She went there. Eight years after her abrupt ouster from Citigroup, Sallie Krawcheck is done being diplomatic about the circumstances that led to her being booted from her position as one of the most powerful executives on Wall Street.
“I was fired because I was a woman,” Krawcheck told an audience at the New Yorker‘s Tech Fest on Friday afternoon, adding that the board’s decision to dismiss her was also rooted in the fact that she represented someone who was “different” from the guy’s club worldview that prevails in finance. The account she put forth Friday was a far more blunt one than what she recounted to the New York Times in 2008, on the heel of her ouster.
Krawcheck’s high-profile firing came after she clashed with a new Citigroup CEO, Vikram Pandit, over customer losses. According to Krawcheck, she took the view that Citi should reimburse some of the losses in her Smith Barney unit because the company had been responsible for them—and that this view led to her getting stripped of responsibilities before learning from TV that she lost her job.
In hindsight, Krawcheck says her perspective over the Citi losses was partially rooted in gender, since women are more focused on relationships and long-term outcomes than men.
Her larger point is that the finance industry needs to embrace more diversity—in part to avoid the sort of group-think Krawcheck believes led to the financial crisis.
“I’ve got nothing against middle-age white guys. I’ve been married to a couple of them,” said Krawcheck, who also cracked jokes about how she coped with a humiliating firing. (Short summary: a Chardonnay stupor, a brief bout of self-pity, then getting on with things).
Here’ s Krawcheck speaking this year at Fortune’s Brainstorm:
Today, Krawcheck is in the news again, but this time for her role as an entrepreneur, which is something she never thought she would be.
“You can have more impact as an entrepreneur than as a big company these days,” she said, noting that the culture at many banks and VC firms is not receptive to more female-oriented financial products.
Those products, which are offered by her company Ellevest, are designed to help women meet the life goals they envision (homes, children and so on) by creating funds calibrated for each goal. And instead of bombarding customers with information about how a given investment is performing against the S&P, the company works to tell them what they really need to know—whether the investment is doing what it’s supposed to or if they will need to save or earn more.