Jean O’Grady and Nancy McKinstry
Two days after writing the “glass ceiling” story about “good girls revolting” at Newsweek in 1970, I had the opportunity and good fortune to have lunch with the CEO of Wolters Kluwer. I am embarrassed to admit that until recently, I had not been aware that the CEO of any major publishing company was a woman. Nancy McKinstry has been Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board at Wolters Kluwer since September 1, 2003, and Member of the Executive Board since June 1, 2001. Her current responsibilities include:  Corporate Strategy, Division Performance, Business Development, Global Shared Services, Technology, Legal Affairs, Communications, Human Resources, and Sustainability..Forbes named her one of the “100 Most Powerful Women.” Ms. McKinstry is an American, with an MBA from Columbia University who leads a global company based in the Netherlands.

With all of her accomplishments she was stunned that after holding an important  press conference on corporate strategy, one newspaper reported that  they thought she was dressed like a “KLM stewardess.”   Women do face special challenges in achieving and retaining corporate leadership roles…and being taken seriously. According to a Harvard Business Review  article, Women CEOs: Why so few? only 1..5% of CEO’s in top performing companies are women.

The Vacuum: Women Legal Publishing Executives. In 3 decades of meetings with legal publishing executives, I silently wondered why I was always escorted through hallways full of professional women, then seated in a boardroom full of male executives. Don’t get me wrong, I love men! I don’t want to question anyone’s achievement. I just need to wonder “out loud” why the numbers remain so skewed. Now that I am on roll, I will also wonder “out load,” why legal publishers court librarians for their expertise on legal content and product development strategy, but then recruit talented librarians who are steered into “glass ceilinged ” roles in “librarian relations.” I am not aware of anyone who entered the executive ranks from one of these positions. Nonetheless, the executive suites in legal publishing are changing.

There are finally some high level women executives appearing in legal publishing. Notably, Karin Lieber is VP Sales, Strategic Accounts at LexisNexis, Allison Guidette, is Managing Director Large Law Firm Segment at Thomson Reuters. Beth Mazzeo, is Chief Operating Officer at Bloomberg. But, Wolters Kluwer really has the edge here. In addition to McKinstry at the helm of the mothership, another woman Stacey Caywood is CEO their Legal and Regulatory business unit. Wolters Kluwer is the only legal publisher with women CEO’s heading both the parent company and legal publishing divisions.

The McKinstry Strategy for Women in Professional Publishing
In our recent conversation, Nancy McKinstry made it abundantly clear that she is very proud of the progress women have made at Wolters Kluwer since she took the helm. A March 8, 2013 article in Forbes “C-Suite Sees More Female Leaders Reaching the Top.” describes McKinstry’s hands on approach to making sure women are rising to the top at Wolters Kluwer.. When she started as CEO in 2003, only 20% of top leadership posts at Wolters Kluwer were held by women, ten years later it is 33%. McKinstry believes it is easier to recruit top female talent because candidates see women leading different parts of the company. In her words.” Diversity helps, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Team Work Talent McKinstry believes that the secret of success lies in building strong teams – especially in a knowledge-intensive company like Wolters Kluwer. She also believes that women are especially talented in managing teams and thrive in collaborative environments.. Good teamwork, both inside the company, and working with customers, is the only way to ensure high-quality, innovative products.

Flexibility A post on the website  HeadHoncha also cites Wolters Kluwer’s ‘Work from Anywhere” program as supporting women’s career development.. The program allows people to work three days from home and two in the office, but not in a regular work-space. This has reduced the company’s real estate footprint as well as introducing flexible working.

Job Swaps McKinstry also introduced job swaps to help stimulate international experience. This is particularly helpful for employees “earlier in their tenure.” It provides the experience of working in a different country for several month without having to endure the upheaval of a major relocation.

Talent Management.Wolters Kluwer has a talent management program which identifies high potential executives and, says McKinstry, “We specifically work on programs to provide them with the right experience to ensure they’re developing the kind of leadership skills that they would need to get to the top of the organization.”

The Proof is in the Org Chart McKinstry is proud, not only of the statistics, but of the fact that many of the company’s key businesses are run by women. “In some companies, women tend to take on functional roles but at Wolters Kluwer, women have responsibility for a P &;L. Profit &Loss reflects the utmost level of leadership and accountability for a specific business or division.. P&L responsibilities include “revenue” generation (products, sales, marketing), as well as the related “expense” management (operations, technology, editorial). She provides women with the kind of experience and track record they would need if they are to have any shot at being the CEO of a company or to sit as a non-executive director of a multi-national.

Some of the female executives who rose under McKinstry’s tenure include:Guilietta Lemmi the CEO of Italy; Sasha Chang the CEO of China; Karen Abramson, President and CEO, CCH Tax and Accounting; Cathy Wolfe, CEO of Medical Research. and Stacey Caywood, CEO of Legal and Regulatory who “runs one of the largest divisions in the company.”

McKinstry sums it up: “Getting diversity into the marrow of a company isn’t rocket science. It needs persistent focus at every level of the organization led from the top.”

A Word About Law Librarians I asked McKinstry to comment on the role and contributions of librarians.

“The world of information has exploded.  As a result, Wolters Kluwer sees the role of legal librarian–the ultimate expert in content– as crucial, now more than ever. Particularly as the legal profession migrates rapidly to mobile and digital platforms, the information marketplace is more fragmented than at any time and attorneys need a highly strategic librarian to ensure their seamless access to ‘gold standard’ information sources like Wolters Kluwer in order to make the right recommendations to their clients.

As the legal industry has undergone significant transformation, the role of the librarian has only increased in importance, acting as a critical resource for legal professionals as they focus on increasing productivity. When librarians apply their specialized knowledge management skills to the specific needs of their firm (its unique processes, culture, and practice groups), law firms and attorneys are more successful, productive, and efficient. At Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, law librarians are our partners in finding new ways to help attorneys be more productive and get the mobile and digital content they know is right—both primary law and legal analysis—whenever and wherever they need it.”

A Reason For Optimism Law Library Directors have always had the critical executive “Profit and Loss Responsibility” at the departmental level. Those skills have been honed even more by the challenges of increasing access, manging costs and mitigating risks related to information in an era of exploding content, multiplying platforms and reduced budgets. C-Suite anyone?