Sallie Krawcheck on working on Wall Street as a woman
“The advancement of women in business has stalled and the advancement of women in Wall Street has actually gone backwards.” These were Sallie Krawcheck’s opening remarks at an event titled Women in Wall Street which I attended last night at the 92Y. Krawcheck along with hedge fund CEO Karen Finerman and moderator Melissa Lee, co-host of CNBC’s Fast Money, spent the next hour discussing the state of women in this male dominated field and how they managed to climb the top (and sometimes fall, and get back up again.)
Companies with women on management teams have a higher return on equity, lower risk and volatility and better client focus, according to “recovering research analyst” Krawcheck. But yet the number of women making it into those high positions like Krawcheck (former CEO of Smith Barney, former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America) and Finerman are few and far between. Finerman said the post-2008 drop of women on Wall Street is partly due to the reduced glamor factor of the industry but also because it’s just a really tough industry for women. Krawcheck recalled her daughter making fun of a picture of her from 1997 in which she just looked so “gaunt, pale and white and gauuuunt” because said daughter was one years old at the time and Krawcheck was working on Wall Street.
Krawcheck echoed that it is just harder to be a woman and do the same job. She used the example of hair and makeup: Even if Krawcheck and her husband get up at the same time she has to spend 15 minutes extra a day on hair and makeup while he doesn’t. That 15 minutes adds up to an extra hour and 15 minutes a week which is 60 hours a year which is one whole work week (and that doesn’t include shaving your legs, so factor that in.)
Another problem is that ambition still doesn’t seem to be a good color on women, according to Finerman. “It’s sort of unbecoming. There’s something about being ambitious that isn’t seen in a favorable light for women,” she said. Women have to walk a very fine line of not coming off as too emotional, but not too tough and cold. That doesn’t apply to men. “You don’t see a lot of books for guys about asking for raises, do you?” Krawcheck said.
In fact, both Finerman and Krawcheck agreed that often male mentors stay away from working with young women because they are afraid any kind of feedback will upset them. “When a man throws a telephone it does instill some kind of fear, but people don’t know what to do with crying,” Finerman said.
In order for it to work, mentorship has to be a two-way street, Krawcheck said. Both parties have to contribute and ask for feedback. She said to think of it as dating in a sense. On a first date you aren’t going to ask the person to marry you. You have to work on it and keep asking (or Ask A Question to a potential mentor here at Levo!) Also offer your mentor some helpful information or a connection. And ask for the feedback! “You have to ask for it,” Krawcheck said. Finerman agreed that “the negative feedback is so important. I love hearing about how terrible I was.”
Krawcheck attributes her first mentor at Sanford Bernstein for propelling her career forward at an accelerated rate because he gave her the feedback she needed. Krawcheck said they would also talk each other up to clients, demonstrating the two-way street. She said it was hard to then go to Bank of America and have no mentor or network. “You could feel the difference. You didn’t have anybody to turn to. No one to coach you and say is this playing the wrong way.”
Both Krawcheck and Finerman also pointed out that it isn’t the worst thing in the world to be the only person wearing heels in the room. “There is not a guy at a midwestern company who doesn’t want a young woman hanging on his every word. He probably doesn’t have that at home,” Finerman said. Krawcheck said women by default will stand out because they are in the minority on Wall Street so they should take that chance to make a real impact.
Krawcheck also believes that women are excellent collaborators and turn to networks more today, something she didn’t have when she was an investment banker in her 20s surrounded by only men. She told Business Insider:
Networks are where knowledgeable people come together to accomplish things that they want to. I have also thought about the leadership and future leadership — command and control has worked very well for a lot of years. Collaboration and communication as is now enabled by social media and by the Internet… brings people together through collaboration, communication, formulation is a very, very powerful wave that we are going to see.
And that reasoning is why Krawcheck has identified herself as a “buyer of women,” and also of networking. She recently acquired the women’s network, 85 Broads.
But how did Krawcheck, a mother of two, and Finerman, a mother of two sets of twins(!), truly excel on Wall Street when most people say it is impossible (most recently billionaire Paul Tudor Jones)? Finerman believes that some women choose to get out and she doesn’t care to. Krawcheck attributed it to always having fun. “I had fun the entire way. Even when I wasn’t having fun, I was having fun. I had my babies early, a little bit by accident actually, but once they were there, we had them! Have fun!” said Krawcheck.
By: Meredith Lepore
Meredith is the editor of Levo League, where this article first appeared. Before that, Meredith was the editor of the women’s career site, The Grindstone and was on staff at Wall Street Letter and Business Insider.