When I think of Kristina Ickes, the first word that comes to mind is phenomenal. She is an innovator, a developer of talent, an entrepreneurial leader in Finance, Human Services, and Information Technology. Kristina is an experienced executive with capacity and skills across multiple disciplines.
Meet Kristina at the Millennial Money Matters Summit 12/12/2020 @ Noon EST.
~Click here to join the conversation or rewatch the event~
This interview was transcribed from video with some gentle editing for clarity.
In May 1991, women made up only 5% of Senior Management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In 2019, women made up 29%. A colossal jump and most of that was due to legislation and companies being intentional in their hiring efforts regarding women in a leadership position. Companies placed more attention to diversity and inclusion processes. But that being said, you, as a woman, have worked in predominantly male-dominated fields. What has been your experience, how has the glass ceiling impacted you? Finally, what advice would you give to other young people who will experience similar circumstances to what you experienced?
It's a loaded question, right. There's a lot there to unpack. But, you know, I was fortunate to have avoided a glass ceiling during some of the early parts of my early career. So in that early stage, I was able to move
into middle Directorships and then Senior Executive roles really through kind of grit, education hard work, and work presence. Being able to adapt my kind of driven type-A style as an individual performer, as I evolved into a more collaborative leadership style after I could perform individually, was really a key component of the C suite roles that I held.
So, I've been a Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer. It's also important to note that I didn't have children at that stage of my life, and I was able to put in an inordinate amount of hours. And when I think about the amount of time that I spent relative to my male peers, I was putting in many more hours than they were. So I may have been more visible to more people at that time.
I left the Senior Executive Positions in nonprofit leadership to go into one of the world's most esteemed financial institutions; I have been inspired by the women who were at the helm of some of them. So Sallie Krawczyk, Erin Callan, and Zoe Cruz were in really prominent leadership positions at major Wall Street institutions in 2005, 2006, 2007. So I've been inspired to take a leap and then move into the mostly male-dominated industry to work in a field that I'd always felt called to in order to try and find my way. I sort of had an expectation that these women had blazed some trails, and in many ways, they had. So, I watched in absolute horror as these women who had been breaking the glass ceiling and had broken it found themselves on the glass cliff. One by one and quickly, during the financial crisis that was looming deep in the heart of the financial world at that time frame, these three strong, talented, hard-working women were out of leadership roles, and in some respects blamed for the failings that they hadn't lead these organizations into. In at least one instance, I would say that the woman was set up to fail.
Personally, the glass ceiling has impacted me in a few ways. And the first that I could recount is that I experienced firsthand some male junior colleagues who were hired at a 16% higher rate of pay than I was at one point. They had less education, they were Bachelor's levels, I was Masters. And they had less experience. And that was a market differential at mid-career hiring. I noticed it, I brought it up to the firm I worked, and then I decided that I just outperform them, and that's what I did. So I worked at outperforming and out producing in an environment where I could drive my own income higher by stronger performance. That type-A individual performer piece, roared back, less collaborative, less collaborative leadership type-A driven. If the base pay wasn't going to be equal, I could at least equalize it on my own terms by working hard.
I think the second piece that I've seen in this is maybe a little less glass ceiling and a little more opaque tinted window is that there are social constructs in play that can inhibit women, when they're even given an opportunity. Women who are seeing out at night professionally, for instance, can be targeted for rape or other crimes, right? It's not really a glass ceiling, but that may prevent women from wanting to go out and go to nighttime meetings or nighttime networking events because they don't want to be targeted, or they don't want their reputation tarnished. Yet they're working, and they're trying to exceed, and they may be vulnerable or more vulnerable.
I've also had my professional time wasted by men who feigned being prospects to become my clients. So I've worked really hard to set up an appointment, only to arrive at the meeting and find out that they wanted to ask me out. I mean, some women who were prospective clients are also kind of in that group of more opaque glass that kind of gets in the way of being able to get through any glass ceilings because they were raised on ideas. They were socialized in such kinds of patriarchal environments that the notion of working with an unconventional woman who was working in a financial role was concerning or unfamiliar to them, and they chose the relative safety of working with a man because that's what they knew, you know, their husband had made the financial decisions, their dad had always made the financial decisions, their dad had been the breadwinner, when or whatever that was. They found safety in what they knew or recognized.
Then, many men, who were legitimate prospects for business would sometimes make the decision to work with a male advisor. Perhaps not even aware that for one reason or another, they just weren't comfortable working with woman in that role, even though many times, women in that role are going to be more successful for their clients. There's study after study that shows that women can bring a lot of their clients to more successful outcomes. So it's a really interesting challenge that I have seen.
The Millennial Money Muse