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Fixing the Leaky Pipeline, with Katica Roy

Fixing the Leaky Pipeline, with Katica Roy

Episode 66: Fixing the Leaky Pipeline, with Katica Roy

Katica Roy is the CEO of Pipeline. She is a total risk taker with full faith in her ability to figure things out along the way — a quality to which she attributes her success. In this episode, Katica tells us that we don’t need to know all the answers, that learning takes place everywhere, and that skills and industries are constantly changing. She also talks about how to break the mentality of perfection that is so ingrained in women’s minds.

Episode Transcript


00:00 RG: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, conversations with women changing the face of business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.


00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hi, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is Kristy Wallace, and I'm here with...

00:18 Jess Matley: Jess Matley.

00:19 KW: Jess is here.

00:20 JM: Hi, everyone.

00:21 KW: Jess and I have been having so much fun the past couple weeks recording these intros for the podcast. And Jess, her day job at Ellevate is she runs all of our New York City events, as well as works with a lot of our chapters. As you may or may not know, Ellevate has over 50 chapters globally that put on events and really engage with the local community, and Jess plays a huge role in that.

00:47 JM: Yeah. Yeah, really exciting. I've been with Ellevate now for just over a year, and loving every day, really, and just feel really blessed to have a job that I do actually love every day. I know that's a big goal for all of us out there, everyone listening. That's the end goal, to be happy. But yeah, really busy doing the events. I'm working with a bunch of our largest chapters, actually, to roll out some of our top level events, such as our mentoring meetups, which are really popular here in New York City. So if you ever have any feedback, or if you have see me at an event, make sure to come and say hi.

01:23 KW: Alright. Our guest today is Katica Roy, CEO of Pipeline. So you're gonna hear our conversation, it's actually Maricella because we are missing her so much. But before we get started on that, I know we have a great question, and I'm pulling up the podcast at Ellevate network info box right now. And, Jess, I'm gonna ask this question to you. So we have a listener who's asking about returning to work. She says, "Dear Kristy, I had a very successful career in finance for many years, and then when I had my first child I decided to take a break and stay home so I could raise my family and really be a part of their everyday life. Now that my kids are going back to school, I'm trying to figure out what's next for me, and I would love any insights or tips on whether it's feasible to re-enter the workforce." What do you think about that, Jess?

02:17 JM: Yeah, I think of course it's feasible, of course it's... You are a 100% valuable member of the workforce, and coming back to it. Never doubt that. I think a big part of it is confidence and valuing yourself. Networking. Networks are great. Not to toot our own horn, but getting back into the circles of which you want to work in is a big part of it. Making new connections, if you can find a mentor through that as well, even better.

02:53 KW: Yeah, I love that advice. I would also recommend looking at some of the past Ellevate podcast episodes, they're all available on iTunes, as well as We have interviews with Manon DeFelice from Inkwell, also with Après Group, we talk to Werk, Annie and Anna from Werk, we've spoken with Fairygodboss. And so there's so many amazing guests we've had on the podcast that are solely focused on how do we create a better workforce environment, a better... More opportunity for women who are currently in the workforce and also looking to return to work. So check that out, 'cause there's some great insights there. And we wanna hear what you think, so feel free to email us at, as well as tweet ellevatentwk #ellevatepod, and we are always open to answering your questions and sharing our insights, for whatever it's worth, right?

03:57 JM: Yeah, definitely. Write in, we wanna hear from you all.

04:00 KW: Fantastic, so we hope you really enjoy Maricella's conversation, and meet us back here next Tuesday for the release of the next Ellevate Podcast.


04:21 Maricella Herrera: I'm here today with Katica, a longtime member of Ellevate, who is a great supporter, and I hear one of our biggest Facebook fans.


04:28 Katica Roy: Definitely.

04:29 MH: Tina told me that. I had to put that in there. So Katica, we were just talking a little bit about your name and where it's from. It's a beautiful name.

04:37 KR: Thank you. It's Hungarian. My father and my sisters, my three older sisters are from Hungary.

04:44 MH: So you are first generation?

04:47 KR: I'm first generation. My father and sisters were actually refugees. They escaped from Hungary after the the fall of the 1956 revolution. And they actually came to the United States by way of President Eisenhower's personal plane, Air Force One, on Christmas day, 1956.

05:05 MH: Oh, wow!

05:07 KR: So, yeah.

05:08 MH: How do you think... And you were saying you're also from a big family, right?

05:11 KR: Yeah, six. I'm the youngest of six kids.

05:14 MH: That's incredible. How do you think being the first generation and the youngest in a family that came through as refugees, how did that impact your view as you started your career?

05:26 KR: Yeah. That's a great question. One of the two lessons, I think, that I have from both of my parents... So my mom is actually an immigrant from England, and came to the United States when she was 21 to escape the class system in England. And really the idea that you never give up. So when you have sisters and a father who risked their lives for freedom, the challenges that we face here are minor compared to that. Not that they're not important, but the idea that you never give up and you always do your best. And so that sense of resiliency and tenacity, and if the path in front of you is... You can't see the way way through it, maybe you go sideways and around, and always just never giving up.

06:10 MH: I love that. And I love that 'cause I was reading your bio, and you clearly have jumped from corporate to starting your own thing. And you're also very passionate about girls' education. And I noticed that you're part of several organizations that are focused specifically in other countries, and I was wondering if that was... There was something about that that really interests you.

06:31 KR: Yeah, when I think about it, even though we live in the United States, we are a global community, and we are one. I know that's a thing that's has been said before, but this idea that we are all connected. And I feel incredibly lucky to live in the United States, especially given my parents' history, and all of the incredible gifts that I have been given. So whatever I can do to use what has been given to me to give back. So often people use the quote from John F. Kennedy, "To whom much is given, much is expected," and I believe that. And so if there's anything that I can do to help people who are either coming to this country to establish a life here, or girls' education, I will do that.

07:18 MH: I love that. I love that, and that's really great. I was seeing you're on the board of Edge of Seven, they focus in Nepal, Kenya, and Rwanda, which... Nepal, by the way, is my favorite place on earth.

07:30 KR: Oh, very cool.

07:32 MH: It is.

07:32 KR: It's beautiful [chuckle]

07:32 MH: So how did you get involved with them?

07:36 KR: I was looking for some non-profit boards to join that really focused on education, in particular girls' education. And Edge of Seven is really interesting because they started in Nepal, and then they branched out to Africa. And one of the things that's really interesting about Nepal, which you probably know, is that 75% of the population lives up in the mountains. So building a school in a remote area is a lot more difficult. So you have everything from when the earthquakes happen and how you do that, but how do you actually get building materials, how do you get girls to school? And so really looking at how can we improve that ecosystem, and how do we send girls to school and then ultimately improve the economic outcomes in Nepal?

08:19 MH: Yeah, the whole living in the mountains, to me, was so impressive. Tell me a little bit about your career.

08:25 KR: Oh, sure, absolutely. So I started my career undergrad, I was a Political Science major with a Legal Studies emphasis. So my plan was to be a lawyer, in particular a litigation attorney, and I actually had the opportunity to go to Oxford for a year and study Political Theology and Political Philosophy. And when I came back, I was gonna have to pay for law school, and I think at that time it cost $100,000. And so before I went into debt for that, I decided, "Why don't I try and work for a law firm as a paralegal and see if this really what I wanna do?" And so I did that. And it was great training, because we had to manage our time in six-minute increments, because that's how they bill. And you had a certain target you had to hit for how much revenue you generated compared to your salary. And ultimately I decided while I would have been a good attorney, it wasn't really my passion. And this was in the days of DOS-based systems, so before we had Windows and keystrokes were all the rage, and I happened to be particularly good at that. And so stumbled into working for Lexis Publishing, and we were part of the sales team, and we had a sales territory, if you will. Basically, our job was to increase adoption through training people.

09:44 KR: And so I really liked that and I did a good job. So I went back and got my master's degree, and worked in human capital learning sales operations roles, and got to do a lot of really interesting things like programming, like UI/UX design, like data science, like project management. And having all those different experiences and being mostly in the sales organization really gave me a focus on moving the business forward, and why that's so important. And so eventually I decided that I really wanted to do my own thing. And went back to get my master's degree and figure out if the business idea that I had actually had any legs. And so that's where I am now.

10:31 MH: Awesome. And so you saw all different aspects of the company and that helped you go where you wanted to. Do you think that trying things out like that has had such an impact on your career?

10:45 KR: I do. I am a risk taker probably by nature. [chuckle]

10:49 MH: Awesome. You are an entrepreneur now, so you clearly are a risk taker.

10:55 KR: Yeah. I process things really quickly, and I think, "Okay, well, that sounds super interesting. I'm just gonna go try it." I think one of my keys to success has been my faith in my ability to figure it out. I don't need to know all the answers before I go do something. I need to know enough of it, but I don't need to know everything. And I can just figure it out as I go. And then, to me, I think that's been a huge key to my success, because I have been willing to take on things that other people haven't. And so that's given me those interesting opportunities, that's given me a very different view of the business, and I've gotten a lot more experience, I think, than maybe people who take more of a linear path, not that there's anything wrong with that. But I think it's really given me a really good perspective on business.

11:40 MH: So that's so interesting to me. Kristy and I have this discussion probably every week, where it's how much of being a generalist is really good or not, 'cause we are both generalists. I was a very focused person in finance, and now I'm complete generalist. And the idea of trying things without really knowing what you're doing is extremely, extremely appealing, I would say. Do you think that, considering we know the stats, guys, men, jump up at the opportunity, apply for jobs when they hit 60% of the requirements, whereas women tend to wait until they really know everything.

12:21 KR: Yeah.

12:22 MH: And you were in training and development and learning for human capital. Did you see that?

12:31 KR: That's a... Yeah, I think I probably saw it more in sales organizations, too, where the guys would be more gregarious at going after leads. But, yeah, I definitely... And I also think that men are also rewarded for it.

12:48 MH: True.

12:48 KR: So this idea that we judge men based on their potential, and we judge women based on their past experience. And so we have the internal piece of it, which is men and women are different of what happens on our brain, but also the external system rewards or penalizes us for that as well. But yeah, I definitely saw that when I was in learning and development, and what people would take risks or what they wouldn't, and that was interesting.

13:14 MH: That's interesting. And the reward aspect, I know you do a lot of stuff on unconscious bias. So tell me a little bit about that, how you're seeing that in companies.

13:27 KR: So what we see... So often there's a lot of talk about equal pay, which is great, but it's table stakes. Because the bigger issue is that women are not moving up the pipeline. So we know from external reports that men are promoted at a rate of 30% greater than women. From the get go, from... So as you up the pipeline, it's actually... You have fewer and fewer women. So by the time... So from a McKinsey report, for instance, by the time you get to the CEO level, only 18% of all CEOs are women, because that pipeline gets smaller and smaller. So what we see, what's interesting about what we see, is really not only the typical pieces of what we would call talent management: Hiring, and pay, promotion, performance potential, so potential being succession planning.

14:15 KR: What's also very interesting about the numbers that we look at is what's glass ceiling in your company? And what's the glass ceiling when you add not only gender, but race? Because we know that women of color have a lower glass ceiling. What does it look like when you look at the composition of your staff but at line versus staff roles, that is, revenue-generating versus non-revenue-generating, because most CEOs in senior-level positions come out of revenue-generating roles. And so if you don't have that experience, it's really difficult to either be a CEO or to get on a board.

14:51 MH: True.

14:51 KR: And so how are we looking at that composition? And it's harder to get promoted when you're actually in a sales role as a woman. So it's almost an opt out into staff roles. The other thing that we look at is span of control. So I could have a vice president title, and a man can have a vice president title, most of the data will say that I will have a smaller organization and therefore a smaller span of control and lower visibility. And it's these things, when we start to look at them, that start to give really interesting insights into how women... Why we have a leaky pipeline, and how women are actually being held back.

15:25 MH: So that's why your company is called Pipeline?

15:27 KR: That's exactly right. To fix the leaky pipeline.


15:32 MH: So how are you doing that besides all this data? Are you working directly with management?

15:36 KR: Yeah, so what we do is we actually... It's our data models, our artificial intelligence, their data, their systems. So what we do is we get access to their data, and it has to be in the cloud, 'cause we get it through APIs, we run it through our data models, and we can give them baseline. And we can tell them across all those different dimensions and those different filters not only what the current state of gender equity is in their company, but the amount of money that they're leaving on the table because of of their lack of gender equity. And then what we do is tell them two things: One, the immediate actions that they can take to fix it, because they're... Immediate actions like pay would be one of them. And then, really, the power in our system is to take them from where they are to a more gender-equitable workforce that is tied to economic outcomes.

16:29 KR: And so our artificial intelligence system actually goes through and finds unconscious bias, what it actually looks like for instance in hiring, or in pay, or in performance, and then we'll push a recommended solution or recommended solutions to them, or actions that they can take. And through doing that over time, what we see are two things: One, a more inclusive environment. So not only are we looking at the diversity, or the numbers in the workforce, but actually, "Can I be successful? Will I be able to actually move up? What is my path here?" So over time, we see here that that's a more inclusive environment.

17:08 MH: I love that because you're putting... Well, first off, you're putting it in terms everyone can understand. You're putting it in money, which a lot of people tend to think that the diversity issue, and the gender diversity issue, specifically... And I also like, by the way, that you're including intersectionally...

17:26 KR: Yes.

17:26 MH: And really focused also on race, ethnicity, and other diversity aspects, because we don't hear that enough, I would say...

17:35 KR: Yes, I agree.

17:36 MH: Tied together with gender. So we were seeing how we have Fearless Girl out there, the statue being this inspiration for people, but at the same time, you see State Street's senior management, and only one of them is a woman, and she in a support role. So... Come on.

17:57 KR: Yeah.

17:57 MH: Money, mouth.

17:58 KR: Yeah, exactly.

18:00 MH: So how did you become so passionate about this?

18:03 KR: Oh, it's so multifaceted. [chuckle] Our stories are so important, and how we weave our stories together. It probably started when I was a little girl. I am the youngest of six kids, but there are five girls in my family, I'm one of them, and my brother. My father was awesome, but also very patriarchal, not so much with me, but I think more with my older sisters. As a little girl, I watched my sisters struggle. I watched them struggle because they didn't... They were all super smart, my oldest sister was the valedictorian of her high school class, and simply because of their gender, they didn't have economic equality. And because of that, they suffered. They suffered, and their children suffered. And as a little girl, I remember thinking, "I will never do that. I just will never do that."

19:00 KR: And so that probably was where it originally came from. And then as I got into the working world... I was really passionate about feminism and gender equality when I was in college, and then at some point in my mid-20s, I went into the working world and didn't think much about it. And then really where it popped up for me was when my daughter was born in 2011. And I think this was really [chuckle] the springboard that catapulted and really helped me see the unconscious bias that I was experiencing, but maybe not even aware of it myself.

19:36 KR: And so I was on maternity leave, and when I had my daughter, and they... My boss was fired, or she was optimized, when I was on maternity leave. And when I got back, I was asked to take... Two days after I got back from maternity leave, I was asked to take over a team. And then two weeks later, I was asked to take over another team. So I already had a team, so now I had three teams. And my male colleague, who was not as qualified as I was, got variable pay to compensate him for a similar situation and I didn't. And he was at a more senior level. And so I tried to do the thing where we try and be likable, and also be competent. I was like, "Oh my gosh." I also read, by the way, Mika Brzezinski's book on know your value. For me, what was so valuable about her book was like, "I'm not alone." That was the springboard. But I tried to be nice and tried to work it out. And finally, I just called HR and said, "Look, this is a Lilly Ledbetter issue. Every time you pay me the statute of limitation starts over, so what do you wanna do about it?" [chuckle]

20:42 KR: And so that was the point at which I... And so they fixed it and they gave me back pay. They increased my level, they increased my salary, and then they paid me back pay. And that was really the first point at which I saw it. And I think also, for me, was that at that point, I was two years into supporting my family. So my father... My father. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. And so one of the things for me was I am the only, not only the primary, but the only wage earner in my family. And so when you look at equal pay, why are my children less valuable to society because their mother works? Why should they have less opportunity? It never made sense to me. So for me, it was this idea that I had all these different experiences, and I could do something about it.

21:34 MH: So many things of all of this, I'm like, "You're my new female role model right now."

21:38 KR: Thank you. [chuckle]

21:40 MH: Amazing to have that courageous conversation, and go to HR and be like, "Hey, this is wrong." How did you get the courage to ask for it?

21:53 KR: That's such a good question. I probably just got really sick of being nice. [chuckle] It probably was twofold. One was I got really sick of being nice, and that was getting me nowhere. And two, having children, and knowing that it affected not only me but them, made me really angry. It was like the mama bear thing, "These are my kids, and you're leaving them behind." And so I'm like, "You can fire me, that's fine, but I'm still gonna stick up for myself."

22:24 MH: I love that. And also it's very, very common to see that when women are negotiating on behalf of someone else, which is one of the tricks and tips that we get a lot, is think of... You're not negotiating for yourself, you're negotiating for your family, and you're negotiating for future you, and your future kids, and your parents when you need to take care of them, or whatever else it is, but...

22:45 KR: Yeah.

22:46 MH: I love that. And I also love that your husband is a stay-at-home dad.

22:49 KR: He's amazing.

22:50 MH: That's so great. How do you think the choice of partner has influenced your career?

22:55 KR: I have to say, I never thought of that [chuckle] when I chose him. I feel like life chose us together. Honestly, I met him totally by accident. It was completely serendipitous. Last day of my first semester in graduate school. Two of our friends were dating, and they set us up. And I think, for me, my husband was always... Well, I guess I just never... It never occurred to me to ask him to be supportive of me. It was like, "I'm gonna go do this, and we're partners, and we'll figure it out." And I think that's incredibly important. I think that you have to find somebody who's complementary to you where it matters, and also the same where it matters. Those friction and alignment points are really important. So my husband and I have things where we're really aligned on. Finances would be one, we're very aligned on finances and how we spend our money. But how we like to spend our time is really different. I am clearly more the career-driven one, but he is the one who does things like packs lunches, and makes sure that the kids go to... Does the grocery shopping, and makes sure that kids go to soccer practice, and coaches their... And just manages all those things that, quite frankly, I don't think I'd be very good at.


24:19 KR: So I do think that the person you choose as your partner is important, but what I will say beyond that is, go live your life, and if you're meant to have a partner, you will find them. And I think that was the most important thing that I had with my husband, which is when I met him, I was completely happy in my life. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend, I wasn't looking for a husband. I think I was 28-ish at the time, I wasn't concerned that I wasn't married or anything. I just was like, "I'm gonna go do this," and then I met him. And I think that's really the idea that you... I think sometimes we define women by whether or not they're married, and whether or not they have children, as somehow being married and having children makes me complete, and if I don't have it I'm not complete. That's a falsehood, that's not true. You're complete and whole exactly where you are. Go live your life, and if you're meant to have that, you will, and if you're not, it's okay.

25:18 MH: Yeah. Thank you so much for being with us today Katica, it's been great talking to you. Honestly, this is amazing, and it's great to have you in New York. You're never here.

25:26 KR: Oh, it's amazing. I love it here. This is so much fun, I could be here all day. I really could sit here and talk to you all day. I love New York, it's so fun. I was just thinking it would be great to be here more often.

25:36 MH: Well, you should come more often, and let us know. And in the meantime, we'll let you go and catch your flight back to Denver.

25:41 KR: Thank you.

25:42 MH: Thanks.


25:45 KW: 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 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 E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E 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.


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