Elevating Women in the Workplace: Talking with Sallie Krawcheck

Elevating Women in the Workplace: Talking with Sallie Krawcheck

 

Sallie KrawcheckSallie Krawcheck is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, an innovative digital investment platform for women. She is the Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional woman’s network, and of the Pax Ellevate Global Woman’s Index Fund, which invests in the top-rated companies in the world for advancing women. She is the best-selling author of “Own It: The Power of Women at Work.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge for women in the workforce today? And how can we address it?

Women in the workplace have always been expected to conform, to act like men. But we’re held to a different standard. When we speak up, we’re told we’re too aggressive. When we hold back, we’re too timid. When we get excited, we’re emotional. When we reign ourselves in, we’re cold. It’s an exhausting role to play. We need to stop trying to contort ourselves, and instead embrace the traits that set us apart for the better. We women are sensitive to risk. We think about the big picture, and manage complex decisions well. We’re relationship oriented, and we’re driven to make a difference instead of carrying on the status quo. We bring balance, perspective, and diversity to a team. We simply need to be appreciated for it.

What trends are you excited about that will affect women more positively in the workplace?

Women are working together. In the past, succeeding in business as a woman has felt like an individual sport. There was one seat at the table for women, and so staying ahead meant bringing other women down, or at the very least stepping over them. Now, we’re working to be successful together. We’re supporting each other, backing each other up at work, advocating for each other, even investing in each other and in woman-owned businesses. Together, we can progress so much faster.

How are you using technology to augment how you run your organization?

Both Ellevate Network and Ellevest are founded upon technology. Ellevate engages tens of thousands of women around the globe in the powerful conversations and networking that they don’t always find in the workplace. It brings together hundreds of volunteers, and employees from coast to coast, online and in person. Ellevest harnesses technology to close the gender investing gap, using accessible, algorithm-driven strategies to help women plan for their life goals and around their unique salary curves.

As owner and chair of Ellevate, making professional connections is obviously a passion of yours. How else do you stay connected to the local business community?

Networking is the number one unwritten rule of success in business. It is absolutely key. As an entrepreneur, it’s especially important that I keep up to date with my circle. Those face to face conversations are invaluable, but they’re not all of it. Social media is also an incredible tool. Through Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, I can have meaningful conversations with other entrepreneurs in my community, even if I’m on the other side of the country. I met Ellevest’s CMO, Lisa Stone, on Twitter.

Ellevate’s mission is to help women advance in the workplace. What’s one practice companies can adopt to better support the women in their firms?

Diversity is a tremendous driver of business success, but it feels like many companies haven’t learned how to address it beyond putting it in the mission statement. Here’s a solution. It’s time to stop focusing on the right person for the job and start focusing on the right person for the team. Regardless of corporate values, even the most well-meaning middle managers will be drawn to working with people like themselves. That means they’re hiring and promoting candidates they relate to: candidates who look like them, think like them, and act like them. At the same time, senior management is giving them “elbow room” to manage their own hires. The result is a homogeneous team.

Instead, companies need to build pipelines of diverse employees from the ground up. They need to bring in new skills, new perspectives, new outlooks. They need to demonstrate that, while Jim from accounting might be a great manager, not every great manager will look, think, or act like Jim. By hiring and promoting diverse candidates, companies have the opportunity to build a better place to work for everyone.

What’s your favorite thing about being headquartered in New York?

I’ve said before that I’d rather be getting fired in New York City than living anywhere else. There is an incredible breadth and depth of culture here. It feels right to live in this hub of technology and culture, and work to accelerate the pace of positive change for women at work. And, when I need time to reflect, there’s always Central Park.

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