Change Practitioner of the Month – November 2015

There is no doubt that the working environment has changed inexplicably in the last 30 years or so, with business actively seeking to address big issues such as flexible working and increased diversity within the workplace. This month Facilitate4Me rewards a world-renowned company for its efforts to address one of the most contentious issues within the working environment…the issue of gender equality.

The Facilitate4Me Change Practitioner of the Month for November goes to… Goldman Sachs!

Goldman Sachs is an international investment banking firm, offering services in asset management, securities and commercial banking, amongst other things. The world-famous bank is one of the most prestigious, with some of its former executives having gone on to serve in government positions, including Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, and Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia.

The investment banking sector is notorious for its isolating, macho perception of an ‘old boys club’. Its gruelling long hours has always made it difficult for female bankers to climb up the corporate ladder. As such, the most senior level roles are often occupied by men. But Goldman Sachs seems to be actively trying to readdress this balance, recently promoting a record number of women to the positions of Managing Directors. Of the 109 European employees recently promoted to the level of MD, just one rung down from partner, 30 were women (27.5%). Two years ago this was only 16%.

So What? Is having more women in senior leadership better for business?

The answer is YES…..for the following reasons

  1. The business world and future generations need positive role models

The importance of having female MDs and other senior female employees in order to inspire the future generation, cannot be understated.

When Lia Larson, one of the recently promoted Managing Directors, joined the bank in 2005 as an analyst, there was just one female vice-president in investment banking for her to look up to. “I used to watch everything she did’, says the MD. “What she wore, how she acted, how she was with clients. That was the only example I had”.

The sad part of this is that we are talking 2005 (barely 10 years ago), in a developed society and not 1805!

  1. Visible women leaders gently challenge our underground perceptions.

The banking environment, like most male dominated environments, is a tough one, particularly for women who may face sexist attitudes that can make them feel like they don’t belong. Though trading is and has always been perceived as a male bastion, there are positive signs of a shift in gender perceptions. This, according to another female MD, is largely thanks to female traders going to university careers fairs. Shrut Kalra believes that the increasing visibility of female bankers at such events is a powerful tool to encourage female students seeking to go into the banking industry of their capability to do so. “This is dramatically changing the perception that traders should be big, macho men’, she says. “No one says, ‘That’s a man’s job’, which is a big switch from 10 years ago. Is it a bit macho? Yes, probably, but that’s not to say women don’t fit it”.

  1. Women leaders reverse the talent drain

It is widely accepted that diversity (in all its forms) facilitates better decision making and better businesses. The lack of women in senior roles has continued to be the subject of contention, particularly for those who want to start a family. Whilst it is widely recognised and accepted that some women simply do not wish to pursue a senior level role, there is no doubt that some women often find it difficult to reconcile the desire to progress professionally with the demands of raising a family. Long, unsociable hours, a highly pressurised environment and time off work for maternity leave often means women have to sacrifice career progression in favour of having a family, a sacrifice that men incidentally do not have to make.

Goldman Sachs has attempts to fix this problem. As part of their strategy to offer everything a person would need in a single building, they have a crèche in their basement, and staff receive 20 days per year of free childcare for children up to the age of 12. In addition the company offers an on-site doctor, dentist, dry-cleaner and gym. The thinking behind housing such services presumably is to provide a helping hand to parents (particularly women) who must balance a highly-demanding job with the necessities of daily (family) life. Latifa Tefridj-Gaillard, an MD working in equities and returning from her second maternity leave, has certainly found the crèche particularly useful. “To have your child on site just make it so much easier. The staff will go out of their way to find you if there’s an emergency”.

The world is changing. The economic, social and global challenges are changing and mutating and to quote Einstein, “we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. As women make up 50% of the world population, we cannot afford to blindly endorse or create conditions for the shameful disregard of such vital (women) resources. Goldman Sachs has thrown down the gauntlet and

has made some vital strides towards enabling more women to contribute at the top of the corporate ladder. How soon before other industries start to look beyond their noses and implement practical changes to do the same?

Well done Goldman Sachs. Well done ladies!

Ebony profile picEbony is a legal secretary and a 2:1 law graduate. She has a passion for law and sports, and writes her own sports blog at

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