Thursday, August 6, 2015

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Sallie Krawcheck

(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child)

Sallie Krawcheck--Leadership and Ethics on Wall Street

Let's not talk about the retirement savings crisis.  There's a 14 trillion dollar savings gap, assuming Medicare and Social Security were solvent.  What if I were to tell you there's a way to make huge strides that can actually grow the economy?  What if I told you this solution can improve business results?  You might say this is impossible; but it is possible.

We need to look through a different lens and recognize the retirement savings crisis in this country is a woman's crisis.  Women live longer and have fewer resources.  The answer to this is that there's real power in intersection between women and money.

The research is overwhelming. Companies that have more female leadership achieve more.  Diverse teams outperform smarter and more capable teams.  Adding someone who sees things differently adds a lot.

What if I told you that diversity can improve ethics on Wall Street?  I worked on Wall Street for over 20 years.  I worked at Smith-Barney and then at Merrill Lynch.  I've seen a lot, but I want to go back further to my late twenties.  My first real job on Wall Street was as a research analyst on the topic of life insurance.  I wrote my first report and was advised not to publish it because it was negative.  Buy and you're right--you're an optimistic bull.  Buy and you're wrong--people like an optimist--try again. Sell and you're right--grudging respect.  Sell and you're wrong--you're fired.  But I published it.  And, by the way, I was right.

I published it for two reasons--first I'm disagreeable and second I was hired to do the best job I could for my clients even if it meant telling them something they didn't want to hear.  Research shows the number one reason women accept a job is not for money but for meaning and purpose.

Fourteen years later I was running Smith Barney in 2007-08 and I faced another career make or break.  We had at that company sold what we thought were low-risk products that we thought would only go down a few cents then the market went down a lot and people lost almost all their money.  My determination was that we were not evil, we were dumb.  I had a brand new CEO and I decided we should share some of those losses with the clients.  I went to my boss and he said, "No" and we went back and forth.  I sat at home and told my husband the best income is we are going to partially reimburse clients and I'll lose my job.  The worst is we're not going to partially reimburse clients and then I'll lose my job.  So they voted to partially reimburse the clients and a few months later I lost my job.

Was I right or wrong?  I think I was right.  Was it a question of business ethics?  I thought so.  But I was thinking about the clients and how it was hurting them.  And I was thinking about the business long term.   Research says this thinking is very female.  What matters not is whether I was right or wrong but that my voice was different.

Diverse teams don't make more efficient decisions but more effective decisions.  Why is corporate America not making more progress on diversity?  Wall Street is going backward.  Diversity is hard.  Research tells us we like powerful men but we do not like powerful women.  We all fall into a gender bias trap.

The courageous conversation is to question the gender bias.  What can we do to drive diversity:

1.  Recognize the differences and disagreements and debates
2.  Start asking a different question--instead of "Who is the best person for the job?" because that will always be someone like me.  Ask "Do we have a balanced team?"
3.  Really live your values
4.  Realize that women are tired of hair and makeup  (if a woman takes just 15 minutes more to get ready than a man that equals one full work week a year)
5.  Women receive less feedback 'because we're scared they're going to cry'

Let the research speak instead of falling back on what you think you know about diversity.  This is my 'white hot why'--so I'm now part owner of a company that invests in companies that promote diversity.  I'm spending my days and nights thinking about what we can do to help women invest their money more.

I'll be honest.  It hurt to get fired twice on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  So...the question is how do you get up when you're knocked down?   I work with issues that matter to me.  I work every day as though my children are watching me because even when I don't think they are...they are.  I am so grateful for every day and for every opportunity I've had.  I full recognize it was the luck of the draw I was born to my parents, my circumstances.  My parents chose to go into debt to provide their children the finest education they could.  All the opportunities I've been given are my chance to give back.  


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Number 3 is "Really live your values." Thank you for posting these. They are really helping me follow along!

    1. Thanks so much! I totally missed that one!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I want Sallie to run for president!