09 January, 2023
#26 Portrait of a woman in finance: Goedele Van der Linden
Can you shortly present your role as today in the organisation (in 1 sentence)?
I’m Chief Counsel for Marsh in Europe, responsible for Legal, Compliance and Public Affairs across 38 countries.
What brought you to finance?
I wasn’t really planning on having a career in Financial Services. I thought I was going to be a teacher or a translator. It turned out I did not have the patience to be a good teacher so following my studies in Germanic languages and my Bachelor in Law, I looked for a firm willing to give me the opportunity to start doing paralegal work while finishing my Master’s degree in evening school. Mercer (a sister company of Marsh) did just that and I stayed withing the Marsh McLennan group ever since. I never expected to be here longer than 1 year but an employer who believes in you and keeps on presenting growth opportunities creates a huge sense of loyalty and gratitude.
What did you learn recently regarding gender equality?
Allies are crucial, including male allies. We’ll never attain true gender equality without the support of men. At the same time, women also need to become better advocates of women. Research shows that women who support women are more successful, so it’s a win-win.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take another 132 years to achieve gender parity. When I look at my own kids, I can’t help but think that the next generation will make a huge difference and significantly speed up the process.
What was one of the decisions that had the most impact on you or your career?
When I had just become a young mother of twin boys, our General Counsel encouraged me to consider a role in Government Relations, representing the four businesses in our group towards the European Institutions. I declined. How was I going to do this with two babies and a military husband with missions abroad?
A few weeks later our Global Head of Government Relations came to Brussels to interview external candidates for the EU role. He offered to have lunch. Why not? It’s always good to broaden your network. Little did I know that if you enter a lunch meeting with a lifelong lobbyist, you come out of that meeting totally convinced of his viewpoint. I should have seen this coming… Of course I wanted this role. Of course I was going to pull this off! I called our General Counsel to tell him I had changed my mind and – long story short – started in the role a few weeks later. I had the best time ever. I learned so much, not just about Government Relations, but most importantly about how to combine a career and family life. Having the full support of senior (in this case male) leaders who pushed me to be at my best made all the difference. I will always be grateful to both of them for granting me all the flexibility I needed to succeed, both at work and at home.
What would you tell your younger self?
Have more (self) confidence.
Any message to share with female students interested in finance, or with young women starting their career?
It’s ok to change your mind. If you study one thing and realise afterwards that it’s not really your cup of tea, do something else. Start working and study in the evening. You can do it.
Choose a firm with the right culture and management style. For me personally, flexibility, trust and development/stretch opportunities have always been key. What are your priorities when selecting your employer? During the interview process, make sure to get a good sense of the managers you will be working with. If you feel a good connection which can grow into a trusted mentor-mentee relationship, you will have everything you need to thrive. And, when women thrive, businesses thrive!
Interviewed by: Wendy Baeyens