Book Review: Own It – The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck

When I decided to include book reviews as part FinanciElle’s content, this was one of the first books I read. The message of the book stays with me and as the author of the book, Sallie Krawcheck, is the Chair of the Ellevate Network, I thought it was appropriate to review this book ahead of the Ellevate Network Mobilizing the Power of Women summit on June 21, 2018.

I believe in different and equal – whether differences in gender, orientation, education, religious background… each different group brings unique viewpoints and experiences that should be equally valued. This is a key message throughout the book.

Some background:

Sallie has led Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and Citi Private as CEO, and was called “The Last Honest Analyst” by Fortune Magazine. Her life’s mission is to help women to reach their financial and professional goals. She’s now the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform designed specifically for women that takes into account the gender investment gap that results from women earning less and living longer than men. She’s out to #DisruptMoney.

As a self-proclaimed “recovering research analyst”, who had a front row seat when the 2008 financial crisis took place and fought to reimburse some of Smith Barney, at the time part of Citigroup’s clients investment losses (and was shortly fired after the board voted to partially reimburse their clients), Sallie researched and researched and determined that Wall Street suffered from what she calls the “false comfort of agreement”.

“As the 2008 economic crisis- as well as many crises of many stripes that came before it – shows us, it’s not good for anyone when the people in charge all see things the same way…

So my conclusion: the economy was felled out not just by greed, stupidity, or even deliberate deception but, at it’s core, by a little discussed but insidious problem: group-think. And what’s the antidote to group-think? Diversity. That means diversity of opinion. Diversity of perspective. Diversity of background. Diversity of disposition. Diversity of experience. Diversity of education. Diversity of orientation. Diversity of skin colour.

And diversity of gender” – Sallie Krawcheck

So, women are different and therein lay our greatest strength and competitive advantage in the modern workplace. Historically, and in general (there are exceptions), the advice out there to women has been about how to change and make ourselves fit into others preconceived notions of what a leader should be and the frameworks and structure that exist.

This book is about:

“How to take an active role in your future by owning the power you already have. I’m here to tell you that you already have all the qualities and skills it takes to get ahead in the modern workplace, and, that in owning those qualities, you have more power and potential than you realize” – Sallie Krawcheck

This book shows that being a woman in the business world is something to embrace and celebrate, not something to overcome or hide. It provides a roadmap for how to position yourself for the current changes, from a place of strength.

My highlights:

The first part of the book is about the future of work…and how we can own it

It talks about the four key catalysts driving the change:

  1. The increasing recognition of what we women bring to the party
    • The research is clear (and study after study show it) a company with women in leadership positions is healthier on every level, and can bring out the best in everyone
  2. The business world is rapidly changing…and so are the drivers of success – in a way that makes the skills we women bring to the workplace more valuable than ever
    • Business is more complex, and requires the ability to make and understand connections
    • The ability to see problems holistically, emotional intelligence, communication (In general, things that women seem to be good at) matter more every day
    • The workplace is changing in ways that research shows, play to women’s innate skill set – empathy, love of learning, acute awareness of purpose
  3. Technology is also increasing our career options… and thus increasing or power – barriers to starting a business are decreasing
  4. We have economic power – more than we know


Six things we have going for us:

(This chapter highlights the results of dozens of studies that point to six characteristics that women tend (typically) to possess that   can make companies better)

  • Trait #1: Risk averse, or risk aware? Why women’s looking around corners is just what business needs
  • Trait #2: We think big picture: We’re better at managing complexity
  • Trait #3: We’re relationship-focused: how making connections helps us, our companies, and the bottom line
  • Trait #4: We think long-term: how women combat dangerous short-sightedness
  • Trait #5: We love to learn: how women keep companies ahead of the curve
  • Trait #6: We care about the why: money is important – but so are meaning and purpose…and, newsflash(!), they aren’t mutually exclusive

The second part of the book looks at how to position ourselves to capitalize on and accelerate the positive changes in the business world and on our natural strengths.

Being that this is a blog on financial literacy, you had to know that the topic of Money would come up; I have to call out Chapter 9, “The Best Career Advice No One Is Talking about” this chapter is about getting financial control and investing in your future.

Money is power and something that’s standing in the way from owning that power is that money is perceived to be such a tough subject. Women report that money is their number one source of stress, and so they avoid dealing with it.

The chapter starts by busting six myths around women and investing:

  • Myth #1: Women are not “as good at math” – and math like things – as men
  • Myth #2: Women need more financial education to invest
  • Myth #3: Men are better investors than women
  • Myth #4: Women are too risk-averse to invest
  • Myth#5: Women need more hand-holding to invest
  • Myth #6: Women just aren’t interested in investing

And then goes through what in Sallie’s experience are the top eight financial mistakes women make and the eight steps they should take:


  1. Letting your partner manage the money without your involvement
  2. Singing your joint income tax return without reading it
  3. Using your partner’s financial provider, even if you don’t know or like them
  4. Not asking for jargon to be explained
  5. Not taking into account your greater longevity in your investing plan
  6. Not buying long-term care insurance
  7. Not taking enough smart investing risks
  8. Waiting until a less risky time to invest…or procrastinating


  1. Pay off your high-interest debt, such as credit card debt
  2. Make sure you have an emergency fund in place
  3. Once the emergency fund is built, save. Save as much as you can. The guideline that has been shown to work best is to save 20% of your salary
  4. Invest
  5. Target saving 11 to 15 times your salary for retirement
  6. Buy Insurance
  7. Put together a will
  8. Don’t just hope for – plan for – the things you want in life

The third part of the book centers on courageous conversations about workplace initiatives around diversity and inclusion, culture, workplace flexibility, and day-to-day gender issues

The last section is on paying it forward and again I’m calling out Chapter 14, “Literally Own It: Start Your Own Thing”.

It talks about the converging forces ushering in the great era of female entrepreneurialism:

  1. The broadening recognition that start-ups with female leadership are more successful than those run by men only…by good measure
  2. We are beginning to see a critical mass of inspiring, uber-successful female entrepreneurs leading the way and providing role models for those who aspire to follow them
  3. There is a growing ecosystem supporting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses
  4. The cost of technology is coming down rapidly
  5. The other costs of running a business are also coming down
  6. The social media revolution
  7. There are ever more sources of funding for women entrepreneurs


The impact of women starting more businesses:

  1. Success begets success
  2. These women-run business will grow the economy
  3. These businesses will also provide great places for other women (and men) to work

This book is well researched and well written and I highly recommend it.

I can’t wait to hear Sallie Krawcheck and Catt Sadler talk about courageous conversations 2.0 on June 21st!

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