• Tue, Apr 17 2012

Sallie Krawcheck Says We Aren’t Promoting Women, We’re Just Making Them Busier

Sallie Krawcheck, once known as the most powerful woman on Wall Street, told Marie Claire  that fewer women make it the top in finance because instead of actually promoting them we are making them go through mentoring programs, and join networking groups and giving them special training. Doing all this still does not get them promoted, it just gives them more to do, said Sallie.

Krawcheck, the former head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch global wealth, points out that there are less women at the top in finance because there are less women in general in the workforce and especially in the financial industry. But she does think one reason women account for only  2.7% of the chief executives in the financial industry, and 16.8% of the executive officers in the U.S. is because “we’re putting women on diversity councils; we’re putting them in mentoring programs; we’re giving them special leadership training, telling them how to ask for promotions — but we are not promoting them. My goodness, we’re just making women busier. There needs to be a rethink about how to make them successful in these organizations.”

This is a similar attitude to Helena Morrissey’s, CEO of Newton Investment Management, a large hedge fund in London.  She found that many of the groups she had been on over the years just talked about inequality on boards and didn’t actually do anything. “We set to find an actual quantifier, something measurable instead of just a talking shop where everyone just feels better by talking about it,”said Morrisey. She eventually founded the 30 percent club to help get more women on boards without quotas. The talking about it and networking groups are good but you have to be promoted to show that you are going to make a difference.

Krawcheck also talked about being let go from Bank of America back in the fall of 2011. It was a public announcement but the always strong and professional Sally said in the first 24 hours she went home and really soaked in all the kind words she got from colleagues. She told Marie Claire, “There are points in life when you let yourself be taken care of. Some of the notes I received in those first hours I’ve kept. It reminds you that you’re not operating on your own.” She also had a drink, which is very smart too.

In the next 24 hours Sally said she reached out to a number of colleagues at BofA and board members, not too complain or cry but to really try to get assessment of what she needed to work on. ”I am not reaching out to complain, whine, or second-guess. I would appreciate the opportunity to hear from you what I could have done better.” It’s important to wring every bit of personal development out of every experience.” A smart and classy move.

As for all that work/life balance stuff, she, like Sheryl Sandberg, says be careful who you choose as a partner. The romantic part is very important but so is someone who understands your career. If you’re caught in a meeting and walk through the door late, what you want is a spouse who says, “Can I get you a glass of wine?” versus “Where were you?” with an eye roll.

Sallie was very busy with her job when her children were young but she doesn’t have regrets about not constantly being with them. And she made an interesting point in that the word “mommy” was a universal term that applied to both parents when her children were young.”My son was never disappointed when my husband [financier Gary Appel] entered the room. There was always someone there for the medium-important to very-important range of things — just not always for the not-important stuff.” An interesting way to look at two working parents.

Krawcheck also recommends giving yoga a try to truly relax. Running is great exercise but you can keep thinking about the same things over and over. Yoga puts everything out of your mind.

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  • Lastango

    Good post.

    Mentoring programs, networking groups, diversity councils, non-core committees, special training… there is an epidemic of this kind of soft-focus chick-crap, and not just in corporations. I suspect this group-think originates in the university environment, and is imported into other contexts by human resources departments. Women aren’t its only victims. However, it’s a real trap for women, who are constantly told they can’t even go to the gym unless accompanied by at least one caring, sharing she-friend. Told by who? Well, by other women, especially women who are making a living out of telling women how to live. Crawcheck says we are “making” women jump through all these artificial hoops, and maybe that’s true in the sense that so many professional talkers are normalizing these channels. But it really is a choice, and a bad one.

    I’ll propose a rule: no one going to a networking group or similar will make it anywhere near the top (unless they get an affirmative-action boost up out of their league). Leaders are tough-minded and independent, and giving women any other impression is a disservice. Doing that consistently is a lie which gradually distorts their attitudes and holds them back. Let’s forget the fantasies about comfortable roads to achievement. There are lots of independent, successful women around, and most of them got where they are by talent, character, and hard work.

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