Dr. Laura Wendt: I am the global Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at A.T. Kearney with a PhD in Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology. I am passionate about combining insights from neuroscience and subconscious human behaviors in the workplace. When a diverse group works together, more physiological stress reactions are measured in their bodies as compared to teams where everyone is alike. This is one of the reasons why there are less women and other minorities at the top of companies and why they have a harder time accessing networks and consequently have slower promotion rates. It’s my desire to create awareness and find solutions to important questions, such as why is it that despite our best intentions, we often end up making the wrong decisions because of our blind spots?!
"The usefulness of the cup is its emptiness" - This statement by Bruce Lee says it best. I always try to keep an “empty state of mind” when it comes to meeting new people or career opportunities. If my mind is filled with labels and I try to fit the world around me into boxes, I will miss out on adventures and learning opportunities.
Your story and its greatest challenges
I grew up in a small German village surrounded by conservative values with women playing traditional roles at home. I had big dreams to be an adventurer and explore the world, but I saw no path forward, as society pushed upon me their expectations that I should depend on a man.
So, I took a leap of faith and left the village to live in India, Canada, and Northern Ireland, where I worked with homeless and abused people and even cleaned the toilets of an NGO. I soon realized that I would not have a significant impact without knowledge. This is why I studied neuropsychology and was drawn into the world of science. Although I had mind-blowing experiences while conducting experiments with people, I wanted to apply my knowledge in the professional business world and became a Management Consultant at a top global consultancy firm. This gave me insights into worldwide industries and diverse work systems. However, my heart has and always will beat for the underdog, which is why I want to drive change and improve life for them in general and the workplace for women and other underrepresented minorities.
Your career highlights
Although my career path seems to be “all over the place”, I believe that this makes my approach in helping companies build more diverse work environments very unique. I am proud to be the author of several scientific papers and magazine articles and that my trainings around the globe help industries increase the applications, retention and promotion rates of women and other underrepresented minorities. And only due to knowing the studies mentioned below, I dare say as a woman that I am proud of this.
We need to stand together to reach equality for women. It is 2018, but studies show that when a woman is successful in her job and proudly talks about her accomplishments, she does not behave according to the feminine stereotype, which is being cooperative, agreeable and caring. She does not fit the social norms, which is in general not liked by society, as we all love our orderly stereotype boxes. That’s why she will still be judged as showing off and being arrogant, while a man can show the same behavior and will be judged as visionary and self-secure. The prototype of a leader is still a man in our minds. Women still can’t win and have a hard time to be seen as competent and at the same time being likeable. Perception eventually turns into reality for the next generation as well. Which is why we need to be exposed to more successful women who are happy about defying these old proto- and stereotypes. My challenge is to help change not only how men see women, but how women see themselves.
Future Global influence
Every woman in the spotlight that shines no matter where and in what area, will make an impact in our communities. Studies show that when female role models are not visible, other women believe that they themselves have no chance, and as a result, they do not dare to be brave and pursue their dreams, they do not compete for a seat at the table and they prematurely end their careers. Girls accelerate in math when pictures of successful women are visible in the room. That’s why it’s important to have influential platforms like these, which I and others can be a part of to help women be their best, not just here, but across the whole world, in schools, universities, workplaces and at home.
Your message to the world:
“Conquer your career by creating a business sisterhood!” I believe change can happen when we start to talk more positively about our fellow women colleagues. Throughout history women have neglected to form powerful networks and uplift one another. When we promote and celebrate other women we all win, because seeing a woman reaching her goals encourages and drives all women to reach for their dreams and aspirations.