The Business of Thought Leadership and the Women of Ellevate


At GenderAvenger, we clearly know that it’s important for women be present and heard in the public discourse – after all, we are 51% of the population. Being on stage, being published, being recognized as “the best” bring great benefits for individual women and for all of us collectively. That’s why we are excited that Alison Williams from the Ellevate Network is sharing their research with us.

The Ellevate Network, founded by finance trailblazer Sallie Krawcheck, seeks to “close the gender achievement gap in business by providing women with a community to lean on and learn from.” Each year, Ellevate conducts a survey of its members to see how they are faring in the business world.

by Alison Williams


At Ellevate Network, ambitious, professional women are the driving force of what we do.

Women leaders and visionaries, though often underappreciated, make an incredible impact in business. Ellevate believes in creating a community that brings women together and encourages them to invest in themselves and in one another. Our members work together to build networks and close the gender gap.

Each year, we conduct the Ellevate Impact Survey as a way to track our members’ progress in business and provide a compilation of their achievements, which we share for many reasons:

  1. We believe women are an awesome force and we want to prove it.
  2. We want to put to rest the idea that women aren’t ambitious and don’t want to get to the top.
  3. We want to provide inspiration to all professional women out there who want to get ahead in their careers.
  4. We want to show how industries, stages in your careers, and job functions, affect your career development and career priorities.

And yes, we want to brag about the fantastic women in our Network.

We ask members about everything from requesting and receiving promotions to sitting on boards to how their companies are doing on diversity and inclusion. For the purposes of this post, we want to share what we learned about their views on thought leadership with the GenderAvenger community.

Ellevate Network members recognize that building one’s personal brand is key to business success — and one of the primary drivers for a strong personal brand is the influence that comes with thought leadership.

You might ask, how does one become a thought leader? According to members, authenticity is the leading factor, followed by sharing smart ideas, and consistently producing content. In the survey, several members weighed in based on their personal experience:

The most important things you need to become a thought leader are the courage to to take action and the resilience to find a way to move forward while finding your voice and advocating for yourself in spite of any fear, uncertainty, self-doubt and rejection that you encounter along the way.
Crucial to being or becoming a credible and sought after thought leader is striking a balance between a strong visible and accessible personal brand coupled with the experience and work, successful or otherwise, to confirm your solid background in your area or industry.

Forty three percent of Ellevate members were published or quoted as thought leaders in 2015, up from 32% in 2014, and 33% report having taken to the stage as speakers.

Ellevate Thought Leadership

When we looked more closely at the data, we discovered some trends.

Business owners were published, quoted, and invited to speak much more often when compared to women working in corporations, nonprofits, and the public sector. This difference is likely a product of necessity -- visibility is vital for entrepreneurs seeking brand exposure and client leads.

We discovered another significant contrast in reviewing the data through the lens of job function: those in media & communications, consulting, and research were most likely to publish content or grace a stage. Those in sales, finance, or engineering published or spoke the least.

Ellevate Thought Leadership
Ellevate Thought Leadership

While most respondents say that they are somewhat or very satisfied with how their company manages diversity, inclusion efforts are considered a lever for change. For those that are not satisfied, the biggest reasons are that there “hasn’t been much change in the gender breakdown of the higher ranks,” there is “a lot of talk and not much action,” and companies are still not fully implementing family-friendly policies like flexible work and parental leave. More than half of our responding members feel that the most impactful way of closing the gender achievement gap is by providing women with the network and resources they need to get to leadership positions.

Our mission is to ensure that women thrive and that their voices are heard in the workplace.

Our mission to ensure that women are thriving and that their voices are heard in the workplace aligns with GenderAvenger’s goal of equal representation in the public arena. Businesses can achieve much more with diverse people on their teams. We encourage our members to act as mentors, participate in panels, and write for publications to showcase their expertise. We believe that by shining a light on the amazing things women are already doing, we’re one step closer to a more equal world, where women are getting the credit they deserve and are serving as examples for the future. And we know GenderAvenger does, too.