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Valerie Gooding, CEO, BUPA

  • Story Highlights
  • Valerie Gooding, CEO of BUPA, speaks to CNN's Todd Benjamin
  • BUPA has over 8 million customers in 190 countries
  • Valerie is one of FT's top five most powerful businesswomen in Europe
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Valerie Gooding is in the top five most powerful businesswomen in Europe as named by the Financial Times.


She runs global health and care organization BUPA and under her leadership it has grown to over 8 million customers in over 190 countries and record revenues.

CNN's Todd Benjamin spoke to her in London and began by asking her why there are so few women at the top. She said it goes beyond family issues.

Gooding: Women sometimes don't put themselves forward for things. And one of the things I think about and talk about a lot is that women often lack confidence to go for the next job, the top job. They sometimes don't wish to compete or they don't think they're good enough for the next thing.

Benjamin: Why do you think that is?

Gooding: Partly a lack of role models, partly it may be conditioning from a very early age about what the role of women is in society and the family, in work. But also I think there is still -- I don't like to call it a glass ceiling, but I think there is still an unseen barrier for women, which is that, if you ask most business people, would they like to promote more women, they would all say yes, they'd love to: "Where are these women, I want to promote them," will be the answer. But often they don't really automatically think of a woman first for a top job.

Benjamin: And what advice would you give to women who want to try and make it to the top?

Gooding: Well, first of all, to learn as much as you can and to make sure you've got the right experience, the right qualifications, and to enjoy each job for its own interest and job satisfaction.

But I think another piece of advice I would give to women is not to be afraid to put themselves forward and say what it is they want, because I think one thing that happens with women, which perhaps is a gender difference, is that women often hang back and think "I will be noticed for my results, everybody will see how great I am because I've delivered these exceptional outcomes". But actually life isn't like that, you have to tell people about your results and your achievements, and men are often better at doing that than women are.

Benjamin: What do you think separates good leadership from great leadership?

Gooding: Well, I think good leaders should be judged on their results. And I think of a good leader you should be able to say "she transformed the business," "she upped the performance," "she exceeded the expectations of the stakeholders." I think of a great leader I would go to that old Chinese saying, "of a great leader the people will say "we did it ourselves"".

Benjamin: Do you think that women in general as managers are more inclusive than men?

Gooding: No, I don't. In fact, I sometimes find these gender differences, when sort of represented in the business environment, are actually just not very useful. I think men and women have very different styles of leadership as individuals and I don't think it goes down to straightforward gender divide. Because I have seen women who are more autocratic and more leading from the front and more dictatorial, and I've equally seen men who are very consultative. So, I don't just think it divides that way.


Benjamin: You clearly love what you do. What is it about business that you think is such a buzz?

Gooding: It's the constant challenge, there's always something new, there's a new competitor, there's a new pressure, there's a new opportunity, there's a new challenge, I think that's what keeps us all going. I think it's the thrill of the chase, basically. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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