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One on 1 Profile: Financial Executive Sallie Krawcheck Builds a Network of Female Professionals Across Industries
Sallie Krawcheck has worked at the highest levels on Wall Street. Now, she's working so that other female executives have access to each other with the goal of reaching the highest levels in finance and beyond. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One on 1 profile.
Sallie Krawcheck, a native South Carolinian, has a novel way of expressing her love for New York.
"If the alternative was to be back in Charleston, you know, living there, which, I love that city, but this is the right city for me, if that's the choice, you know, I'd rather be getting fired in New York City than living my life in another place," she says.
Sallie Krawcheck has been called "The First Lady of Wall Street," working for financial heavyweights like Bank of America and Citigroup. She's been called in to run troubled financial institutions and oversee thousands of employees.
Krawcheck now runs the professional women's network Ellevate, formerly known as 85 Broads, a play on the old address of Goldman Sachs, where the network started.
"The network has moved way beyond its roots at Goldman or even financial services, and it's now a tens-of-thousands-strong community of women, professional women, across industries and around the world," Krawcheck says.
Ellevate uses public events and online webinars to connect female executives around the world. Krawcheck says a portion of the network's revenues is invested in the only mutual fund that invests in the top-rated companies for advancing women. She speaks at events around New York and the country.
"We would all agree, financial services, white, male, middle-aged. And as I've said, we went into the downtown white male and middle-aged, and we came out whiter, maler, and middle aged-er," she said at one such event at the 92nd Street Y.
One of her mantras is the benefits of diversity in business. She believes a lack of diversity was one of the causes of the 2008 financial crisis.
"That's what I saw in business and on Wall Street, particularly during the tough times, which is, 'I'd love to put in somebody who's different. We just can't take the risk,'" Krawcheck says.
"Now, I also always make a point of saying I love white, middle-aged men. I've been married to a couple of them," she joked during one event where she spoke.
Krawcheck says in times of trouble, there's a propensity for even well-meaning executives to surround themselves with people just like them, an attitude she absolutely understands.
"When I'm under stress and I'm running a business that's under stress and things are tough, if I want the perfect person in my mind to fix the problem, she is a middle-aged, southern-grown, New York-now-based, blonde financial services woman, right, who probably went to Columbia, went to University of North Carolina. That's her!" she says.
Gender diversity wasn't always her top priority during her years on Wall Street, for good reason.
"I was brought to turn around Smith Barney and I was brought in to turn around Merrill, both of which needed help when I got there," she says. "The message on those had to be very different. You know, if I had come in and the businesses were declining and people were leaving and clients were unhappy, and my first message was about gender diversity, people would say, 'I'm sorry, what are you smoking?'"
She says she got fired by Citigroup in 2008 because she argued that the company should return money to clients for bad advice on problematic investments. Initially, Krawcheck felt she wasn't fired because she was a woman in a predominantly male environment. Now, her thoughts are a bit more nuanced.
"The research shows that gentlemen are much more short-term orientated in their business orientation and women are long-term oriented, that women are more client-focused," she says.
"So now that time has gone by and the emotion is out of it, if I just look at the research, it says women have these characteristics, and therefore, my expression of those characteristics was a reason that I got sent home."
Krawcheck never had to worry about financial concerns after losing her job. She'd done well on Wall Street, and her husband also works in financial services.
Krawcheck came out of the financial crisis with her reputation intact, a fact driven home one night while out to eat with her son. They saw and said hello to former Lehman head Richard Fuld.
"We sat down, and I thought, 'Teaching moment,' and I said, 'Jonathan, that's Dick Fuld. He ran Lehman, and he,' and Jonathan, I didn't have to tell him who he is, 'I know who he is, he should be in jail,' just sort of pounding the table," Krawcheck says. "And as he finished, I said, 'Well, sweetheart, you do know what I do, you do know how I make my career,' and he said, 'I Googled you, mom. You' re one of the good guys."
Sallie Krawcheck grew up with a sense of history.
"My great-great-great-great-great, I don't know how many greats, uncle was John Tyler, who I think was the most ineffective president in U.S. history," she says.
She also grew up with a healthy dose of New York.
"My grandfather ran a clothing store, Jack Krawcheck, in Charleston, South Carolina, so he was up here buying all the time, and so that idea of New York and going to New York was really embedded as a child for me," she says. "That that was the place."
In high school, Krawcheck was an award-winning student, a top track athlete, a cheerleader. She remembers being sent to typing school for a future career as a secretary.
"A guidance counselor in high school pulled me aside and said, 'What is this dippy Southern belle routine? Look at the grades you're making. Go,' and I thought, 'I'm going,'" she says.
And she did, off to the University of North Carolina, which meant a certain dislike for another university in North Carolina.
"Actually, I'm embarrassed to tell you, my father went to Duke for a couple years," she says. "We've gotten over it. We talk. We talk again. But he saw the error of his ways and went back to the College of Charleston."
Krawcheck got something much more important from her father: support.
"They do say that the most important relationship for a female in business is with her father," she says. "If he can give her that sort of underpinning of him valuing her, she's got a floor under her."
After Columbia Business School, Krawcheck worked as an equity analyst and eventually ran the Wall Street research firm Sanford Bernstein. She started to garner her first public accolades. She was at LaGuardia Airport when she saw her face on the cover of a Fortune story entitled "In Search of the Last Honest Analyst."
"And I remember thinking, 'This is about the most surreal thing I've ever seen,' and then a few months later, they put it on some, when we used to have them, telephone booths in the city. So Fortune did some ads, and so there, my face was this big, and you thought, 'I'm not in Charleston, South Carolina anymore, am I?" she says.
Krawcheck says she's fortunate, for parents who invested in education, for people who believed in her. She's also philosophical about the opportunities New York presents to someone who has always proclaimed "I'm going."
"Success is not an end point and failure is not an end point. There's another opportunity tomorrow," she says. "You do this tape of me, it's terrible, you go do another one. You do another one and you do another one, this gets buried in your archives. Nobody cares about it. These aren't these end points of yes or no. And I think that's one of the great things about this city. There's always a different opportunity."