Laura Liswood has made it into the top management at Goldman Sachs and now wants to help more women get into leadership roles. Her verdict: companies are digging their own graves if they don't put more women in charge. In an interview with gofeminin.de, she explains why, and calls on women to show more humour and equanimity.
Women in top-levels: Still a very small minority © Jupiter
You must know many women in leadership roles. What makes them so successful?
First of all: Women are ambitious, just like men. What possibly makes these women stand out in particular is that they want to change things. They used to be outside the power structures; now they are a part of them and want to improve the world, for themselves, but for others as well. I have always admired them as individuals for their indefatigability and endless energy. None of them ever give up! And they always demonstrate a great sense of humour; they have learned to deal with criticism and cynicism – that is probably what distinguishes them most from the majority of women.
That probably applies to women in the workplace in particular.
Women join organizations such as Goldman Sachs mainly because of the career prospects, just like men. But after a while, they want to shake things up there as well and they act accordingly: they put forward different ideas, they bring disparate parties together. That is their special contribution.
You yourself have managed to forge a successful career at the investment bank Goldman Sachs. What has helped you get ahead?
I have often asked myself the same question! (laughing) No, really, in that respect I was very different from my male colleagues at Goldman Sachs, who had a precise roadmap for their careers. I have always simply taken the opportunities that presented themselves to me at the time.
Why are there so few women like you who have managed to get into leadership roles?
I think that it has a lot to do with unconscious expectations. We are far too used to men being in leadership roles, whether in business or in politics. And there are different standards for men and women. When a man puts himself forward as a presidential candidate, nobody doubts that he can fulfill the role simply because he has children. With women it's different. They are still judged very much on their appearance, their clothes or their family life.