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April 17, 2012

Sallie Krawcheck on Taking the Fall — Again

Here, Krawcheck, 47, reveals how she handled the latest blow and why women on Wall Street can't catch a break.

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sallie krawcheck

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

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This is one of your first interviews since being pushed out of Bank of America. What have you been up to?
I've just been keeping my head low, spending time with my family, and thinking through what my next steps will be.

How did you spend those first 24 hours?
I went home is what I did. I received a good number of outreaches from colleagues, former colleagues, friends. The first 24 hours was really allowing myself to receive that. There are points in life when you let yourself be taken care of. Some of the notes I received in those first hours I've kept. It reminds you that you're not operating on your own.

Did you have dinner with your husband? Maybe a cocktail?
Make no mistake, I had a drink.

And the second 24 hours?
I went into pitching mode and reached out to colleagues I hadn't heard from and to a select number of Bank of America board members to say, "I am not reaching out to complain, whine, or second-guess. I would appreciate the opportunity to hear from you what I could have done better." It's important to wring every bit of personal development out of every experience.

In retrospect, what do you think you could have done differently?
I am proud of what I and the team accomplished there. The business was better off on the day I left than on the day I arrived. I was able to stand up for my clients and put them at the center. But anyone who says they would have done everything the same is lying to themselves. There are always things you would do differently. I'm a female — it's a very female characteristic to think through issues again and again. However, I also recognize that it's impossible to change the past.

Your career has been marked by early-morning starts and constant travel. Do you have regrets about how you raised your two children, now 18 and 15?
Not really. I try not to spend too much time obsessing over what I can't change. Long ago I came to the view that kids have two parents for a reason. When they were toddlers and screamed, "Mommy!" they meant a parent of either sex. My son was never disappointed when my husband [financier Gary Appel] entered the room. There was always someone there for the medium-important to very-important range of things — just not always for the not-important stuff. But when my daughter played Annie in Annie Jr. and there were four performances, I was there for four performances.

Did balancing career and family get easier once you got to the top?
I have a set of rules that I always enjoy sharing with women about working in business. The first is to choose your husband carefully. With all relationships, you don't want to gloss over the romantic part. But it's also important to understand how your day-to-day life is going to work. If you're caught in a meeting and walk through the door late, what you want is a spouse who says, "Can I get you a glass of wine?" versus "Where were you?" with an eye roll.

Why do so few women make it to the top in finance?
That's a loaded question. The facts are that women are half the workforce. We have about 15 percent of the senior roles in corporate America — as CEOs, on executive committees, on boards. On Wall Street, that's a low single digit. We are significantly underrepresented there. But if you look around Wall Street and corporate America, we're putting women on diversity councils; we're putting them in mentoring programs; we're giving them special leadership training, telling them how to ask for promotions — but we are not promoting them. My goodness, we're just making women busier. There needs to be a rethink about how to make them successful in these organizations.

What should a woman working on Wall Street wear?
You're kidding me! I've never been asked that question before. Let me put it this way: I've thought a lot about the issue of stereotypes, particularly on Wall Street. I can't count the number of times I have seen men slam something on a table, even throw something. You sort of do a mental eye roll and move on. I can count on one hand — on one finger — the number of tantrums I've seen a woman have. As she was having it, I remember thinking to myself, Bitch. So if I'm having that view, it's hard to imagine that someone else isn't having the same view. Women need to operate in narrower emotional channels than men. But it doesn't mean you need to be an emotional soldier. Now to your question, what does one wear? Look to what your boss is wearing. If he or she dresses conservatively, do the same.

This is the second time you've been let go. In 2008, you were dismissed from Citigroup after a fallout with CEO Vikram Pandit over how to protect client money. Do you think it's even possible for you to work on Wall Street again?
I've had discussions with and offers from a number of different organizations. But I really am taking this time to think through very carefully my next steps — which could also include more entrepreneurial ventures.

Would you still tell a recent college grad to work in finance?
Absolutely. Financial services has had a rocky road over the past handful of years, but that doesn't mean that it can't be an interesting and dynamic industry. New graduates should consider starting as a research analyst, which was my stepping stone.

How is your time different these days?
People talk about quality time with their kids. I am into quality time. I am there every day when they come through the door. I have taken up yoga. I was a very, very anti-yoga person. I was always a runner. But I'm finding that when I run, I go over the same issues again and again. Yoga has been interesting at this stage because you put stuff out of your head, which can be a welcome relief, I assure you.

Check out our free career boot camp with LearnVest here.


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