Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

Susan Wagner

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?
The best decision I've made professionally was to leave a stable and promising career to found BlackRock with several of my partners. We took a risk to believe in each other, to trust our instincts on the growth of the capital markets and the need for risk management, and to continually evolve the firm to better help our clients solve their investment challenges. The worst decision may be yet to come, but there are days when you can't please everyone, and the compromises I've made always feel like the worst decision in the moment.

What was your dream job as a kid and why?
I didn't really have a dream job. I liked working, I liked learning new things and being challenged, and I liked making money. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, even after I grew up!

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
The most significant barrier is unrealistic expectations — those that we have of ourselves and those that others have of us. Women and men often have different leadership strengths and styles, and that needs to be okay. Advancement should not depend on being a "mini-me," and the test of good leadership should be capability, not conformity. The message I would like to send women is to set their expectations high, be confident in their choices, ask for what they want, and find champions who will support their ambitions.

What woman inspires you and why?
I work with so many talented, amazing women from a rich variety of backgrounds. They are always a source of inspiration. My greatest inspiration, though, comes from my family, from four generations of women (and men) who continually inspire through their accomplishments, their grace, their fortitude, their hopes and their dreams.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Globalization will require leaders, both men and women, to be adept at viewing the world through different cultural lenses and to adapt their business strategy and behavior to best lead global teams and meet client needs. Finding ways to navigate the demands of a global business and the constantly changing political and economic landscape will be an ongoing challenge for all of us. Women may face an even greater challenge to the extent that some of the business culture and norms encountered are less accustomed to or accepting of women leaders.