Sumo Cast 010 - Soulaima Gourani





Todays guest is a special woman. It is her vision to change the world to a better more tolerant place through trade, business, and via relations between countries and people.

She believes that international trade can change the world for the better – as an example no two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.

She is the founder of – World peace through trade and CEO of CapitalAid.

She is an international keynote speaker, author, philanthropist, Europe’s top 40 under 40 - the list goes on – her name is Soulaima Gourani.

0:53 - Soulaima was kicked out of school in 7th grade. She had to leave Denmark 3 times to other countries to get a job. Most of her life has been obstacles, but she believes these difficult times have built her into what she is today. In her DNA she is a fighter, but she believes she should not have to fight anymore.

2:39 - She believes in the perhaps controversial concept that you will never bomb another country that gives you money through trade links. She believes that people from all over the world need to sit around a table and negotiate in trade - its a positive cycle. This is something she has tried to do for the last 10 years including countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Mongolia. She believes the major changes in the world need to come from private businesses and not from governments.

4:46 - Soulaima is part Moroccan and part Danish. She was one of the very few dark people in the area she grew up in, and so she was an outcast. From a young age however she was not driven by money, she was driven by freedom and education. She also feels that this is the reason she is unemployable. She only started using her real name ‘Soulaima’ when she was around 30, because her name was a disadvantage. Her perception of herself has changed, and she is super proud of her heritage. She also feels that there is a link between innovation and immigration.

9:04 - If you look at the Fortune 500 countries, many of them are immigrants, but also there is a high percentage of them that are ‘late bloomers’. She discusses prom queens, and early bloomers and how its not necessarily the best start in life as over a lifetime they will perform slightly below those who had to fight for everything from an early age.

11:45 - If you look into the top 1000 companies in the US - you will see that companies led by women will perform 200% better in comparison with the male counterpart. Technology is revolutionizing the way business is carried out. You can now be remote only, so Soulaima is not worried for women who have chosen careers in thetech space, but she would be concerned for those in low growth industries. Her advice is go into IT industries, but be prepared to fight your way through your career. She raises the point that it is so much easier to get a loan from a bank if you are a white male, but this discrimination shouldn’t be happening as women are equal in business performance level. As a result women need to break the rules sometimes to compete.

16:02 - Women should ensure that the boards that they have are made up of advisors who can help them get through all these problems. She brings up the example of a fierce mentor that she has that is the angriest man in Scandinavia who taught her all she needed to know about dealing with angry men!

17:37 - If you cannot afford a board, get an advisory board - you should surround yourself with irritating people. They are the ones you can learn from.

18:50 - When you start going out as a guy, you realize that it is a good idea to go out with guys who are more successful and better looking than you - because women are attracted to that. As a young teenage girl, you discover it is the opposite and its not necessarily the best idea. When women are together with successful women, they use them to compete with themselves. The way we think in terms of access to success is very different between men and women. In organizations you will see that women have stronger networks internally, whereas men have stronger networks externally. That is why Soulaima recommends external mentors.

22:59 - Tons of men and women don’t want the stressful decisions of management. Soulaima feels you don’t have to be the best, but you have to be able to live with the decisions and risks.

24:09 - When you look at schools and universities, girls outperform boys. As soon as they have to take the responsibility, there’s less and less women that have the drive to make it to the top. She feels again possibly that the men in the top CEO positions are not as good as the few women who have made it to the top in their own CEO positions. Lots of people give up when they get to the top and its easy to give up trying, but the best keep trying, keep investing, keep losing money and pick themselves up and go again when it fails.

26:02 - One teacher pulled Soulaima aside and said that she could really reach very far in her life, and could be the leader of tomorrow. She found it difficult to believe him when she opened newspapers all she saw were old fat men. There were never any female CEO’s, but it did plant a seed in her mind of what could be. She feels that teachers need to understand the role they play in kids development.

27:46 - Everything you do you have to go through people, and we know more and more about why people connect. A person cannot be rational, but you will never share anything that is knowledge with a person unless you connect with them. She feels it should be taught more and more in school. What worries her is that no company has ever been able to answer the question ‘what type of people do you need to have employed in your company 10 years from now’.

30:45 - Using Apple as an example, she points out that Apple has been extremely good at designing. She also makes the point that coding is as easy as knitting - if you can knit you can code. She asks why is it that women choose to back off when it comes to mathematics and like to be in marketing and HR positions as opposed to CFO’s, profit and loss etc..

33:53 - Soulaima finds one thing interesting. If you go to Sweden, they have removed the he or she when speaking to kindergarten kids. You may not refer to a child as a ‘he’ or ‘she’ - its an interesting study to see if it impacts peoples brain so that gender is now removed from the discussion - she asks that you just think about it and the possible consequences.

36:15 - She has quite a normal life. Usually first thing in the morning she checks emails on her phone, spends time with her kids and explains what she is doing currently with her job to them. She goes through her daily agenda with her PA. She feels having a great PA and a great spouse is what makes her world go around. Sports play a part in her daily routine - healthy mind, healthy body. You don’t have to go to an expensive University. Listen to podcasts and learn from the free content out there.

38:47 - Lots of women have asked is it healthy for her children to see her work all the time and Soulaima explains that her children have an appreciation for what money is and where it comes from. She has brought her kids to conferences and board meetings. They are involved.

39:50 - She already knows that if her kids turn out bad she will be blamed for that, and if they turn out good she will be lauded for it, so either way she will get the blame or the praises.

40:20 - Soulaima’s move from Europe to Texas is because the US has always been a big thing that she’s never understood the DNA of Americans. She picked the state in the US (Texas) which is the most different from where she comes from. Her brain is alive everyday. Its inspiring. She had no reason for leaving Scandinavia other than to improve herself further. Some would say she’s crazy, but if she ends up not liking it she will write a book about it and go home or change it up again. Nothing comes from fear as long as she has her husband and kids are with her she has no fears.

42:56 - Her little girl does not understand English, but she still goes to school smiling and comes home smiling. Soulaima knows her children will survive.