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Nancy McKinstry, CEO of Wolters Kluwer

  • Story Highlights
  • Nancy McKinstry, CEO of Wolters Kluwer talks to CNN's Todd Benjamin
  • McKinstry successfully and radically restructured the company
  • She highly values analytics and intellectual curiosity in her employees
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(CNN) -- Nancy McKinstry is ranked in the top ten of the most powerful women in Europe by the Financial Times. She is also the only female CEO of companies listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.


Nancy McKinstry, CEO, Wolters Kluwer

McKinstry runs Wolters Kluwer, a multimedia publisher and since becoming CEO she has spearheaded the successful transformation of the company into a forward-looking, customer-focused global information services provider for professionals worldwide.

CNN's Todd Benjamin spoke to Nancy McKinstry and began by asking her why there are so few women CEOs.

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McKinstry: I think to be a CEO, regardless of gender, is tough to accomplish. I think it requires a lot of skills, a lot of opportunity and a lot of results because, ultimately, that's what people care about.

I think for a female, particularly in some of the European countries, it's even more difficult to reach the top because of some of the socio-economic and the cultural factors that exist. And what I mean by that is, in some countries, there isn't really an economic reason for many women to stay in the work force, particularly after they have children. So, you really have to have that drive and ambition to make it to the top.

I think in America it's a bit different because there is a lot more economic motivation for women to work and for them to excel within a corporate setting.

Benjamin: Do you think that gender should still be an issue?

McKinstry: I think we shouldn't talk about it, but I think that, by talking about it, it raises awareness, and I think over time the world, as a group of business leaders, we have to tap into all the diversity that's out there. Because if you just look at the fundamental demographics of an ageing population, we have to get as many people to work as possible to be productive over the long term.

Benjamin: How would you describe your own personality?

McKinstry: I'm very analytical. I would say that I strive to listen hard to people, understand what they're trying to tell me, get the facts, and then formulate a decision. So very analytical and very easy going in the sense that I am very approachable. I really believe strongly in getting out there and talking to as many of our employees and customers as I can, and then using that as a form of stimulation to say "what are we doing right?" "what do we need to improve on?" "how do we continue to grow the business?"

Benjamin: When you took this company over in 2003, it had completed its worst year is history, you decided you were going to have a radical restructuring. What do you think the most important thing is in a restructuring?

McKinstry: First and foremost, it's having the right strategy. What are you trying to accomplish and how are you going to get there? Second thing was building a solid team around myself as the CEO that could execute the plan. And then third is very clear communication. You really have to have every employee understand what we are trying to accomplish and where they personally can help us take the company.

Benjamin: What do you look for in your key lieutenants?

McKinstry: First and foremost, it's analytics and intellectual curiosity and then very much I look for people that have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, have really come from sort of adversity, somewhere in their background and have a proven track record of overcoming that adversity because I think that's important in business.


Benjamin: On the subject of work-life balance, how do you keep those two in somewhat balance?

McKinstry: I think you have to be clear about what your priorities are and set limits when you need to, both at work and at home, to be successful, but my most important advice to anybody is you have to be comfortable with your own decisions. Because what I found in my own career is that there were often critics along the way both, you know, people that I knew personally, but also people in the work environment, that would criticize your ability to balance, you know, your work commitments and your family commitments, and luckily I had the support of my husband and family to say "do what you think is right", and that's what I did, and lived with those choices. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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