The moment one of the most powerful women in banking noticed how weird Wall Street culture is

Sallie krawcheckNoam Galai/Getty ImagesEllevest cofounder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016.

Often, it takes being outside the bubble to notice what was going on inside.

That’s how Sallie Krawcheck, a former executive at Bank of America, Citi and other Wall Street banks realised 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 recognised how male it was. War analogies, sports analogies, TV around investing is like ESPN.”

But then she got out, and realised that it wasn’t just she who didn’t realise 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 organisation 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 JP Morgan 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,” said Krawcheck.

To do her part to change this, Krawcheck has launched Ellevest, an investing platform targeted at women. Tennis champion Venus Williams, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, 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?

Check out the rest of Krawcheck’s 6 minute interview with Hard Pass in the player below:



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