack of luck in getting that job and getting that boss. So I co-founded the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion in 1976, coming out of my experience volunteering at a couple of the first rape crisis centers in the US. As part of my undergraduate college experience in California, we had to do fieldwork. And so my fieldwork was actually at Bay Area Women Against Rape. And it was there that I began to understand the limits of the criminal justice system. And I also began to understand how many different contexts and situations led to a range of unwelcome sexual attention, that we knew about rape at one end of the spectrum. And as we learned more and more about it, it was not strangers leaping from the bushes. It was people that we knew. It was people from our workplaces, for instance. And we saw the limits of the criminal justice system.

FK: There was actually one district attorney who said to me, "Look, the only rape case I can get past a jury with a conviction is a nun with 96 stab wounds." And for me to remember it verbatim this many decades later tells you what an impact it had on me. So when I moved, when I graduated college and I moved to the East Coast, I was... One of the places I went to meet people and develop some friendships while I started graduate school was the DC Rape Crisis Center. And in taking shifts there, I started getting calls from women who were sexually assaulted or attempted sexual assault towards them by members of Congress or others in the government. And so one call I took and what we were trained to do was advocacy with the police and advocacy with the healthcare system, taking people to hospitals. And I called the Capitol Police and said I wanted to help this woman make a complaint. And the gentleman was asking me... Going through the form, asking me all these details. And when I got to the name of the person who was the accused, the Capitol Police officer said to me on the phone, "Lady, I will lose my job if I file this report."

MH: Ooh.

FK: So that prompted me as someone who had had some research training and was pursuing research in my graduate work to reach out to the other rape crisis centers in the country. And at this point in time, there were about 200 and we did a survey of them. Had anybody else run into this problem of women who were assaulted by their bosses or their colleagues at work and trying to use the Rape Crisis Center protocol and hitting a brick wall. So it turns out that in 1975, when we did the survey, that almost every single Rape Crisis Center had had this experience and they had all had it in the last one year timeframe. So something was going on in the culture where women themselves, all backgrounds, all races, all ages, all kinds of jobs, women themselves were saying, "There's a link between my boss hitting on me and rape. And the only service I know of that might be able to understand and support me is this relatively new rape crisis center." So what we learned from that survey is it was a very different issue that people did not wanna bring criminal charges against their boss, they wanted their boss to stop, and they didn't wanna lose their jobs.

FK: So we started the Alliance Against Sexual Coercion as three women who had all worked previously in rape crisis centers to develop a new protocol. And that was my beginning down this path that got me involved in workplace training, that got me to my doctoral dissertation, which in 1984, was a study of sexual harassment. And I had 20,000 research subjects, 10,000 men and 10,000 women, I was looking at only, at what people had experienced, but I also looked at how the issue was perceived. Where it was perceived similarly for men and women, where it was perceived similarly and dissimilarly between managers and employees. And so from there, it was a spring board into looking at all issues of bias and harassment and discrimination, and how to create welcoming work environments, as well as how to create safe and effective complaint channels.

MH: I think that part is very key because there is a very big aspect of this. I mean, we know this happens, right? And a lot of it goes unreported.

FK: Exactly.

MH: How have you... And I would say, you know, in the last, what was it, six years since Me Too, we've heard more about it, but it also went quiet after a while. So I don't know, do you think it's still the case that it is so underreported?

FK: Well, I think a couple of things have happened. I do think that there is more public awareness about sexual harassment at the work place in particular over all of these decades. I do think all of the barriers to reporting that people will not be believed, that if you do come forward, you will forever be labeled a troublemaker, a complainer, a victim, and it will hurt your career. I think all of those things, all of those barriers actually do still exist. On the positive side, I do think there is more awareness. I think there are some people, especially some men who now say, "Wait a second, making overtures to someone who reports to me or someone where I have power over their compensation and their livelihood, that is inappropriate. I'm not going to do that." So I do think there is a different dynamic going on, but I don't think we have come anywhere close to solving the problem. And when you talk about #MeToo, I was a founding member of the Hollywood Commission with Kathy Kennedy, the CEO of Lucasfilms, Anita Shaw, a prominent Los Angeles entertainment lawyer. And we brought in Anita Hill as the chair of the Hollywood Commission. And that was about five and a half years ago.

MH: That's incredible. I'm just smiling talking to you because it's... You've done so much for this area of impact that I know I'm passionate about. So it's just, I'm just very happy to be talking to you.

FK: Well, thank you. And I think it's also important to recognize that when we talk about sexual harassment in particular, that all of the first cases were brought by Black women.

MH: Yes. I was going to ask you how you...

FK: And I think that what's been lost in the history of talking about this issue is the intersectionality about what the experiences of Black and Latinx and Native women have been relative to those of White and Asian women. Women of color have always been more vulnerable to sexual harassment from members of their own racial and ethnic groups, as well as especially from White, more powerful men. But I think it's really important to understand it was Black women who stood up and spoke out in the first cases.

MH: Yeah. Thank you for saying that because I was gonna ask you about the intersectionality and what you saw if that had changed now but it's, to me but I mean, It's... In this case, you're saying this is about Black women in sexual harassment, but we also know in many of the movements, so for transgender rights, for example, it was Black transwomen, the ones that started it.

FK: Exactly.

MH: It's incredible the power that some of the most vulnerable communities can have, but we need to both make sure we are saying it, aware of the... Of all the work they've done to help all of us and not letting them stand alone.

FK: Exactly. When Anita Hill came forward and during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, I actually was a commentator on NBC with Tom Brokaw, but everyone started wearing these buttons that said, I believe Anita. And to your point, women need to believe and support and stand up for each other. In terms of how the issue has changed, we did a survey out of the Kapor Center a few years ago on what's it like to be a female entrepreneur. And to see that, unfortunately, many women who are entrepreneurs, who are launching businesses, who are pitching their businesses to venture capitalists, many of those women get inappropriate, unwanted sexual attention, get hit on comments made, unwanted touching. But nearly 10 times as much inappropriate sexual attention is directed at Black and Latinx women as is directed at White and Asian women. And so what... We wanna do both things. We wanna say all women are subject to these kinds of inappropriate behaviors and some women who are more marginalized are indeed more vulnerable.

FK: And it is our job if we are White women to stand up and to recognize that and to see if we can help, if we can be true allies and protect them from some of this unwanted and inappropriate attention.

MH: So this is making my stomach just ah, feels like a gut punch. Because not only are women not getting funded because you didn't even mention that part, besides not getting funded, they're having to go through that, through unwanted attention and sorry, I needed to... [laughter]

FK: No, you're absolutely right and you have same study. I mean, all women are being doubted as founders. They're having their competence and their expertise questioned relative to their male co-founders if they have male co-founders. But again, not every single woman has the same experience. And in general, Black and Latinx women are more likely to have their competence or expertise doubted.

MH: Good. And we are more likely to even receive less funding because of the teeny tiny bit of funding that goes to women-owned businesses and women-started businesses, even it is a teeny, teeny, teeny tinier percentage that goes to women of color. And Black and Latinx women are the ones that are increasingly creating businesses.

FK: Exactly. I am an optimist. Nobody does this work for this many decades who isn't an optimist or I suppose a masochist is possible too. But I'm an optimist. I do see things changing. And one of the things I see changing is... And we are investors, not only in Black and Latinx women as founders, as well as White and Asian women founders. We are investors in brand new venture capital funds being launched by women of all backgrounds, by Black women, by Latinx women, by Asian women, by White women and sometimes different women co-founders. So to see these new funds pop up where the general partners, the fund managers are women and women of color, and they prioritize and create a safe space for women entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses. And the businesses are more likely to focus on issues of great concern to women. Women's health, issues of concern to them as mothers, issues to concerns of them as being able to create safe and welcoming work environments.

MH: So are you seeing that it is more women, and I'll add people of color, making these, you called them gap closing tech startups?

FK: Yes. I do see disproportionately women and men of color starting gap closing businesses. Because, one of the things that we believe... And we have just written a book. My husband and I have written a book called Closing the Equity Gap. And it's about our first 10 years at Kapor Capital. And at Kapor Capital since 2011, so a dozen years in, we have been investing only in gap closing tech startups. And the majority of our founders are underrepresented. And by that, I mean women of any background, as well as Black and Latinx men. And I should add, as we detail many of these companies in Closing the Equity Gap, we also have earned top quartile financial returns. Meaning we do better than the majority of venture capital firms with an investment thesis that says gap closing businesses are more important, are more likely to be successful financially, as well as to be doing good out there in the world. So why we think underrepresented, underestimated founders are starting more of these businesses is they're using their lived experience. They're using their passion and coming forward and saying, "I've experienced this barrier, this problem, this hurdle, and I can figure out a solution." So it's their lived experience that identifies the purpose of the business, as well as how the solution is gonna unfold and scale across the population.

MH: Yeah, I understand that. And honestly, I think that's why they're so successful.

FK: Exactly.

MH: They're solving a problem that they had themselves.

FK: That's right, exactly. Often entrepreneurs scratch their own itch, and that level of passion and persistence to make sure this business succeeds, those are the best founders, because they understand the depths of the problem and the harm it can cause and the desperate need for a real solution.

MH: So let me ask you something. So before we got on air, we were talking about some of your time as a consultant for large businesses. You talked a little bit about some of the volunteer work you did, then about the Alliance. So you've been in the nonprofit space, you've been in the for-profit space, you've been now investing in companies. What do you think, or where do you think is... What has the most impact? I know this is a very big question.

FK: Well, it's a great and very important question. I think impact can be made from any sector. I think the most powerful impact is when the sectors can collaborate on solutions. But I do think at the end of the day, the more power one has, the more ability one has to make impact and to influence how things go. And like it or not, at this point in this country, money talks loudly. So that's why I've evolved from the nonprofit sector to the for-profit sector to investing, because helping to decide which fund managers get to make their own investments, which entrepreneurs get funded and get to build their companies, that's a huge amount of power and impact.

MH: Yeah, money talks. And it's... I work with some nonprofits on my free time, whatever that means. I work for Ellevate, which is a B Corp. And I've always thought that it is, but at the end of the day, business works for a reason. And that's using the principles of business, which is the same when you're investing in something, you're looking for a certain ROI. And using these principles, but then using them to create something better, something that's impactful for the community is a better way to bring everything together.

FK: Couldn't agree more. I think that's absolutely right.

MH: And can you tell me about any really, really cool one that you are excited about?

FK: Well, there are so many really, really cool ones that I'm excited about.

MH: I'm sure, I'm so curious.

FK: Well, let me tell you about a couple of them. Let me tell you about one company called PromisePay that was started by a woman by the name of Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a Black woman with the history as a healthcare organizer, history leading nonprofits, and then moved into the tech startup space, working for another company and then going out on her own. So Phaedra had a pretty powerful experience as a little girl. She grew up in a low income household and her family was eligible for free and reduced lunch. At her school, that meant standing at a separate line. And it was very humiliating. It was an early searing experience. And it has driven her decades later to start PromisePay to focus on how to treat low income people with respect and dignity and to help them climb out of poverty. So PromisePay works with cities, it works with states, it works with utilities to help people who are behind on their bills, for instance, water bills to come up with a payment plan that they can meet.

FK: They choose the date they pay, they choose the amount they pay, there's no fees, there's no interest. People wanna pay their bills. People want to have good credit scores. And what's been surprising to the municipalities and states that she's worked with is the 95% repayment rate. So here she's created something where everybody wins. And I have heard she's helped me understand her customers. She sent me last week a tape of a customer success call with someone just calling, sobbing to say how thankful she was, how helpful PromisePay had been, how respectfully she had been treated and how her life had turned around now that she was given help in becoming current on her bills.

MH: I love that so much.

FK: That's how all business should function.

MH: Well, we don't have the power of money to fund some businesses here, but we have the power of platform. So if you ever have founders with incredible businesses like that that you would like to amplify their stories, please do not hesitate to reach out.

FK: That's terrific. It's a wonderful offer and thank you.

MH: Yeah, I think for me, it's, can we put these stories out there because there are stories that people should know. They should know that there are people out there creating change in a way that's profitable, that's impactful and that is driving to a better world.

FK: Exactly.

MH: So speaking of this, and speaking of reach, I guess, I have one final question, but can you tell me a little bit about how you see these founders, or how their support system or community kind of aspect do you see that within founders that are underrepresented? And the reason I'm asking this, just to give you some context, 'cause I believe you mentioned something about socioeconomic mobility at the beginning, and it's something I think about a lot. I'm from El Salvador. We don't have a lot of ethnic diversity. We have extreme socioeconomic disparity. And so I try to read up on the topic and understand and I... From my understanding, from research, the number one way to go through... So to move upwards socioeconomic mobility is to be exposed to people who are more successful than you, which is partly what we try to do at Ellevate. And so trying to understand, is this... Is there some aspect of this within your work with these entrepreneurs?

FK: Well, certainly at Kapor Capital, we do a lot of things to help our portfolio company founders get together and help each other. So on any given day, you will see something. You will see one founder pose a question to another founder. "Have any of you ever done an acquisition? I'm thinking about doing my first acquisition and I'd love some pointers." "Does anybody have a Black accountant to recommend?" "Can anybody tell me what's the best combination of pay and equity to give to a Chief Technology Officer?" So you see these portfolio founders posing very real, very important questions about their day-to-day needs in a way that says to me, our effort to create a safe community has been largely successful.

MH: Yeah.

FK: That we are not expecting them to know everything. We are expecting them to ask for help. And we are creating a community where one can ask for help and one should also freely give advice and lessons. Some of this comes from our basic investment criteria about gap closing companies. It also comes from the fact that we work very hard not to invest in competitive companies. So we might get a pitch, and this happened to me earlier this week. We got a pitch for a great company, and we sent the basic description of the pitch to two other Ed-Tech companies in our portfolio and said, "This feels similar. Do you think this is competitive?" One said no, and one said yes. And on that basis, we decided we would not take a pitch and we would certainly not invest because we're committed to our current companies and to building and scaling them.

MH: Which makes a lot of difference because that really means... Again, it goes back to, you know, you were saying money is power, and if you're putting your money in... And your commitment with one of these companies. So it's great. And I'm glad to hear that they are... There is a community within your portfolio companies and founders are helping each other out.

FK: It's inspiring.

MH: Yeah, this has been inspiring. Thank you so much for talking to me.

FK: My pleasure. What a great conversation.

MH: Yeah, this has been fun. But we are going to end up with a little bit of a lightning round. These are just fun questions.

FK: Okay.

MH: These are just fun questions. So if you could time travel, where is the first place you would go? Speaking of time traveling.

FK: Oh my goodness. Well, I would go forward. I would go a hundred years forward and I would wanna know what have we done about climate change? What have we done about racism? What have we done about sexual harassment? Have we solved these? Wouldn't that be wonderful to see?

MH: You know, you are a braver person than I am because whenever I ask this question, I can only think, "And what if we went forward and it was all the same?" I don't know if I could... If I could go back from that. But hopefully that's not the case. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

FK: With the wave of a wand ending bias in every person's mind.

MH: I love that, absolutely love that. Dream dinner guest.

FK: Oh, dream dinner guest. Oh my goodness, there are so many. Well, I can tell you, I mean, I've... Some that I've had, a dream dinner guest that I've already experienced is Anita Hill, a dream. There are many other dream dinner guests. We are investors in Serena Williams Venture Fund, but I have yet to have dinner with her, so she's a dream dinner guest.

MH: Oh, can I come?

FK: Oh, please.

MH: What's a skill you wish you had?

FK: More patient.

MH: Best piece of advice you've ever been given?

FK: This is when I was in a corporate job and I was getting head hunter calls and I went actually and interviewed for a big financial services firm. And I came back and I said, "I don't want that job. And I actually think I wanna leave my current company." And I went to the COO and I told him the truth. He wasn't my boss, but he was a C-Suite member. And he said, "You know what? You're in your 30s, now's the time to leave. Take a risk." I told him I wanted to start my own business. He said, "Go for it. When you're older, it's much harder to leave corporate America. And if you try something and you don't like it, it's much harder to get back in. You're in your 30s, go for it because you can still come back."

MH: That's really good advice, actually.

FK: Mm-hmm. And I never did go back.

MH: I was gonna ask, did you go back? Doesn't seem like it.

FK: Nope.

MH: And finally, what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

FK: Well, I think where we started, which is to build that empathy muscle to think about the fact that we are all accidents of birth. If you had unfair advantages growing up, good for you. What have you done to extend those advantages to others?

MH: Thank you so much, Freada. This was fantastic. I really...

FK: Well this was wonderful. It's been truly an honor and I thank you for the opportunity.

MH: No, it's been an honor for me. And the offer stands, if you have any great people whose stories people should know, please send them right away.

FK: I will. Well, and there are a lot of stories of women founders, women of color founders, men of color founders in our book that comes out next month. And Closing the Equity Gap is full of inspiring stories of founders who are building gap closing businesses.

MH: Can people pre-order that?

FK: Yes. It is available for pre-order. Its publication date is March 14th.

MH: And where can they pre-order it?

FK: I think it's available wherever you want to buy your books. So online independent bookstores, any place you like to buy books. And it will be available as an audiobook as well.

MH: Put that in the...

Candace: I can jump in. Also, if you go to, there are links there that will direct you to wherever you wanna purchase the book.

MH: Perfect. That was Candace.

Candace: Yeah, this is Candace.

FK: Thank you, Candace.

MH: I wanna make sure... Thank you Candace. I wanna make sure this is in the recording. So

FK: Yes.

Candace: Yes. We had that come as the title and the URL to the website.

MH: Perfect. We're gonna have that in... We'll put that in our notes too, so people can go and order.

FK: Wonderful.


MH: Okay. We're back. Isn't she fantastic?

MO: She's amazing. Like I said it last week when we were promoing her for this week, that I got her pitch... Her people pitched her to me and they said, "You know, we think that she would be good for the Ellevate Podcast. What do you think?" And I was like, "Yes, I think that she would be great for the Ellevate podcast. When can we get her on?"

MH: Yeah.

MO: And I just sent her your way and I was like, "Hey, Maricella, I'm booking this person." And you were like, "Yeah, sounds good."

MH: Yeah. She's fantastic. I had such a good conversation with her, I really enjoyed it, and every time I can speak to people who have made such a difference for equity, for the rights of women, the rights of minorities, it just warms my heart and reminds me that change is possible. Which sometimes, even being in this field, sometimes it's hard to keep your head up and say, "Let's keep doing this." But then you meet people like Freada who have done it for so long, and you're like, "Okay, I can do it too. I can put myself out there as messily, as complicated, as complex as this is, I can put myself out there, I can show up for others." So it's nice.

MO: Yes. And that actually leads perfectly into our talk about this week's events at Ellevate, because our Ellevate Roundtable this Thursday is gonna be talking about how your network can help you conquer self-limiting beliefs.

MH: A great topic.

MO: Yeah, amazing topic. Our entrepreneurs are gonna be having a virtual networking elevated session on Thursday, and then next Tuesday our Executive Roundtable, which is run by you is gonna be talking about how to prevent quiet quitting.

MH: Yeah, come to the Executive Roundtable. I have a little confession, I am not going to be there. But you'll be in great hands with our team, I have a family trip to Cancun, to which I'm leaving in a couple of days and wish me the best please.

MO: That is right, I completely forgot. Yeah, absolute wish you the best. I hope you have as great of a time as I had in Lake Placid and even more.

MH: Yeah.

MO: So also happening. Our LGBTQIA community circle, which again, I lead is going to be this Wednesday. We do welcome allies at this one, we do every other session. We welcome allies to come in, mostly just to listen and learn, and but occasionally ask questions. We had one that was really good the last time we had an ally session where she truly was like, "I just wanted to come here, 'cause I wanted to ask, how can I be the best ally I can be without it being performative, because the last thing I want it to be is to be about me. I just want to be able to help others." It led to a really, really good conversation with all of our people, so amazing. If you are an ally or if you... Especially if you're a member of the LGBTQ community, things are crazy out there, but feel free to come by. It is completely confidential, we will never record you, I will never release names or anything like that of people who come by. It's confidential come on in.

MO: We also have on Thursday or Asian Pacific Islanders community circle, and next Tuesday or Hispanic, Latina and Latinx community circle. I don't personally run those, so I can't speak to how amazing they are, but I do know the people who run them, and so I can pretty much say they're probably just as life-changing as the LGBTQ one.

MH: I've been to the Latinx, I'm not gonna be there this week or next week, unfortunately again, because I have my family trip, but it is amazing, honestly, it's like the self-care you need at the end of the day, at the end of a long day, 'cause you just can let your hair down... Talk real and be with some other incredible people.

MO: Yeah. So good. And then if you wanna get your in-person networking on, the first thing we're gonna talk about is a super, super special one, we are so excited about because Maricella is gonna be there. Our New York chapter, as well as the HQ team, are putting on an event about embracing equity at work, an in-person International Women's Day discussion, that is today, the day that this is being released. Please come see us there, if you were in the Tri-state area, it's gonna be an amazing conversation, it's gonna be an amazing networking room, just amazing, all around. You're not gonna wanna miss this one.

MO: Our NC triangle chapter is putting on a march mix and mingle a girls night out at the Heights House Parlor. Also on Wednesday, Los Angeles is putting together an in-person happy hour in Santa Monica on Thursday, San Diego is also having a happy hour on Thursday. And Atlanta is having a wine up networking mixer on Thursday. So if you are with like any of our chapters on Thursday, Los Angeles, San Diego or Atlanta, feel free to get your wine and happy hour on.

MH: Yeah. And feel free to take a picture and post it on social media and we'll be sure to like it and reshare. That is...

MO: Yes, share it, tag us, tag Ellevate network, and I will happily re-share on our platforms. Our main ones that use are LinkedIn and Instagram, we do have Twitter and Facebook, but those are the main two that we're like really on.

MH: Lots of in-person stuff happening throughout the year, so what Megan just shared is what's happening this week. But go to our website, that's Ellevate with two L's, and you can find all the events that are happening near you, that are happening online. So you can plan ahead. We'd love to see you either IRL or via Zoom, so join us and at some of them.

MO: Yeah.

MH: And today our history makers are.

MO: We're starting off with Dr. Linda G. Mills, who will become New York University's first woman president.

MH: Lily Kwong became the first woman of color to design the New York Botanical Gardens, iconic Orchid Show.

MO: Ridwana Wallace-Laher became the first woman CEO of a major Muslim-led international charity.

MH: Oh wow, that's big.

MO: Yeah.

MH: Cindy Chung became the first Asian-American judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

MO: Elizabeth Leitman became the first woman to issue a severe thunderstorm watch for the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

MH: Yeah, I remember... I think you shared that on our Slack.

MO: I did.

MH: And I was like, "How?"

MO: And I was... I shared it, I think I specifically shared in our all hands, because I was having like a mental breakdown about it, I was like, "If anybody wants a bitter sweet news, this just happened. How is she the first... " I mean, all congratulations to her, amazing that she... Amazing that she did this, but I'm just like, "How is she the first? How?"

MH: Well, let's make sure she's not the last...

MO: Absolutely.

MH: Maritza Carrillo González became the first woman co-president of Habanos S.A, the manufacturing and distribution arm of the Cuban cigar industry. That's also big.

MO: That's very big.

MH: Also that's great that it was me reading that.

MO: Yes. Yes, because look, I do my best, but I don't have... I don't have the... I don't have the pronunciation that you do.

MH: I'm sure you would have done just fine. But you know how I'll take the opportunity to speak in Spanish any time I can.

MO: Oh, I know.

MH: Well, those are our history makers today, very happy for them, some big things, and we'll continue to celebrate every week.

MO: Yeah, who do we have coming up next week?

MH: Well next week I am speaking to Leslie Wingo. She is the CEO of Sanders\Wingo, an independent advertising agency, founded in 1958, specializing in multicultural marketing that speaks to its audiences. Not at their audiences. She is also a DEIB strategic consultant and frequent speaker on how to build an environment where diversity is normal, so that everyone is able to contribute their brilliance and their view. So, you know, this is a topic I love. We go into DEIB and what it means and what all this is, and how companies can help and work and make a culture that it is inclusive, so it's a fun talk, hope you can listen.

MO: Yeah, can't wait. We'll see you then.

MH: Bye.


MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career, Harvard Business School executive education now offers in-person and virtual programs, learn more at, that's

MO: Thanks so much for listening to the Ellevate Podcast, if you like what you hear you can subscribe give us five stars and share your review. You can learn all about Ellevate membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E Network dot com. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks. Thanks so much and join us next week.