Inside Supply Management Magazine

Sallie Krawcheck Talks the Power of Diversity

May 04, 2015

Sallie Krawcheck describes herself as a proponent of lifelong learning. As the keynote speaker for Monday's luncheon at ISM2015, Krawcheck commanded the audience's attention as she explained the power of continuous improvement. "The pace of change in business has never been so swift," she said. To remain relevant and successful, leaders must change long-held preconceptions and beliefs to embrace diversity.

"The power of diversity is diversity," said Krawcheck. She called innovation a "clashing of ideas" that happens when people from diverse backgrounds, belief systems, experiences and other differences come together. It's easier to stick with what you're comfortable with and individuals who are similar to ourselves. But having too many people with the same viewpoint stifles creativity and innovation, said Krawcheck, who is a former Wall Street analyst and past president of Bank of America Global Wealth Management.

[caption id="attachment_8575" align="alignleft" width="261"]

Sallie Krawcheck speaks at an ISM2015 keynote luncheon.

Today Krawcheck is the owner of Ellevate, a professional women's networking organization committed to the economic empowerment of women. She also plays a key role with Pax World Management, which offers an index fund where people can invest in companies with a significant number of women in top management. She is a proponent of impact investment, saying investors should not necessarily need to choose between companies that will have a high financial return, and companies that are making a positive impact on the world. Rather, she said emerging investors (namely, millennials and women) are drawn to companies that are ethical and whose work has deeper meaning and purpose. "There is no reason why a person can't get both return and impact in investments," she said in a question and answer session following her speech.

Going forward, there are four things companies should pay attention to if they want to attract millennials and women to senior leadership career paths, said Krawcheck:

1) Meaning and purpose. These two groups want to know what companies are doing, why they do it and the impact it will have on the world. They will prefer to work at companies with strong and genuine company values.

2) Ethics. Doing the right thing is business always pays off in the long run. She said it can be a challenge sometimes to stick to ethical business practices, but doing things for long-term effect and building goodwill can bring financial returns over time.

3) Humanity. Employees are looking for companies that truly walk the walk when it comes to being compassionate and appreciative of their workforce. She pointed out that almost every single company has a values statement that says something like "our employees are our most valuable resource," but in reality, they will cut jobs and not make concessions for special situations like medical emergencies or pregnancy. So, to appeal to women and the young generations, companies should be sincere and take actions to prove their dedication to the people at all levels of the organization.

4) Innovation. Diversity drives high returns on capital and a vast number of other benefits, so Krawcheck encourages leaders to seek out opinions different than their own; gain insights from employees, colleagues and customers around the world. "There is power in opening doors up and channeling collaboration," she said.

There's no time like the present to tap into professional networks than right now at the ISM2015 conference, so perhaps take a moment to talk to someone completely new. Someone very different than you. You never know who you will meet and what new ideas can be spurred to help your professional development — or find solutions that can be brought back to your company.