HSBC CEO: I Wasn’t a Very Good Role Model for Other Women

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Photo: Haraz N. Ghanbari/Corbis

It’s Ladies Night over at the New York Times finance blog DealBook! Spring's special section is all about women and business, and many of its articles don’t even mention Sheryl Sandberg. There are articles about Girls Who Code, the decline of gender-based legal complaints against financial firms (and the rise of arbitration agreements), and the boardroom boot camps Norway has designed to prepare women to fulfill the country’s new board gender quotas. My favorite is an interview with HSBC North America chief executive Irene Dorner, who wishes she’d pushed harder to change the “status quo” while breaking through glass ceilings on Wall Street, instead of keeping her head down and focusing on her own career.

“The women at the top of organizations that I know will tell you that we think that we’ve made it because we were born the way we are and can play by these rules without feeling damaged by them. Or, we’ve learned how to play by these rules and use them to our own advantage … I suspect that we were simply not very good role models … And there aren’t enough of us to be visible so that people can work out how to do what we did.”

Before Dorner gets pitted against status-quo-friendly Sheryl Sandberg, let it be known that she too thinks women hold themselves back. But she also urges the next generation of women infiltrating the executive suites to “stand up and be counted.” 

“I only realized what was happening when I was 50, because there I was, making my way in the unconscious rules. … I really do think the next push has got to come from the senior middle-management women who must stand up and be counted on this earlier than I did.”

It's not too late, Irene!