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

From the CEO of Ellevest and Chair at Ellevate Network

Jen Bergren
7 min readJun 1, 2023

Note: This review is from 2017. I am consolidating my book reviews from other platforms before adding new reviews here on Medium.

Own It
The Power of Women at Work

By Sallie Krawcheck

Own It gives advice, strategy, and real-life examples of how to succeed in the business world today as a modern woman, and explains the female strengths that are now recognized as key elements of success. Sallie talks about how women no longer have to pretend to be men or act like the stereotypical man in business in order to succeed and be taken seriously. I like that the title of the book could mean “Own it” like own up to it and embrace it, or it could literally refer to “owning” it by investing and owning your future or owning your own business.

It’s inspiring to read so many real-life stories from high-powered women at the top level of large businesses, as well as read about lessons from failures and problems in big businesses and Wall Street, specifically during times of financial crisis. This book contains a lot of helpful and understandable financial advice, because of Sallie’s Wall Street background. The investment gap and pay gap for women are additional timely topics addressed intelligently with solutions. “The obligatory ask-for-the-raise and how-to-negotiate chapter (with a twist)” is also included. The smart and witty writing style, illustrated in that chapter title, made what could have been just another dry career advice book into an enjoyable read.

About Sallie

Formerly one of Wall Street’s highest-ranked women, Sallie is now a female-centric entrepreneur as the co-founder and CEO of Ellevest and Chair at Ellevate (see more about these organizations below). Some of her former jobs included CEO of Merril Lynch and CFO at Citigroup. She earned an MBA at Columbia University. With this background, you can bet she knows what she is talking about! Follow Sallie on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Key Points from Own It


  1. “The Increasing Recognition of What Women Bring to the Party.” These skills include advanced risk awareness, a holistic perspective to see the whole picture and whole problem, the ability to juggle complexity and multi-task, long-term thinking, a focus on relationships and team building, a lifelong love of learning, and an awareness of meaning, purpose, and social impact.
  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.” Drivers of success now include emotional intelligence, clear communication, “the ability to see the forest through the trees", and long-term thinking.
  3. “Technology is Also Increasing Our Career Options…And Thus Increasing Our Power.” Starting a business has never been more affordable than it is today, and Sallie gives the example of the 1 billion dollars it took to build Merril Lynch’s online investment platform compared to the affordable platform she was able to recently create at Ellevest. Other now-affordable business tools include storing information in the cloud, hiring freelancers, using online business apps/tools, and renting meeting space at a co-working place. “Women are now starting businesses at double the rate of men,” Sallie explains, stating that we are entering a great age of female entrepreneurialism. Technology also allows us to know more about employers and potential employers than just a few years ago. Reviews at Glassdoor and FairyGodBoss make companies accountable for their workplace environment, and the salary difference between men and women is now more transparent.
  4. “We Have Economic Power — More Than We Know.” Women make 80% of consumer purchases. Women in the U.S. have $5 trillion of investable assets. Trillion. With a T. Boom.


  • Sallie explains that an ability for big-picture thinking is why women tend to take longer to order at a restaurant. This was an example I could personally relate to. There are many things to consider on the menu such as the specials, healthy vs. not healthy, cost, weighing all the options and pros and cons of each, compared to the average male just ordering the same thing every time such as a steak. This is sometimes seen as a lack of decisiveness or a similar weak trait, and it should not be.

“Women actually use more parts of their brain when choosing among options. On brain scans, different regions of the brain, across the hemispheres, light up when making a decision, whereas a man’s brain activity stays in one region.” ~Sallie Krawcheck

  • The menu decisions show how women are better at evaluating complex situations compared to average men being frustrated by too many choices. Sallie compared this menu evaluation and overwhelm of options to things she saw in the financial crisis when her male colleagues had trouble reacting to all the new information coming in. They were so focused on a mantra of “every time the market has done X, it has rebounded by Y”…which was not relevant to this crisis, things were different and needed to be looked at differently using the new information to analyze
  • Make sure you know what success means to you, in terms that are quantifiable and measurable.
  • Ask for the raise and bonus. Ask.

“In all the years that I have managed people, the men almost always told me how much money they wanted to make every year. Almost always. I used to joke that they wore a path in the carpet to my office right before bonus time. The women never did. And by never, I mean never. Never ever. And it matters.” ~Sallie Krawcheck

  • Sallie goes on to discuss how if women don’t ask for raises early in their careers, they could be losing out on potential future earnings and pay bumps they could invest. She also explains how many managers only have a certain amount of bonus money or raise money to give to their team, such as $10,000. If it is a two-person team and the man asks for $10,000, and the woman asks for nothing, the man will probably get $7,000 and the woman $3,000, because he asked. It won’t be an even, logical $5000 split. “A 2% higher raise each year from a starting salary of $50,000 can add up to an extra $943,000 in yearly income after thirty years,” Sallie explains. You could earn an additional $1.1 million over forty years if we close the gender gap and get the same raises that the men are asking for (and getting).
  • The importance of mentors at your job. Know “Who is in that room fighting for me” when higher executives or board members are discussing your performance.
  • On career curveballs: Failure is not fatal. Don’t glamorize it, but do own up to it…own it!

“The truth is — and though it can be tough to admit it for us perfectionistic women — failure can be a gift, because it brings with it enormous information. Was it that we had the wrong skill set? Was management looking for a fresh perspective? Were we the victims of office politics? Is the business changing in a way that is moving away from us? In many cases it is likely it was a combination of a number of these things.” ~Sallie Krawcheck

  • The biggest career risk you don’t even know you’re taking is: not reinventing your career. Sallie’s discussion of career breaks and career reinvention made me feel better about this strange career transition year I am going through, as well as the recent years I’ve spent outside of the traditional career path while working for myself.


  1. Pay off your high-interest debt, such as credit card debt.
  2. Make sure you have emergency funds in place, about 3–6 months of salary. DO NOT SWITCH #1 and #2, Sallie says that is the worst financial advice ever.
  3. Save as much as you can, use 20% of your salary as a good guideline.
  4. Invest.
  5. Save 11–15 times your salary for retirement
  6. Buy life insurance if you have a spouse/partner and/or dependent children.
  7. Make a will.
  8. Don’t just hope for — PLAN for — the things you want in life, such as starting a business or taking a career break.


  1. “The broadening recognition that start-ups with female leadership are more successful than those run by men only…by a 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 [freelancers, workspace rental, Facetime, Skype, Asana, Google apps, and other cloud services].
  6. The social media revolution [compared to expensive print ads, TV commercials, and billboards].
  7. There are ever more sources of funding for women entrepreneurs.”

More about Ellevest

Ellevest is an online investment platform aimed at women, where you can start investing in less than 15 minutes for fewer fees than traditional financial advisors. It levels the playing field for beginning investors and makes investing more approachable. Learn more here.

More about Ellevate

Ellevate is a global professional women’s network that “believes in the positive impact of women in business”. Another quote from their site I really like is “We believe women are awesome”. It’s hard to argue with that! There are local chapters around the world for in-person networking and learning, in addition to online networking and online learning opportunities such as webinars. (2023 note: I was president of the San Diego chapter pre-COVID.) Learn more here.

Buy this book



Jen Bergren

Human-Centered Operations Leader, HubSpot SuperFan, Instructional Design and Lifelong Learning Advocate. Dedicated to Advancing Women in Leadership