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IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Susan Lauher

IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Susan Lauher

Brad Law IWD2021


Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

“Choosing to challenge” means that we are intentional in our choice to not dismiss, ignore or overlook biased thinking or behavior. This means challenging a “that’s the way things are” mindset. This means normalizing conversations around biases so people are empowered and educated. These conversations enable people to recognize and address stereotypes and discrimination. 

What is one lesson you learnt the hard way? 

At one point I felt that I had to master any and all of the skills that my direct reports possessed and were accountable. When I had the opportunity to lead multi-disciplinary teams such as communications and operations, I learned quickly that not only was it impossible to master every skill, but that it was entirely unnecessary. Letting go of the burden to know everything, has allowed me to focus on what is important: setting the right objectives, removing barriers, letting people shine in their area of expertise, and providing the team latitude (and the safety net) to do rewarding and memorable work. It was a lesson learned and cherished. 

How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table? 

We have a shared responsibility to get more women not only at the table, but also at the heads of these tables. Female leaders need to advocate for themselves and seek the same from those around them. Let people know your ambitions, and when you know someone is supportive of you and your work, ask them to recommend or sponsor you for opportunities. It’s also critically important that we model this behavior—sponsorship, mentorship, and advocacy. At GroupM we have a women’s leadership ERG called “Lift & Rise”. It’s a name as much as it is a call to action. 

What is one thing women don’t talk about enough? 

I would like to see women be more direct about the choices they make if and when they become parents. More straight talk about this would actually help all parents, both men and women, find better ways to integrate the two and see what’s possible. This is more important than ever given the levels of parental exhaustion-- especially mothers—managing, juggling and coping with home schooling and lack of child care. 

What are you really, really good at? 

I’m really good at balancing the ideal approach with the pragmatic approach. A lot of that is knowing what the priority is and what you’re trying to accomplish. Keeping those intentions in mind while you navigate day-to-day realities is essential. This is always a critical skill, and 2020 certainly put it to the test! 

What is your next goal or adventure? 

I’m working on my Masters in Organizational Leadership from Johns Hopkins University. It’s wonderful to be a student again and learning for the joy of it. The course work is incredibly relevant to my day to day and is giving me new ways of thinking about business problems. It’s also been eye opening to see what new graduates experience at university and how our employee experience compares to that in areas like technology; performance metrics; and online, asynchronous communication. 

Why is it important that we “choose to challenge” and call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping? 

You need to name it before you can change it. Identifying biases and gendered thinking is the first step in eliminating them. It’s important that we do this in a way that builds awareness, safety and advocacy. Talking about gender bias also creates a virtuous cycle for calling out other stereotypes, whether they are around race, ethnicity, physical ability or any other dimension of diversity.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.