What About Sexual Harassment On Wall Street? Many of the recent sexual assault allegations have surfaced in industries dominated by men. NPR's Michel Martin talks to Wall Street executive Sallie Krawcheck about sexual harassment in finance.
NPR logo

What About Sexual Harassment On Wall Street?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/569673639/569673640" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
What About Sexual Harassment On Wall Street?

What About Sexual Harassment On Wall Street?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/569673639/569673640" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going back now to a subject that has rattled Hollywood and newsrooms and now Congress. Three members of Congress resigned this past week over allegations of sexual misconduct - Representative John Conyers of Michigan, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, both Democrats, and Congressman Trent Franks from Arizona, a Republican. Many people who've been writing and talking about this have pointed out that these are all industries where men overwhelmingly hold the positions of power.

So that invites the question, what about Wall Street? Sallie Krawcheck has been writing about this topic. She's the CEO and founder of Ellevest. That's an investment company aimed at women. But she's long been on every list of most-influential women in finance, having been CEO at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and CFO at Citigroup. In a recent op-ed in The New York Times titled "The Cost Of Devaluing Women," she talks about how she's navigated through years of lewd behavior and come-ons from supervisors, peers and clients. She's with us now from NPR in New York.

Sallie Krawcheck, thanks so much for speaking with us once again.

SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Oh, thank you for having me. Pleasure to be here.

MARTIN: Now, you actually said me too back in 2016 when you wrote about male co-workers putting photocopies of their genitals on your desk, you know, a colleague pretending to perform a sex act on you when your back was turned, I mean, even clients thinking that they could proposition you in really crude ways. And I was wondering, what was the reaction when you first started talking about this? Did anybody care?

KRAWCHECK: Yeah, that - you know, it was, yeah, that happens. Yeah, that happens. Wall Street - male-dominated, no female CEOs. Trading floors are 90 percent male. Financial advisers - 86 percent male. There were huge settlements on Wall Street in the '80s. And so in a way, you almost feel like the rest of government, media, et cetera are catching up because Smith Barney had the boom-boom room and a $150 million settlement. So it had been going on for a while. And when I spoke about it a couple of years ago, it was sort of, yeah, that's what happens.

MARTIN: But why do you think we're not hearing more about CEOs and other top executives losing their jobs over this?

KRAWCHECK: Well, it's interesting. We did have one, you know - over the past couple of days, a gentleman - or maybe not a gentleman (laughter) from Morgan Stanley - who lost his job. But I've had a lot of journalists call me and say, where's the Harvey Weinstein of Wall Street? And he hasn't shown up yet. And it may be because we still have to wait for him to be revealed.

It may be also, as noted, this has been going on on Wall Street and much money has been paid out for decades, that maybe there isn't one. Maybe this has been happening all along, so there's not that one guy. Or maybe it's not conducive to it. You know, a Hollywood agent can promise a young lady the moon and the stars. I can make you a star. That's pretty compelling. A Wall Street CEO, I'm going to send you the best trades? Not quite as compelling.

MARTIN: Well, one of the things you're trying to get at in your piece is not just the tangible and visible costs of, say, lawsuits but also what I think economists would call the opportunity cost, like what are we losing by driving women and people of color out of fields when their ideas and talent are ignored or worse because they just can't work in an environment that's so thoroughly demeaning? I mean, is there some way to quantify that?

KRAWCHECK: Yes.

MARTIN: And how would that be?

KRAWCHECK: When you have diversity in these companies, you have higher returns on capital, lower risk, greater innovation. Take a step back. Wall Street, again, our mantocracy (ph) - 90 percent of traders are male. There is research out there that draws a correlation between levels of testosterone and poor risk-taking. When groups are homogenous, they tend to over-trust each other.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, wondering what reaction you got to the Times op-ed. And was there a different reaction when you wrote your most recent piece than when you first started talking about this?

KRAWCHECK: Do you know what I got the most reaction to?

MARTIN: What?

KRAWCHECK: It wasn't the stuff that I talked about the beginning of my career, the disgusting stuff. It's actually the story I told at the end, the more recent thing. And that story is that when I was pitching for money out in Silicon Valley this summer, and the venture capitalist - the guy who was making the decisions about money as I was talking through Ellevest - and I mentioned that I plan to hire financial advisers began to give me chapter and verse on how, you know, boy, financial advisers are tough. They're difficult to manage, the economics. They're this, this and this.

And I sat there. And for your listeners who don't know, I ran Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and I ran Smith Barney. So I'm pretty sure I've managed more financial advisers than anybody on the planet, maybe in the universe. And this guy was, as we - as women say, mansplaining to me how to run this business. And the reactions I got from so many women were, well, we've been hearing about, you know, this stuff, the chasing around the desk. But my gosh, if you're getting mansplained by one of those guys, it just shows that even after we name these harassers, how much very further we have to go before we reach a point in which all of us recognize our equality.

MARTIN: That's Sallie Krawcheck. She's the CEO and founder of Ellevest. That's an investment platform aimed at women. Sallie Krawcheck, thanks so much for speaking with us once again.

KRAWCHECK: Thank you so much for having me here.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.