Travels from Massachusetts, USA
Laura Liswood's speaking fee falls within range: $15,000 to $20,000
Laura Liswood is the Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders. For over 20 years, she has been a prominent researcher, advisor, and speaker on diversity and women in leadership, discussing how we can close equality gaps and leverage differences to drive success in society and business.
From 1992 to 1996, as director of the Women’s Leadership Project, Ms. Liswood identified global leadership contributions by women heads of state. She interviewed 19 current and former women presidents and prime ministers, which is chronicled in her book and video documentary, Women World Leaders. Her quest was to find out what it would take for a woman to become President of the United States and ultimately led to a powerful friendship and alliance with Iceland’s Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the world’s first democratically elected female president. Together the two founded the Council of Women World Leaders, which expands the understanding of leadership, establishes a network of resources for high-level women leaders, and provides a forum for the group to contribute input and shape the international issues important to all people.
Ms. Liswood’s work draws from her extensive hands-on experience as a female leader in the corporate world. From 2001 to 2015, she served as the Managing Director and Senior Advisor of Global Leadership and Diversity for Goldman Sachs. She has also served as CEO/President of the American Society for Training and Development, as an executive-level consultant to Fortune 500 plus other international companies, and in executive positions at Rainier National Bank and at Group W Cable, a subsidiary of Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable. She received the Westinghouse Award of Excellence for her contribution to women and minorities in the work place.
Ms. Liswood is the author of the influential book The Loudest Duck, a business guide that explores workplace diversity and uses practical stories to offer an alternate, nuanced approach to diversity to create a truly effective workplace for all.
Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders
Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs
In August 1996, Laura Liswood co-founded the Council of Women World Leaders with President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland. Ms. Liswood is the Secretary General of the Council, which is composed of women presidents, prime ministers, and heads of government. The work of the Council expands the understanding of leadership, establishes a network of resources for high-level women leaders, and provides a forum for the group to provide input and shape international issues important to all people. The Council’s mission is to promote good governance and enhance the experience of democracy globally by increasing the number, effectiveness, and visibility of women who lead at the highest levels in their countries. The Council is a policy program of the Aspen Institute and is currently chaired by President Tarja Halonen of Finland.
In 2001, Liswood was named Managing Director, Global Leadership and Diversity for Goldman Sachs, a premier global investment bank. She is now a Senior Advisor to the firm.
From 1992 – 1996, as director of the Women’s Leadership Project, Liswood identified global leadership contributions by women heads of state. She interviewed 19 current and former women presidents and prime ministers, which is chronicled in her book and video documentary, Women World Leaders (1996, 2007 and 2009, Harper Collins). Her quest was to find out what it would take for a woman to become President of the United States.
In 1997, Liswood co-founded The White House Project, which is dedicated to electing a woman President of the United States. Her work with women presidents and prime ministers was the inspiration for the Project, which seeks to change the cultural message in the United States about women as leaders.
Liswood’s professional experience includes CEO/President of the American Society for Training and Development, executive-level consulting to Fortune 500 and international companies, and executive positions at Rainier National Bank and at Group W Cable, a subsidiary of Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable. She received the Westinghouse Award of Excellence for her contribution to women and minorities in the work place. She has held management positions in the airline industry, including general manager for the Pacific Northwest and for TWA, and was a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. She is the author of Serving Them Right (Harper Business, 1991). Liswood’s latest book, The Loudest Duck (Wiley & Sons, November 2009), is a business guide that explores workplace diversity and uses practical stories to offer an alternate, nuanced approach to diversity to create a truly effective workplace for all.
Liswood, a nationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, has contributed to leadership and diversity in the women’s community for more than 20 years as a member of the International Women’s Forum, Leadership America, the board of the First Women’s Bank of California, and the Washington Women’s Political Caucus. Former commissioner of the City of Seattle Women’s Commission, Liswood was the owner/publisher of Seattle Woman and is the founder of May’s List, a bipartisan political donor network emphasizing women’s leadership in the political arena. In 2000, the U.S. Secretary of Defense appointed her to a three-year term on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). After the events of September 11, 2001, Liswood became a reserve police officer in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and is now a Sergeant.
She holds a M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.A. from California State University, San Diego. She holds a J.D. from the University of California, Davis School of Law, and is admitted to practice law in California and Massachusetts.
Laura Liswood discusses how her “in-the-shower” idea turned into an extensive research project. Wondering what it would take to get a woman elected president in the U.S. and how a female executive leader would affect our government, she sought interviews with the 15 women in the world at that time who were serving as a head of state or had served as a head of state.
In talking with all 15 women, she uncovered several common traits that great leaders demonstrate regardless of their gender and some areas in which women leaders seemed to be stronger than men. Explaining that great leaders are “able to travel outside their world view”, Ms. Liswood acknowledges that that is actually a very difficult thing to do.
“It’s particularly a challenge for dominant group members to travel to the world of non-dominant group members, for historically overrepresented group members to travel to the world of underrepresented group members,” she states, elaborating that non-dominant group members have a tendency to know more about dominant group members than vice-versa. “I think that’s actually one of the better traits that women bring to leadership…to understand what others are going through.”
Laura Liswood is an international, award-winning speaker who conveys her insights regarding leadership, diversity, women in politics and business to both large and small audiences. In her speeches, Ms. Liswood explores the questions surrounding myths of leadership and lessons of leaders. She looks at best practices of excellent leaders drawing upon the interviews she has conducted with women heads of state and heads of government, and shares insights on how to enhance opportunities to lead and shape one’s career successfully.
In the area of diversity, Ms. Liswood draws on research from her book The Loudest Duck, to demonstrate how leveraging differences is crucial to surviving and thriving in a global marketplace. She helps organization rethink their approach to diversity, equipping managers, business owners, team leaders, and employees to build an organization that gets the best from its entire workforce.
SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?
LISWOOD: The best takeaways are the practical tips on inclusion and an understanding of the many forms of diversity that affect how we think about people who are different than we are. My sessions are highly interactive, so it allows people an opportunity to feel engaged in the learning.
SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?
LISWOOD: It is essential to understand the organization’s goals for the presentation. It is also crucial to speak with senior leaders and those responsible for D&I efforts, so I can get a better understanding of where they are in the journey. Many things I hear are common issues for several organizations. For example, many organizations don’t have an intake problem with diverse staff, but they do have an upgrade problem.
Other preparations include looking at the specific industry the organization is part of and learning more about some of the challenges of that industry. The cultural nuances they face are also important to hear about, whether global, national or regional. Additionally, it is useful to know as much as possible what percentage of the board is diverse as well as the C suite numbers, because it can tell you something more about the movement from intent to action.
SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?
LISWOOD: My birthday is March 8th which is International Women’s Day. March is also women’s history month which means that I find myself away from home often on March 8 for a speaking engagement. Several times the groups have sung happy birthday to me which is lovely.
SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?
LISWOOD: One of my messages is to use different language than most diversity presenters use, such as dominant and nondominant, what grandma taught you, etc. Generally, I find that it is important to start with or include the most senior leaders in the organization first to hear my sessions. If that doesn’t happen, invariably people approach me and say that senior management must hear this first, so they can model the behaviors I am suggesting,
SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?
LISWOOD: I thoroughly enjoy the diversity and inclusion topics and those about Lessons of Leadership. I have met and interviewed 20 women heads of state and government and run a Council of 76 current and former women presidents and prime ministers. I like to talk to both men and women about what makes great leaders as my theory is that the best leaders embrace styles that are manifested by those who have historically led and those that are only recently being included in leadership.
I am a big proponent of using both research and stories for my presentations. The use of one without the other is less valuable. Research alone feels removed from daily behavior, but stories alone are just anecdotes. Together they can create a more powerful way of looking at the world.
SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?
LISWOOD: Initially it was just being asked to speak on my journey of learning, but I find it particularly rewarding when audiences come up to me and compliment on how I presented, what they learned and what they had never thought of before.
SPEAKING.COM: How much do case studies, personal stories and or humor factor into your keynote speech content?
LISWOOD: As mentioned above, there is a balanced role needed for case studies and research and use of stories and examples. I am also a big proponent of the use of humor. D&I topics go to the core of ourselves in many ways and we are asking people to think thoughtfully about historic behaviors and thoughts. Humor can serve as an aid to making difficult points when used appropriately.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients make?
LISWOOD: Clients tell me that even several years after my presentations they are quoting me and using my ideas to help them in the leadership and D&I work. That’s a high compliment, particularly when they say my frameworks have helped change and improve their organizations and helped them embrace more fully the goal of a more creative, innovative and engaged team.
“The most remarkable thing about the event was the way Laura got the audience to open up to her, almost like you would to a close friend.”
Noha S. Sidhom
Expert in Leadership Development,
“I just wanted you to know how much your presentation this week meant to me, especially as you captured the attributes of a strong leader. I hope we have a chance in the future to pursue this topic even more.”
Co-Chair Dept Modern and Ancient Languages
“Thank you so very much for your rousing speech at Harpeth Hall. I am a teacher of 6th graders and I am happy to report that they were every bit as inspired, excited…by your talk as were the seniors.Thank you for providing such a wonderful role model to our girls. I truly hope that one of them WILL be a President of the United States one day.”
Harpeth Hall School, March 2009
“I so enjoyed your encouraging words for our young women here at Harpeth Hall. Your style and sense of humor served to enhance your message about leadership within. The video clip was especially inspiring. Connecting for this brief period with women in our global community was powerful. Learning that these strong women have the same struggles and concerns that we have was affirming.”
Harpeth Hall School, March 2009
“I cannot tell you how much my students and I enjoyed your speech! () I spoke with some of my girls after your visit, and we all agreed that your humor, insight, and experience made your presentation entirely enjoyable and thought-provoking. We certainly learned a lot from you, and we hope that you will return to HH one day soon!”
Harpeth Hall School, March 2009
“They (the students) were empowered by your words. We are working very hard as a 5th grade team to provide leadership opportunities for our 5th grade girls. Even at their level and at the end of the day, I had several girls specifically come up to me and comment on how meaningful your speech was to them. One girl told me, “I really liked what she said about leaders providing a compass.” Thank you for taking the time to come to Nashville.”
Harpeth Hall School, March 2009
“Laura Liswood′s timing is perfect in giving us the stories and words of the most powerful and interesting women leaders around the world. With great intelligence and insight, Liswood mixes history and biography with these women′s answers to probing questions. Readers will come away not only informed, but also inspired.”
Author of Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way: Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage
“This book (Women World Leaders) continues to stand as the classic analysis of women worldwide. In this highly anticipated, updated volume, Liswood shows us the progress women have made. She also offers trenchant analysis of why women have a long way to go so that women leaders become simply leaders.”
Director, Women & Politics Institute
School of Public Affairs
“Thank you so much for your phenomenal keynote address at the 2003 Arizona Women′s Leadership Forum. The remarks we received about your presentation were outstanding! Your speech was both informational and inspirational. So many women came up to me at the Forum and since the Forum to tell me how fantastic you were/are.”
Anne M. Hanyak
“Your speech was lively and entertaining and started the day off with a high level of energy that carried through the rest of the day. Personally, I was struck by how much you had done to advance the cause of women′s leadership: how it had all started with a great idea and how you weren′t held back by self doubt. What you have been able to accomplish is remarkable.”
“Your presentation of Self Actualization and Leadership marked a high point for the conference and we received many comments from the Fellows afterwards about what they took away.”
Center for the Study of the Presidency
“Everyone was inspired and energized by your talk. We will all have taken away much that we can ′add′ to the education of girls in our schools.”
Girls Schools Association of the UK
“I learned more in the hour and a half Laura Liswood spoke than I have in classes that last entire semesters.”
“It was invaluable to have someone of her caliber to speak to our class.”
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The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity while Embracing Differences to Achieve Success at Work
Diversity in the workplace is a wonderful thing—but it also challenges many of today′s business leaders. For managers and team-members alike, it can be difficult to navigate in a truly diverse workplace made up of people of different cultures, races, creeds, body types, hobbies, genders, religions, styles, and sexual orientations. But understanding our cultural and social differences is a major key to a high-performing, merit-based work environment.
The Loudest Duck is a business guide that explores workplace diversity and presents new ideas for getting the most business and organizational benefit from it. In the Chinese children′s parable, the loudest duck is the one that gets shot. In America, we like to say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Comparing the two, it′s easy to see that our different cultures teach us different sets of values, and those values often translate into different ways of doing business that may subtly advantage one culture at work and disadvantage another.
In the global marketplace, it′s more important than ever that we understand and are conscious of our differences to work together effectively. It is not enough to create Noah′s Ark, bringing in two of each kind. We all bring our unconscious beliefs and personal narratives about who we are and who others are with us to work and, with diversity in place, we can no longer ignore them. Truly effective leaders can′t pretend that we′re all the same or that our preferences and preconceptions don′t exist. The Loudest Duck offers a way to move beyond traditional diversity efforts that ignore our differences and toward modern diversity practices that embrace those differences—and profit from them.
Diverse organizations require more sophisticated leadership, conscious awareness of diversity issues, new behavioral patterns, and effective tools for reaping the benefits of true diversity. This book will help you develop the skills you need and the tools you can use to go beyond what Grandma taught you to make diversity work in your business.
More than just an enlightening tale about diversity, The Loudest Duck is a powerful resource for any manager, business owner, team leader, or employee who wants to meet the challenges of the modern heterogeneous workplace. It′s not simply about accepting others—it′s about ensuring a level playing field for everyone and building an organization that gets the best from all its people.
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