​Work like a Girl: Businesses Need You


Today, white women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, the average rate is even lower – 52 to 64 cents. At this rate, Sallie Krawcheck, former Wall Street executive, says men and women won’t earn equivalent pay until 2133.[i] That’s 116 more years!

While this ever-present pay gap is concerning, it’s the long-term effects of the investment gap between men and women that propelled Sallie Krawcheck to write Own It: The Power of Women at Work and to found Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.  Most women don’t invest to the same extent as men. As a result, women retire with two-thirds the money men do and live five years longer![ii]  The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit supported by the Chamber of Commerce, hosted Krawcheck at the Academy of Natural Sciences on January 25th for a frank conversation about how to take advantage of good news: the business world is changing and women’s skills will be in high demand. Harnessing these skills will help women close these financial gaps and realize their economic power.

Sallie Krawcheck has held some of the highest positions on Wall Street, including CEO of Smith Barney, CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and CFO of Citigroup.  She credits her unique perspective as a woman in a sea of men for propelling her to the top and landing her on the front page of Fortune in 2002 under the headline “The Last Honest Analyst.” She says conventional advice for working women, to “act like a man” may have helped in the past but it is woefully out of date. Instead, women should focus on six uniquely feminine qualities that make them stand out in the work place:

1.     Risk awareness
Women think through risk carefully and are less likely to mistake confidence for competence.

2.     Managing complexity
Women consider all options before making decisions.

3.     Relationship skills
Women foster relationships and react with empathy.

4.     Long term thinking
Women tend to favor long term benefits over short term gain.

5.     Love of learning
Women show a desire for life-long learning.

6.     Desire for meaning and purpose
oThe number one thing women look for in work is meaning and purpose. Money ranks at number four while it’s number one for men.[iii]

By emphasizing strong female traits, Krawcheck says women bring an attribute sorely lacking on Wall Street and in business– diversity. According to her, one of the main contributors to the stock market crash in 2008 was groupthink. Too many men surrounded by too many other men in the same social circles reassuring each other that subprime mortgages were a sound investment or at least a risk worth taking.[iv] More women in business means more diversity, better businesses and more money in women’s pockets. Krawcheck also affirmed that these recommendations are not about excluding the guys but about including the women. “I love middle aged white guys” she says, “I have been married to a couple of them.”

While Krawcheck’s theories come from her Wall Street experience, these attributes apply to other fields as well.

Valerie Gay, Executive Director of the Arts Sanctuary and PGDG ’17 provided closing remarks to the event. Across her career spanning three sectors (banking, academia and non-profit arts), Gay agrees with Krawcheck’s emphasis on diversity; “I firmly believe that when we fully embrace diversity, and look for individuals who will complement not copy the attributes, skills and thoughts of the existing structure – workplaces and indeed society will be stronger and healthier.”

Krawcheck’s emphasis on women’s strength in risk awareness hit home for Leigh Goldenberg, Executive Director of Theatre Philadelphia and a member of the 2016 PGDG cohort. “If you saw me on a bicycle” she said, “you'd know that I have a real sense of risk awareness. It doesn't keep me from getting out on the road every day, but I have in my head everything that could go wrong and am conservative because of it.” Had women with this level of risk awareness (bicycle commuters or not) been in the C-Suite offices prior to the 2008 economic crash, Krawcheck contends we may not have had such a serious downturn.

So what steps can men and women take now to increase diversity in the workforce and abolish the economic gender imbalance?

Jennifer Kriebel, partner at the professional auditing services firm, KPMG and panelist during the event, founded a mentoring group for audit working moms in the Philadelphia office. Since the development of the group, the number of working moms within KPMG’s global auditing business has grown significantly and the company has retained top talent.

Ellyn Shook, head of HR at Accenture says that people need to be willing to have “courageous conversations.”[v] Women must be ready to have serious conversations about diversity in the workplace, the need for flexibility and higher earnings.

Panel moderator, Grace Killelea, founder of her own leadership consulting firm, the GKC Group, encouraged women to speak up. “Even if it comes out as a squeak,” she says, “speak up. Eventually it will be a ROAR.”

All references from Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck, 2017.

[i] 23

[ii] 120

[iii] 60

[iv] 37, 40

[v] 2