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Often it takes being outside the bubble to notice what is going on inside.
That’s how Sallie Krawcheck – a former executive at Bank of America, Citi and other Wall Street banks – realized how strange Wall Street culture is.
She explained it on an episode of Hard Pass, a podcast I do with my colleague Josh Barro.
“Fish don’t know there’s water,” Krawcheck said. “I worked on Wall Street for years … and never really recognized how male it was. War analogies, sports analogies, TV around investing is like ESPN.”
But then she got out, and she realized that it wasn’t just her who didn’t realize how weird Wall Street culture was as a woman – the whole country saw it as strange (and loathsome).
“I remember when I got booted out of running Merrill for Bank of America and in the weeks following it I … sort of got out of New York,” Krawcheck said. “And the anger people had for the banks at that point in time, and having just been in the bank and then just out of the bank, thinking these guys have no idea what’s going on out there.”
This is why it’s so easy to stay in the bubble, recruit people who naturally fit in the bubble, and, as such, perpetuate the bubble. Senior management matters, but it’s not enough. When everyone in an organization is the same, everyone thinks the same.
And what you get from that sameness are little PR snafus that serve as an indication that your company isn’t particularly sensitive to diversity and is still pretty much catering to the same kind of person as an employee. For one example, you get an uber-preppy Vineyard Vines pop-up shop inside JPMorgan headquarters, encouraging grown men to wear pink-and-green-whale pants on casual Fridays.
“I think it was either someone who wasn’t thinking or someone who didn’t know to think, but that’s actually the issue,” Krawcheck said.
To do her part to change this, Krawcheck launched Ellevest, an investing platform targeted at women. Tennis champion Venus Williams, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, and venture capitalists Theresia Gouw and Sonja Perkins all participated in its latest round of funding.
In the press release announcing the round, Krawcheck pointed to this Barron’s investing panel as evidence that women need to get into the game.
Notice anything about it?
— Barron’s (@barronsonline) August 15, 2016