You’ve heard us talk about the importance of community (I mean we are a network, after all). But this week, we got to hear directly from Ellevate member and Co-Founder of Pipeline Equity, Katica Roy, about the impact having a squad of supporters has had on her life and career. Pipeline leverages artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity — a cause that has become Katica’s passion. She talked to us about leaving her corporate role and how it prepared her for a startup, how her squad helped her make that transition, and how they continue to help her grow her business.

What is your professional mission?
To close the gender equity gap, once and for all.

How did you end up in your current role, starting Pipeline Equity?
After 22 years in the corporate world, I had an opportunity to co-found Pipeline Equity and to make a difference, and I took it.First, I reached out to a friend of mine who’d started two successful startups, to get his take. Eventually, he became our CTO.

[Related: The Economic Cost of Gender Inequity and the Leaky Pipeline]

Did networking help you get to where you are now with Pipeline Equity?
Hands down, yes. I met almost my entire team through networking. It’s also why I’m sitting here with you today — two colleagues told me about the Ellevate event in Denver in 2014.

Was there a moment or event that made you realize Pipeline Equity was something you had to do?
It was a culmination of moments with a tipping point. I was on a radio show and realized, if we could combine gender equity & economics, we could accelerate the pace [to closing the gap].

How has your multiple skill sets helped you advance in your career?
It made Pipeline Equity possible. I am a former programmer, UI/UX designer, data expert, and long time human capital professional with sales ops chops. I’ve worked in tech, health care & financial services. That broad view allowed me to see trends and understand a solution others might not see.

Speaking of solutions, why is it good business for tech companies to be more inclusive?
Inclusive cultures produce better business results, proven by studies by McKinsey, The Economist, World Economic Forum, Morgan Stanley, and many others. One issue tech is facing is a skills gap — by 2020 there will only be enough computer scientists to fill 29% of our open positions. Tim Cook cited this earlier this year. Couple that with the fact that 50% of women will eventually leave STEM, according to Harvard Business Review, and we have an even bigger issue.

How has #YourSquad helped you navigate your career?
They are my go to! Any question I have about something I’m facing in my career, I turn to my squad. In fact, I did it yesterday!

Who are some of the key people in #YourSquad?
Stefanie K. Johnson is one of my closest advisors. She is the example of #womenhelpingwomen. Jessica Cash is another key confidant and has been with Pipeline Equity from the beginning. Dave O'Callaghan and Erik Mitisek are two critical people I call on often who are remarkable in their willingness to give back. And Denise Soler Cox is an inspiration to me.

Why is it so important for professional women to cultivate a community?
No one gets to where they are alone. Community is the key to success — as is leveraging everyone’s gifts.

What do you think is the most important thing to remember in following your own career path?
Chart your own path. You have a unique gift that only you can bring to the world — embrace it.

Who has been the biggest influence in your career journey to date?
My parents. My mother instilled in me the importance of education and that no one could take your education away from you. My father brought me to business meetings. A favorite memory is sitting in Sen Dianne Feinstein’s office when she was Mayor of San Francisco. I sat quietly with my coloring books while my father negotiated with her. It was a remarkable experience in learning to own your power as a woman.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
Always do your best and don’t ever give up. Understand your brain is not wired to keep you happy — it’s wired to keep you safe.

What advice do you have about creating a personal or professional brand?
Your brand should not be about you — it should be about helping others. Focus your unique gifts on helping others.

One more question before we wrap up: What advice would you give your 20 year-old self?
You are more powerful than you realize. Never settle and never give up. Don’t seek security and approval externally.


Want to build your own squad? You can get 20% off an Ellevate membership with the code YOURSQUAD until September 30 — it’s your chance to connect with amazing game changers, just like Katica, around the world.