Q&A with Karen Abramson, WOMENLEAD24 Keynote Speaker

Karen Abramson
Karen Abramson
June 14, 2024
NAEM is thrilled to have Karen Abramson, CEO of Corporate Performance and ESG at Wolters Kluwer, as the opening keynote speaker for WOMENLEAD24 this year.

A dynamic tech industry leader who has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and Chief Executive, Karen will share her unique perspective on the pivotal role of EHS professionals in leading the ESG transformation. In advance of the conference, NAEM’s Executive Director Carol Singer Neuvelt recently sat down with Karen to discuss her career journey.

Carol: What inspires you about your role at Wolters Kluwer?
Karen: I am a change agent. I love innovating and taking things to the next level, and that means driving transformation. Leading the CP & ESG Division at Wolters Kluwer enables me to do all of that. This division allows us to better serve our customers and drive accelerated growth in the core areas of the businesses comprising the division, and in the emergent ESG technology space. I am honored to lead this division as a growth driver for Wolters Kluwer and solve pain points for our customers.

Carol: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Karen: Early on in my career, Wolters Kluwer CEO Nancy McKinstry talked to me about how to integrate family and work life. She said that every day, there will be competing priorities, and some days, one will take precedence over the other. She encouraged me to give myself a break and to not always make work the priority or home always the priority because it’s impossible! Instead, she told me to prioritize the need and hope the days the two aspects of my life conflicted were few and far between. This advice has helped me and my husband raise my daughter, who starts her second year of college this fall.

Carol: What advice do you have for other women in EHS & Sustainability?
Karen: As an EHS professional, it's common to serve the business without having positional power. However, to effectively do your job, you need to influence the entire business. Whether you're the first dedicated EHS professional or new to your organization, it's likely that you must work across departments to gather the necessary information.

My biggest advice is to do your homework. Take the time to understand the business, financials, customers, products, and personalities. This will make you a better business partner to all stakeholders. Listen, ask questions, and come prepared to meetings with thoughtful insights. When stakeholders see that you grasp the context, financial implications, technology considerations, and industry landscape, they will want you at the table and invite you back.

Now, when it comes to advancing your skills and career, embrace discomfort. If you aren't a little scared of your job, you may need a new one. Research has shown that men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women only apply if they meet 100%. To progress, raise your hand for stretch assignments and tough tasks that others avoid. Seize opportunities when job openings arise, even if you don't meet all the qualifications. If there's a skill gap holding you back, fill it. Seek out committees or experiences that expose you to the skills you want to develop. Find a mentor who possesses those skills. And remember, even when you feel inadequate, just go for it.

Carol: What quote inspires you?
Karen: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead

Don't miss your opportunity to connect with Karen and other talented and successful female leaders in EHS & Sustainability at WOMENLEAD24 in Providence, Rhode Island, July 23-25, 2024. Learn more at https://www.naem.org/womenlead24-womens-leadership-event

About the Author

Karen Abramson
Karen Abramson
Wolters Kluwer
Karen Abramson is the CEO of the Corporate Performance & ESG Division of Wolters Kluwer, a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the health, tax & accounting, governance, risk & compliance, and legal & regulatory sectors. Wolters Kluwer, headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn. Wolters Kluwer reported 2022 annual revenues of €5.5 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 20,900 people.

As CEO of the newly created Corporate Performance and ESG division, Karen leads the unification of four global software businesses that are dedicated to transforming the landscape of corporate performance management, environmental health and safety (EHS), and risk.

By synergizing the strengths of these entities, Wolters Kluwer paves the way for a world where data is harnessed to fuel corporate responsibility, enhance workplace safety, foster global sustainability, facilitate commerce, and streamline regulatory compliance. The result? A world that's not just safer and healthier, but also more prosperous and resilient.

For Karen, innovation is at her core as a leader. She believes passionately that forward-thinking C-suite leaders need to move quickly to lay the groundwork for the digital transformation of their ESG reporting, and move from consumption reduction to improving products and processes in order to achieve real, sustainable, permanent advantage going forward.

She also believes that with focused innovation, a company can retain and attract talented employees, improve the customer experience, and deliver strong financial results. She continues to build a global vision, a strong strategy driven by customer insights, and the processes to drive execution. Abramson recognizes that employees who work side-by-side with customers daily are uniquely positioned to identify customer challenges and find innovative solutions. Karen’s perspective on innovation and leadership has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, and Chief Executive.

Previously at Wolters Kluwer, she served as CEO of the Tax & Accounting division, President & CEO of the Medical Research business unit, and General Manager of the Corsearch business unit. Abramson is a past Executive Board Member of the American Association of Publishers and has served as a member of the European Executive Council for Outsell. For six years, she has been named one of the most powerful women in Accounting by CPA Practice Advisor, and she has also been named multiple times to the Top 100 Most Influential in Accounting list. In 2019, she was named CEO of the year by the SIIA (Software Information Industry of America) in recognition of her leadership in launching award-winning products and driving technology & innovation across Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Additionally, she was recognized as Female Executive of the Year with the 2021 Silver Stevie® Award for Women in Business and a 2022 Silver Globee in the Woman Excellence of the Year in Accounting and Finance.

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