I loved listeing to this interview with Sallie Krawcheck so much. I have been following Sallie’s career for years, and I had no idea I was going to see her in person until I showed up for the Forbes Executive Women’s Forum for a speaking engagement, and there she was, speaking right before I did. She was mesmerizing: Funny, authentic, quick on her toes and gorgeous.
But I most love her for her honesty. Everyone does. Even the Citigroup board of directors. It’s how she got her job. The short history of Sallie is that she was an analyst on Wall Street and when the analysts started compromising ethics during the dotcom boom she was one of the most high-profile analysts who didn’t, so her career went into super-high gear during the dotcom fallout. Now she is CEO of Citigroup’s Global Wealth Management. She’s the highest ranking woman in finance.
[Editorial note: I didn’t conduct this interview – questions came from Forbes editor Elizabeth MacDonald and an audience of about sixty people. I edited the interview below, and changed questions. I was the audience member who asked the question about stay-at-home dads.]
What is a good first job for someone who wants to run their own company?
I tell all young people to become an analyst after school. You pull out bits of information and put together a picture. Sometimes it looks like a dog or sometimes a cake. Then you make decisions with imperfect information. And when you get another piece, you say oh it’s not a cake. So its practice making decision with imperfect information. This is what you do as a CEO every day.
Why aren’t women at the top of companies?
There is something about women getting tired. They get to be thirty and they get tired. Add up all the time that you are not with the kids and not working but you are doing hair and makeup while your husband sleeps. It’s two-and-a-half hours a week. It drags you down. Also, women are not able to express anger at work because it reflects negatively on women. This makes women tired, too.
I have a stay-at-home husband and it’s a train wreck. How do you work that out in your house?
I had a stay-at-home husband and he went back to work. My first husband could not get over it and I had to choose another husband. I would come home from a meeting and I’d say sorry I’m late and he’d roll his eyes. As soon as you get the eye roll you have a problem And in fact, he was having an affair. That was a waste of four good years, and I was cute then, too; I should have dated a lot more men than I did. I got a much better husband the second time around because I had had practice making decisions with imperfect information.
How do you handle leaving the kids when you travel?
The thing with the kids is to show no fear. If you show fear, they can smell it. Say, “I love you and I can’t wait to see you, but I love my work.” I cry when I close the door. I went to China for two weeks. The kids were okay; I bribed them. I waited to tell my daughter until I took her to the American Idol concert.
What’s your approach to work/life balance?
When women get up there and talk to you about work life balance, they are lying to you. I work all the time. I sent 220 emails last weekend. The last time I went out for drinks on a weekday like Sex in the City was when I was twenty-two. This is not a bitter comment. It’s a choice.