Liz Hilton Segel

This Women’s History Month, we’re chatting with McKinsey leaders about their role as women in the workplace and beyond. Today, we’ll hear from Liz Hilton Segel, chief client officer and managing partner, global industry practices. Liz counsels CEOs and aligns with their teams and broader organizations to build new capabilities and new businesses with a focus on growth and performance transformation. For more Q&As throughout the month, bookmark this page.

Tell us about a career-defining moment.

One career-defining moment was in my second year as a business analyst at McKinsey, when I saw a change I wanted to happen in the firm. A more senior person said to me simply, “Go make it happen.” And I was so shocked because I didn’t think I had the qualifications to make it happen. But she empowered me, and I did. The change was to take our undergraduate recruiting from 20 percent of women to half women. I was able to make it happen, and I was really proud.

What are you most proud of?

It’s hard not to say you’re most proud of your children. Right now, my son is about to start full-time work as a software engineer, and my daughter’s a first-year [student] at university. To see them grow and thrive, and to see them experience my husband and I both in professional careers and to start to talk to us about their own professional careers, that certainly fills me with pride.

What’s a big or surprising lesson you’ve learned as a woman in the workplace?

One thing I learned, somewhere between when I was a manager and a partner, was just to really lean on your strengths. We can spend time worrying about what are the things we need to improve on. But it’s really healthier and often more productive to hone in on your strengths, and to feel confident that, even if your strengths are different than the team you’re in, that by knowing what they are and leaning into them, you’ll bring your best to the team.

How do you stay energized?

Lots of the folks who work with me say that they are surprised by the amount of energy I can bring to any conversation. I’m mostly energized by ideas and big aspirations. My sense of purpose is all about bringing McKinsey to its full potential in terms of our partnership with clients and the way in which we develop our people. Seeing the change that we can create each day brings me a ton of energy, and doing it with amazing teams is very lucky.

What advice do you have for women in their professional journeys?

One piece of advice I give to all new managers is that if someone enters your space—your Zoom or your office—and you have allowed them to leave your presence without giving them something to do, you’ve missed an opportunity.

You have a clear view of where you’re trying to get, and everyone who’s in your midst, whether they are a client, a colleague, a friend, or otherwise, can be a part of that journey with you if you just ask them. Being brave enough to see how someone else can contribute to the aspiration you’re on, and then enrolling them in that journey with you, can be very powerful.


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