Why 85 Broads? A Krawcheck Q&A

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Sallie Krawcheck, for years one of the most high-profile women in financial services, announced Wednesday that she has invested in 85 Broads and will take over as business leader for the women's network. Janet Hanson, the former Goldman Sachs executive who founded 85 Broads in 1997, will retain a stake and become chairman emeritus.

The organization's name is a play on Goldman's former headquarters address, 85 Broad Street. But its membership has expanded well beyond Goldman executives, and even beyond the financial services industry, attracting 30,000 paying members who are encouraged to use the network to advance their own careers, as well as one another's.

Krawcheck spoke with Heather Landy, American Banker Magazine's editor in chief, about her latest career move. Here's an edited transcript:

LANDY: People have been speculating for so long about what you would do next, career-wise. In that sense, it was surprising to see an answer with the announcement that you would be investing in 85 Broads. But in another sense, it wasn't surprising at all, given how vocal you've become on the business case for diversity and the importance of promoting women in the workplace. How long have you actually been thinking about doing something like this?
KRAWCHECK
: It's a really good question, and it's funny because I haven't actually sat back and thought to myself, "Well, geez, how did I get here?" The conversations with Janet were relatively short and relatively straightforward. We started getting together maybe a couple of months ago and very quickly came to a meeting of the minds, and then a more formal agreement. I think it's all been part of this—for lack of a better term—journey that I've been on. A little bit of time into this career break that I've had, my goal was pretty straightforward, which was that I steepened my learning curve quite significantly. Part of that was spending quite a bit of time in Washington, D.C., and trying to be helpful there, and part of it was spending time in Silicon Valley. And that's sort of been my life. What I came to the recognition of is that in a way, I'm an entrepreneur at heart. I love building things, I love growing things, and I'm absolutely passionate about the impact of women in business writ large, and I'm absolutely passionate about investing in ideas that I find to be important.

So what is your intention with 85 Broads?
Well, a lot of people are saying, "Where are you going with this?" We're going to let the network tell us. You and I could brainstorm 37 things to do. But this is going to be about engaging with the network and finding out what they really value and what they would really want. [One of the questions members have is] how can I, as a woman who is part of 85 Broads, invest in other women? So we've already been hearing about a potential crowd-funding initiative. I'm not saying we're going to do that but those are the kinds of things [85 Broads may consider].

85 Broads is named for the old Goldman Sachs headquarters at 85 Broad Street. But the organization's reach goes well beyond there now. Can you tell us a bit about that?
It's 30,000 women all over the world. It's 100-plus countries. It's 40-plus chapters, all the way down to colleges and universities. It started at Goldman and there was a heavy financial services emphasis on it but it has expanded across industries.

Do you see it as more of a social group for emotional support, or a networking group for professional purposes?
It's very proactive, action-oriented [forum for a] positive exchange of information. One question that's coming up [is] "What should I do to pivot my career to public service?" Another is, "How do I position myself for a board position, or how do I establish a social media presence?" This is not 101 stuff. This is, I'm a high-achieving individual; how do I accomplish more? The unwritten rule of success in business, according to Catalyst research, is to network. A lot of my writing [focuses on] the importance of networking outside one's organization. Getting out of your comfort zone and interacting with people you aren't with every day is a very important career strategy.

It feels like women are more prepared than ever to do something to help themselves, and other women, cross the next frontier in terms of landing senior roles or board seats. Is your investment in 85 Broads part of that?
I think we're at a tipping point. We've having a national discussion about these issues that, at least on the professional side, we haven't had. I recently had a conversation with an HR professional at one of the largest banks who says they're engaged in this in a way she's never seen in her career. Women are engaged enough to direct the movement. And there's a tiredness that there hasn't been [more progress to date]. The numbers are so on our side. It feels like the economic arguments are there, the will is there. I think the most interesting thing going on is the emergence, and particularly in New York, of successful female entrepreneurs. These are people who are operating outside the traditional corporate parameters, in a way that is really moving the dial and shifting the whole construct. We need to get more venture capital dollars to women … who have been shown to have superior levels of success. If we can continue to get capital to those women, that's where we can see some very important changes.

What would you like to see your industry, financial services, do to encourage this burgeoning trend?
Provide capital is one [thing]. To have the traditional role the big banks have, which is to be allocators of capital and providers of capital, in addition to working to move women through their organizations and onto the boards - I think they can have a big impact.

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Comments (1)
This is a great move for the 85 Broad network. I look forward to seeing the impact of this group in healthcare, as its reformation needs to be lead by women with vision, capacity, and energy.
Posted by PC3 | Thursday, May 16 2013 at 1:11PM ET
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