Susanna Kempe (she/her)

CEO, Laidlaw Foundation
  • Laidlaw Foundation
  • People
  • United Kingdom

About Susanna Kempe (she/her)

A graduate of Cambridge University, Susanna’s professional experience includes over 15 years in senior leadership roles in international B2B and learning businesses. Susanna began her career at the Institute for International Research (IIR) where she first worked with Lord Laidlaw, rising to Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). When IIR, which was the world’s largest organiser of commercial conferences, was acquired by Informa plc in 2005 Susanna was appointed CMO of the enlarged group and also led the public company’s investor relations programmes. She subsequently joined Emap Ltd as Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and CEO of Emap Networks, that group’s conferences business. Later she became CEO of the fashion industry forecaster WGSN and was latterly Group Content and Marketing Partner of the leading strategy consultancy Brunswick Group. A German-American raised and educated in the UK and a committed internationalist, Susanna has been involved in globally trading businesses throughout her career, directing activity in the Americas, across continental Europe, and the Asia Pacific. Susanna has been extensively involved with education and professional development over many years. She was Head of Group Training and led the commercial acquisition and integration of a portfolio of corporate training businesses whilst at IIR; and created learning academies at both Informa and Emap. She believes experiencing and appreciating different cultures promotes better global understanding, creativity and leadership. She is passionate about the power of education to transform lives; and believes that we need to develop a new generation of diverse leaders who are curious, bold and devoted to decency, truthfulness, and innovation. Susanna is committed to diversity not only as a societal imperative but as a critical component of commercial success. As an advisor to the trustees of the Foundation, Susanna first learnt about its purpose and programmes before becoming its Chief Executive responsible for the Laidlaw Schools Trust, the Laidlaw Scholars and its other education programmes. Susanna read English and Philosophy at Newnham College, University of Cambridge. She has five half blues in swimming and water polo; and played netball and rowed for Newnham.

I am a/an:

Staff Member/Trustee of the Laidlaw Foundation

Area of Expertise

Coaching and Mentoring Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneurship

Research Topic

Business & Management Gender Studies

Intro Content

Web Article COVID-19 Business & Management Diversity and Inclusion

10 Steps to Breaking the Glass Ceiling in a Post-Covid19 World

Two things happened this week which reminded me that bemoaning the continued lack of gender equality, without committing to do something about it, is not only exhausting and misery inducing, but spectacularly pointless.

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Recent Comments

@Kayla Kim She sounds amazing. Where did you come across her? Who owns and runs the business now?

That is a fantastic article. I love the fact that not only were her first 300 employees mainly women but that they all worked from home too. I have just bought the book. 

@Kayla Kim She sounds amazing. Where did you come across her? Who owns and runs the business now?

There is a humility and searing honesty to this which makes it particularly noteworthy. Ketanji, like pretty much everyone in this network, went to a world class university; in her case, Harvard. It can be very tempting, when you are super smart, when you know you can get away with winging it, because you are smart, and you are surrounded by other smart people doing the same, not to put the effort in.  It is also, far too easy, to assume you have all the answers because you do genuinely have a lot of good ones. Look around the world at senior politicians who don't read their briefs, who make up policies on the fly, who dismiss expertise when it is inconvenient. It is deeply wrong - and far too pervasive. The recognition that we are not always the smartest in the room; and this promise, to be the hardest working, are worth emulating.

Really looking forward to this. I have always thought it is much easier to run a large organisation where you have the funds and resources than a start-up where the uncertainty and the unexpected can so easily derail you. 

I think that optimism, having the belief and determination to keep moving forward, to find solutions, is often what makes a true leader stand out amongst their peers. It is very easy to point out problems, to explain why things are too hard or can't be done. Moral courage is not about blithely ignoring the hurdles, it is about facing them head on. The real leader finds a way to achieve their goal whether it is reaching a summit or bringing everyone back home safely.  

Excellence with compassion is such a powerful, impact squared concept, I love it. 

So grateful to both Olga and @Nikol Chen (she/her) for this very special episode - giving such an insight into what is happening in Ukraine right now and what it really means to be a leader in times of crisis and uncertainty. 

Comment on Get in Good Trouble

I love this on so many levels. It resonates so closely with our values of bravery and curiosity. Asking questions - Why is it like this? How can this be justified? What is stopping us from changing it? - tends to get us into trouble with the people who are happy with the status quo, but it is both good and necessary.