Entrepreneur of 2020: Katica Roy

Former programmer’s software platform drives economic gains through gender equity
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Katica Roy | Founder and CEO, Pipeline Equity | Denver

Katica Roy is on a mission.

With a cutting-edge software platform that helps large organizations achieve gender equity, she has upended the conversation by focusing on economics. “We could add $512 billion to the U.S. GDP if we closed the gender pay gap,” says Roy, 46. “That’s what’s waiting for us if we actually close this gap.”

In Colorado alone, she adds, achieving full gender equity would represent a $40 billion economic uptick. “It’s not a matter of fairness in Colorado. It’s a matter of economic development.”

Her ideas are rooted in her family history. “I am a daughter of an immigrant and a refugee, and that had a profound impact on my life and my perspective — and duty to give back,” Roy says.

Her mother was an orphan from the United Kingdom who immigrated to the U.S. by way of France, and her father was a refugee from Hungary. Roy says “this connection between my parents’ fight for freedom and my fight for fairness” inspired Pipeline Equity in April 2017.

Another inspiration? Her four older sisters’ experiences. “Women couldn’t get credit cards without a male co-signer. Women couldn’t get a loan without a male co-signer,” Roy says. “I watched those impact my sisters and their families, and just had a really acute awareness of what it was like to be female in the economic opportunity matter.”

Then there are her personal experiences. “I’m a breadwinner mom, and my husband’s a stay-at-home dad,” Roy says. “I fought to be paid equitably twice and won. I never filed a lawsuit, I just stood up for myself.”

It wasn’t just about her; there’s a ripple effect. “I think as a breadwinner mom and a sole provider for my family, I couldn’t really understand why my children should have less economic opportunity.”

A little more than three years ago, a radio host asked Roy, a former programmer with “a lot of human capital experience” and an MBA, if the pay gap could be closed. Her answer proved the “tipping point” for the startup: “Not until we make it an economic issue.”

After launching Pipeline Equity, Roy initially focused on research about gender equity, which includes pay equity and other factors within organizations, looking at 4,161 companies in 29 countries. “What we found was, for every 10% increase in gender equity toward parity, there’s a 1 to 2% increase in revenue,” she says. “That’s the model the Pipeline platform was based off of.”

Explains Roy: “When you have diversity and inclusion on teams, you have different lived experiences, you have very different perspectives. Those perspectives are heard and ultimately it creates better products and services for your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a product team or an HR team, it’s a universal truth.”

Beyond pay, gender equity involves hiring, performance evaluation, and promotion. “Pay is the symptom, not the disease,” Roy says.

The Pipeline platform launched in late 2017 and pivoted from the middle market to enterprises with 10,000 or more employees the following year. That move catalyzed nearly 500% growth in 2019.

The venture-backed company now has a team of 20 employees and contractors. “We’re projecting we’ll probably double that this year,” says Roy, anticipating another round of funding to support the growth.

Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “You have to have tenacity and persistence — and flexibility,” Roy says. “It’s actually pretty critical, because oftentimes the ability to be flexible and pivot is key to your survival.”

This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual Entrepreneur of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s finalists:
Categories: Entrepreneurs, People, Women in Biz