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Finance and Feminism: Power Breakfast With Sallie Krawcheck

Filed in: Woman of the Week

To kick off our Power Breakfast video series, MM.LaFleur CEO Sarah LaFleur sat down with Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. A Wall Street legend, Krawcheck is the former president of Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management division and, before that, was the CFO of Citigroup—where she was famously fired after she advocated for reimbursing clients for poor investments during the 2008 recession. (Her ethical reputation was cemented years earlier, when Fortune named her “The Last Honest Analyst.”) Here, she chats with Sarah about entrepreneurship, sticking her neck out, and why silence is underrated.

ON HER OWN POWER BREAKFASTS: “Me and my cat, in my kitchen, with my Power bar and my coffee—generally at 4 a.m. I have the cat in my lap and computer at the ready. I get up super early because that’s when I do my best unguarded thinking. I wake up with about seven ideas, one of which might even be good.”

ON WOMEN AND INVESTING: “The best career advice women are not getting is to invest. Think of it this way: Do you feel better starting a business, going up against your boss, taking that job and shoving it, leaving that bad relationship, if you have more coin in the bank—or less? We as women will not be fully equal with men until we are financially equal with men.”

ON GETTING FIRED: “I loved getting fired, because I recognize these are first-world opportunities. Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, I never imagined I’d get to do these things. Even my bad days, even the days I got fired on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, I think, ‘This is better than so many people’s best days.’ I have a lot of joy about what I’m doing, and a sense of humor.”

ON ‘WORK-LIFE BALANCE’: “The best career advice I ever got came from my mother, who never worked a day outside the home in her life—she was a stay-at-home mom. I had just had my second child, a little girl, and my mother came up to visit. I was a research analyst at Sanford Bernstein at the time, and we sat outside a restaurant and I started to cry. I said, ‘I’ve got a toddler, I’ve got a baby, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a husband, I can’t sleep, I’m so tired, and I don’t know if I can do this.’ My mother turned to me, and said in that way only mothers can, ‘Well, of course you can! You’re just going to be tired for a while.’ And I thought, ‘Oh! Okay! Of course I can do this, I’m just going to be tired for a while.’ And on top of that advice, I’ve heard other women say of those early years, ‘Hold on. If you want to stay in business, hold on by your fingertips.’ You’ll be tired; maybe you’ll have to be part-time or go for a more flexible arrangement, but the cost of stepping out of the workforce and taking a career break is much more than women think.”

ON TAKING RISKS: “I was told early in my career, ‘Don’t stick your head out; Wall Street is a place where you can make thousands, millions of dollars, by being mediocre.’ Now, business is changing so fast that you’d better be taking risks and changing, too. If you think, ‘I’m not going to take a risk; I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep my head down,’ you’re taking a bigger risk than if you’re trying to move forward.”

ON MOTHERHOOD: “I was a mediocre mother all the way through… What was tough in my generation was that if I made a choice [about motherhood or work] that was different from your choice, somehow that negated your choice or put us at odds or meant your choice was wrong—that was the point of view. It was mommy wars. The fact that we all make different choices: Who gives a damn? Just get over it. Just live and let live.”

ON LEADERSHIP: “I’m engaged. Collaborative. A little manic. Passionate. I try to pull from everybody, even the introverts. I try to let people really run, particularly in areas I don’t really know. We all bring something to the party. I also think that silence is underrated, particularly in a one-on-one. A person might give you an answer that’s a couple of sentences, but if you sit and wait, that person will then go deeper and you’ll learn more.”

Sallie wears the Lydia dress in deep forest, and Sarah wears the Walters top with the Mulberry skirt in port.


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