Stock Exchange CEO: ‘Having it all is pure nonsense’

Story highlights

Ester Levanon brought automation to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

In the 1970s, she created the Israeli Security Services' IT division

Levanon rejects the concept of "having it all"

Children will complain regardless of whether their mother works, she says

CNN  — 

Ester Levanon rejects the notion of “having it all.” The head of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange says women should do whatever feels right for them, not what society thinks is best.

“I don’t believe I have to prove to the world that I am a success only because I have a husband and two children and two grandchildren,” says Levanon, who split childcare with her husband while head of the Israeli Security Service’s computer division.

“That’s me, that’s my life, that’s what I wanted to do.”

After graduating from Hebrew University with a Masters in math, Levanon was was scouted to join the Israeli Security Service (Shin Bet) in 1973 while working at a software company.

The service was in the early stages of computerization, and Levanon, whose brother was killed in the Yom Kippur war, wanted to do something “more than just work.”

“It really appealed to me, because I felt I could serve my country,” she says. She spent 12 years with the service, initially as a consultant, but eventually launching its IT division.

She says being the first and only female manager at the Israeli Security Service was not as difficult as convincing the organization that it needed to adopt new technology. “They knew absolutely nothing about IT,” she recalls. “More than that, they really hated the idea.”

Levanon also brought wide-sweeping technology adoption to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, which she joined as Chief Information Officer in 1986 before becoming CEO in 2006.

The exchange, which includes more than 600 companies – more than 50 dual-listed on the NASDAQ – now offers automated trading, clearing and settlement.

In January, it was one of several Israeli businesses attacked by hackers, who managed to crash the exchange’s website, although not its trading system.

In 2010, the exchange was upgraded from emerging to developed market status by index provider