What We Can Get Wrong About Women

By Sallie Krawcheck

Can we get very real? 

At Ellevest, we often talk about how our friends can be our financial superpower. That can be because we hold each other accountable for taking steps toward financial wellness, or because we cheer each other on at work, or for any of a dozen other reasons. 

We also know about the Queen Bee: She’s that woman who kicks the ladder out from under other women once they make it to the top. Boo, hiss.

But there’s something else we should be talking about, too.

And that’s what we may hear about each other and, thus, what we may believe about each other, as we move along our career paths. Because it’s harder to let go of our assumptions than we think.

You may already know about the research that finds, as women become more successful, they’re also viewed as less likable. A study surveying 60,000 full-time workers on their opinions toward managers according to gender showed how deep this unlikability goes: Of the 46% who expressed a preference for their boss' gender, 72% said they wanted a male manager. 

So, when we’re told that a woman is a bitch, particularly a woman who is successful, it fits our mental model. (See: Miranda Priestly. Claire Underwood. Miranda Hobbes.) 

Combine this with the fact that, if this is what we first hear about someone — and we know that it takes gobs and gobs of time spent with someone to overcome a first impression — these things tend to stick. And to stink.

I’ve lived both sides of this. 

For example, there is a senior person at a large asset management firm who, I’m told, HATES me. Says I’m a total bitch. From what I can parse, from what I have heard, they seem to have taken personal offense that I ran Merrill Lynch. They can’t get over it. They enumerate my faults. And I’ve literally never met them. Not even a hello.

Yes, it stings. And that’s because I know that it matters. I don’t know how much it matters or how it matters — what opportunities I may have missed out on — but I know it matters. 

This type of thing has also affected my perception of other women: There is one (very) successful woman CEO whom I was told was a bitch by a person she fired (go figure).  I would reflexively remember that label whenever this CEO’s name was mentioned, until we spent a few days — and had more than a few glasses of wine — together. 

And there is a prominent woman investor whom I was told a decade ago was “all about herself.” Except she’s probably introduced me to more additional investors than anyone I know. But I can’t help it: I keep looking for signs that she’s all about herself, even though I know her waaaaaayyyyy better now than the person who made those comments did. And she’s the literal best. 

To be clear, I’m not saying all successful women are perfect. 

They aren’t. And I know some number of you haven’t had positive experiences with women managers.  

What I am saying is because of what we’ve internalized about women, these stereotypes can stick. And we need to talk honestly about that as well as be aware of our internalized views (and actively reject them). 

I’m told that there’s a group of very prominent Silicon Valley VCs who have a loose agreement that they will talk each other up whenever the opportunity arises: to investors, to the press, to start-ups. 

Yes, let’s do more of that. Let’s talk each other up. Let’s play the game as a team sport.

Sallie Krawcheck Signature


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Co-Founder & CEO of Ellevest. Her life’s mission is to help women to reach their financial and professional goals.