Sallie Krawcheck talks about how women can compete at work on their own terms.
Former Wall Street maven Sallie Krawcheck made headlines after being fired as the head of Citi’s wealth management unit in 2008, following jobs as CEO of Smith Barney and Sanford C. Bernstein. She experienced firsthand the challenges of being a female senior executive in the male-dominated financial services industry.
Today, Krawcheck wants to empower women as co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment firm geared towards the female life experience, taking into account their salary fluctuations, risk preferences and longer lifespans. She also heads a female networking group called Ellevate. Krawcheck joined the [email protected] Show on Sirius XM channel 111 to talk about her new book, “Own It: The Power of Women at Work.”
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
[email protected]: People talk a lot about the gender pay gap, but they might not realize there’s a gender investing gap as well.
Sallie Krawcheck: There sure is. It’s funny, I’ve spent my entire career in investing, and I never really thought about this gap. Then, over the past couple of years, I had the “aha moment” that it’s not just the gender pay gap that causes women to retire with two-thirds the money of men — and that’s Caucasian women; for women of color or women with disabilities, the numbers are quite a bit less — … I learned that women also invest less than men do. The result can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars — for some of them, millions of dollars — over the course of their lives.
[email protected]: Is it a matter of deciding to invest or is it not having the money, or is it a little bit of both?
Krawcheck: In my opinion, the investing industry and Wall Street really are very male[-oriented] in nature. The financial advisors are 86% male. Their average age is late 50s, early 60s. And the language of the industry is male: It’s about beating the market, outperforming, picking the winners. It uses war and sports analogies. Investing TV — CNBC, which I adore — is like NFL Sunday. Even the industry symbol is a [charging] bull. … In every way, the industry screams male.
But [imprint of masculinity] is even more subtle than that. The focus of the industry is on making more money. Women tend to say, “OK, that’s cool, but what I really want to do is start a business, buy a home, retire well, not simply make more money.”
[email protected]: You are an entrepreneur now, with your companies Ellevest and Ellevate Network. How is entrepreneurship helping to shift the landscape and increase the importance and the power that women have in the workplace?
Krawcheck: I think it is everything. Back in the day, if I wasn’t happy with how much money I was making, or I didn’t feel like the company that I was working for was treating me or women well — and that certainly was the case because, of course, I started at Salomon Brothers on Wall Street, which was hardly a people-friendly environment — I could go into my boss’s office, ask for a raise, he could say no, and I could go to another company with no information, or I could go home.
“Until we are financially equal with men, we will not be fully equal with men.”
Today, I can walk into that meeting with information from any of a number of sites — whether it’s GetRaised.com, Comparably, Hired, etc. — so I know how much I should be making, within reason. If I don’t get paid as much I’d like to be, I can go to another company with lots of information from places like InHerSight or Glassdoor, etc., which will tell me about the culture and the parental-leave policies of a company.
Or, I can start my own business. The cost of starting businesses has come down dramatically over this last decade, even over the last five years. It used to be I’d have to build a plant, hire a workforce and advertise on one of the big three TV networks. Today, I can put up a website. I can host my information in the cloud. I can get the word out on social media. Everything has changed.
[email protected]: Those are options that really just weren’t available 30 years ago. Just having that availability of information and that flexibility opens so many more doors.
Krawcheck: It changes the field of play dramatically. There’s a reason that women are starting businesses at two times the rate of men. And by the way, the No. 1 reason men start businesses is to make money. The No. 1 reason women start businesses is to build and work at the company for the meaning and purpose they can bring to that work. The No. 4 reason is money. So, women are saying, “This company doesn’t fit me, and it’s not meeting a need that I see out there, so I’m going to go out and meet that need my way.” It’s really very interesting.
[email protected]: How much of a shift is already taking place to meet those particular needs? Because based on what you’re saying and what you lay out in the book, it sounds like we may be very early on in the process, with a long way to go to reach that point.
Krawcheck: Well, I think what we’re seeing is the force of feminism — which is really at the forefront for so many professional women today, given the election of last year, given the recognition that the advancement of women in business has stalled — the force of feminism is reawakening. And the forces of entrepreneurialism are combining with that right now, such that more women are seeing this as an option.
The venture capitalists don’t get it. Women continue in this day and age, if you can believe it, to get a single-digit percentage of venture capital dollars, despite the fact that research from First Round Capital — an outstanding venture capital firm — says that startups with women in a position of leadership have 63% better returns than those that are run by men only. Despite this, venture capital dollars are not flooding to women or to diverse teams.
We talked about the cost of technology coming down, the cost of advertising coming down, the cost of renting space. You can now use a WeWork [shared workspace] on a short-term basis. [Another factor is] the cost of business travel: You don’t have to do it; you can be on a video conference instead. The cost of having an HR department [can be avoided]: You can use Zenefits. The infrastructure is there, and there are more angel firms and funds that are investing behind women. Crowdfunding — women tend to outperform men on crowdfunding sites. So there are other ways that women are finding to fund these businesses that don’t rely on the traditional venture-capital route.
[email protected]: You also bring up a couple of interesting points about the impact women can have on … spending and investment. … Data is starting