What I’ve Learned About Women Managers

By Sallie Krawcheck

Recently, an Ellevest Instagram post shared a compelling stat from McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report that “having a woman manager could be better for your mental health.”

Looks like we hit onto something, because quite *a few* of you (354!!!) commented to say that this hasn't always been your experience — and that you’ve seen many women managers who had to compete against one another to earn their current positions, and thus were reluctant to bring other women up with them as they climbed the ladder.

Of course, people are individuals, and not all women managers are “this” and not all male managers are “that,” regardless of what the average may be.

I have something to share: I have never had a woman manager.

This is because I worked in the investing and wealth management industries, and so there just weren’t a lot of women managers around; in fact, I was the senior woman in my department when I was just 26. (Didn’t stop clients from asking me to fetch them a coffee, mind you.)

And I have a confession to make: I didn’t want to have a woman manager at the time.

It was because I knew — in fact, I could see right in front of my eyes — that women managers had a more precarious path to the top. That there were 50 reasons a man could fail, but it felt like 200 reasons that a woman could fail. And since the surest path to success was to have a boss who was successful and kept getting promoted — so that you had a chance of being promoted one step behind them — this was the surer play.

And those women had reason to be tough.

How bad was it for women then? One of the mid-level senior women in a group that I worked in was always sort of spoken-down-about. She brought in revenues — she was probably among the top few revenue-drivers at her level — but for whatever reason those revenues were discounted, as was her intelligence and talent. There was sort of the feeling that her coverage assignments must have been easier than others’ and that her success was “cute.”

Today she’s the CEO of a very large, very successful company. And none of the men who dismissed her are.

So historically those tougher women managers may have been feeling the pressure: the pressure of being better-than-others just to get-as-far-as-others. In some places, that certainly continues today.

Talking honestly about it is a first step: See Katie Couric’s new book where she openly discusses being competitive with other women in her field. Being mindful of it is the next. And taking action on it — if and when you are in a position to do so — is the third.

It’s one of the reasons that Ellevest exists. Yes, to increase women’s wealth so that we each have more power than the generation before us, which gives us more leverage in driving the type of change we would like to see. But Ellevest was also founded to build the type of company that I always wished I could work at earlier in my career.

Today, the Ellevest board is 100% women, and our employees are 76% women. And as a company, we strive to over-represent under-represented groups among our employees.

We definitely have our moments, good and bad.

But do I find that this group cares deeply about each other and the business, checks in on each other, cheers for each other, cares deeply about our mission, more than I’ve seen at any other place I’ve worked?

You’re damn right I do.

Here’s hoping that the trend makes its way into every workplace very soon.

Sallie Krawcheck Signature


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.