Owning Your Power and Money

Sallie Krawcheck is a badass financial feminist who wants women to own the power they have, invest their money and stop seeing failure as fatal. Known as “the most powerful woman on Wall Street,” Krawcheck is the founder and current CEO of Ellevest, a digital investing platform for women.

In her recent book, “Own It,” Krawcheck explores the gender investment gap which she argues is the real reason women aren’t equal to men. Krawcheck draws on her personal experiences in the finance world offering fresh nuggets of networking, resiliency and diversity wisdom, the likes of which I haven’t found in any other career book.

Krawcheck’s message is clear: women don’t need to change anything — just their perspective about the power they already have. I’m something of a career book junkie, and Krawcheck has written the ultimate career bible. With her knowledge of the financial world she brings an original agenda for achieving equality that focuses on women learning and loving to invest their money and a nuanced approach to “owning it.” Best of all? She serves it to us straight -- no sugarcoated cliches allowed.

Below are the best takeaways that has earned “Own It” first place in my book of, well, books.

1. “The world can go the women’s way. We have more power than we know. As soon as we own our power, the future belongs to us.”

“Own It” obliterates long-held notions that women can’t be successful in business, personal finance and their careers if they act like, well, women. While most career books explore and explain how to adjust your mindset and strategy to mirror that of the male-dominated workforce, Krawcheck presents an alternative route. Absent is advice on how to nip your uptick, have it “all” or how to negotiate like a man. Instead, Krawcheck advocates for women to be more of who they already are — natural relationship builders, risk-aware individuals who can lead with empathy that are needed in every company.  

2. “Women are on the brink of change because the world of business is on the brink of change. Not only is the world of business changing rapidly, it’s changing in ways that make us women more valuable assets to our companies and employees than ever.”

Listen up, ladies. There’s a slew of advantages to being a woman in the workforce and you’re going to feel like the deck is stacked in your favor. Despite the fact that only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and we’re still only earning 78 cents to a man’s dollar, women currently control $5 trillion of investable assets in the U.S. and make up 80% of consumer purchases. That’s a lot of power. Women are currently starting businesses at DOUBLE the rate of men. Oh, and there’s a 63% better investment performance from companies with a female founder. How’s that for girl power?

Bottom line — we need to stop thinking that being women holds us back from opportunities or is a disadvantage we need to overcome. Krawcheck presents a laundry list of skills women naturally bring to the table: advanced risk awareness, the ability to juggle complexity and multi-task, long-term thinking and an acute awareness of meaning, purpose and social impact. All skills that make us astute investors and leaders and give us a natural advantage over our male counterparts. We just have to own it.

3. “Investing isn’t as complex or as risky or as difficult as people think.”

Money is power. It allows us to leave jobs, relationships and careers that no longer serve us and it goes beyond asking for that raise, sticking to a budget and building a savings nest egg. The best financial advice Krawcheck offers, and perhaps the most valuable advice in “Own It:” Invest your money. If women really want to achieve parity they need to start investing their money at the same rate than men do. The gender investment gap costs many women more money than the pay gap.

Krawcheck says women stress about money and doubt their ability to make financial decisions whether out of fear, lack of a financial plan or shame. Krawcheck breaks down the do’s and don’ts of finance 101 and busts myths that women aren’t good with math, money or finance so you can gain the confidence to invest.

4. “All the important decisions about your career take place when you’re not in the room.”

Promoted? Fired? Passed over for a project? Chances are, those decisions were made when you weren’t present. Who is in that room fighting for you? That’s your sponsor. Of all the career books I’ve read, Krawcheck is the first to put this fact down in print. At the end of the day, the most important decisions about your career will be made by other people. Do they know you? Will they come to bat for you? Will they sing your praises? Make sure you find and foster relationships with sponsors just as you do mentors.

5. “The princes are all busy at the bar handing out business cards to their future bosses and fairy godmothers don’t work in HR. Please network.”

It’s all about who you know. There’s something about the way Krawcheck dishes it to us in a fairy tale metaphor that drives this point home. Men don’t get ahead simply because they’re men — they work their connections without a fear of coming across as needy or self-important. Women need to make time for networking and stop underestimating the value of our connections. After all, women are natural connectors and relationship builders.

Krawcheck points out that networking is a long-term investment strategy that cannot be neglected. Much like investing, it’s better to start building your network today no matter how small your efforts. She illustrates the power of networking and how it ultimately allowed her to build her networking platform, Ellevate and she offers actionable steps everyone can take to build and maintain a network that feel genuine.

6. “You take on more career risk by staying put than if you actively push yourself in new directions. Failure is NOT game over. You get as many “at bats” as you choose to take … and let’s face it, everyone loves a good comeback story.”

Even Krawcheck has suffered career setbacks. Being fired from Citi for one. Being reorganized out of Bank of America is another. Yet, failure is not fatal and hearing someone like Sallie Krawcheck talk about her own stumbles and “failures” quickly made me feel better about being laid off from my own job due to budget cuts.

Resiliency is a hot topic these days. But how can you learn and strengthen your ability to bounce back if you never face a setback? She explains the risk in NOT trying new things and in not expanding your options and horizons. In fact, she goes so far as to say we should seek out failure if we truly want to grow and succeed. An involuntary career break in the form of a reorganization, layoff etc. can be used to your advantage to reinvent yourself and inject life into your career again. Reinvention reduces your career risk and keeps propelling you forward.

So, check out “Own It” and take a peek at Ellevest, the digital investment platform for women founded by Krawcheck, to start building an investment plan tailored around your specific needs and life goals. 

Alexandra Pisauro