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November 20, 2012

Sallie Krawcheck '92 Delivers Women's Week Keynote Address

Women’s careers can be viewed as “lattices instead of ladders” in some cases, Sallie Krawcheck ’92 said during her keynote address as part of Columbia Business School’s first Women’s Week, held November 12-16.


Women’s careers can be viewed as “lattices instead of ladders” in some cases, Sallie Krawcheck ’92 told the students and faculty members who attended her keynote address as part of Columbia Business School’s first Women’s Week, held November 12-16.

Krawcheck, former CEO and chair of Citi Global Wealth Management and a member of the School’s Board of Overseers, shared her experiences in business and discussed how women can advance their careers while maintaining work-life balance. She pointed to the recent national election results, which sent a record number of women to the Senate, as a positive step that business should follow. “Putting more women in government is a smart move,” Krawcheck said, adding that some research has shown that women tend to focus more on long-term outcomes and relationships, creating a greater chance of compromise.

In business, she noted that gender pay disparities decrease when women are in charge, and diverse teams regularly outperform more capable, but less diverse, teams. Still, “women are not better than men, just different,” Krawcheck said. She stressed that even seemingly superficial expectations placed on women in business can add to their obstacles in reaching leadership roles in companies, such as the importance placed on physical appearance, even in the workplace. “We get tired because of the expectations,” Krawcheck said.

She also urged that companies need to be aware of deeper differences between male and female employees and how that might affect their career paths: “Last time I checked, only we (women) can have children and nurse.” But, she notes that women live longer and are often healthier than men, and that the potential to ramp up one’s career after children are grown is potent — a departure from the traditional career model and one that could benefit both women and men. “Companies should move toward flexibility without shame (for employees),” Krawcheck said.

Krawcheck’s talk was just one highlight in a week filled with networking events for female students and alumni around the world, including gatherings in Boston, New Delhi, and Singapore. Women’s Week was a joint venture of the Dean’s Office, Admissions, Student Affairs, and Alumni Relations.

“It was great to see so many students — both male and female — come out and participate in the Women’s Week events,” said Margaret Ryan ’13, president of Columbia Women in Business (CWIB). “I think it was a wonderful way to celebrate the female community at the School while also fostering an open dialogue the current challenges facing women in business today.”

View profiles of successful women alumni highlighted during Women’s Week.