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Why Goldman Lacks Female Leaders

Why Goldman Lacks Female Leaders

by Starling Insights

Starling Insights Editorial Board

Mar 25, 2024


Five years ago, David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, took control and promised to prioritize promoting women to senior positions within the firm. However, recent data shows a significant exodus of female partners, with around two-thirds leaving their positions since 2018. 

Notably, no woman currently leads a major division or is considered a credible candidate for future leadership. Efforts to elevate women, such as Stephanie Cohen's appointment to co-head consumer and wealth management, have faced challenges, particularly as the consumer business encountered significant losses and subsequent restructuring. "Advancing women into our most senior ranks is an area where we have not accomplished our goals," Solomon said in a written statement to the Wall Street Journal. “Our longer term success depends significantly on developing female partners in senior roles.”

A spokesman for Goldman maintained that partner departures are within historical norms. Nevertheless, the situation underscores broader challenges in Wall Street firms' efforts to advance women to top positions. At Goldman, management decisions and practices have appeared to disproportionately affect women partners. Observers point to instances of organizational restructuring that placed male executives above women and the adoption of new experience requirements for advancement that favored areas where fewer women were working. 

Solomon has arranged meetings to address these concerns, but progress remains slow. While Goldman claims to have increased recruitment and promotion of women, disparities persist, with recent partner classes still predominantly male. Last year, Goldman settled a lawsuit alleging discrimination against women in lower-level positions. 

Despite efforts to address these issues, recent developments have fueled frustration among women partners. Additionally, questions about the appointment of a new CFO raised concerns about gender equality in leadership roles. Amidst these challenges, Solomon faces mounting pressure to address the persistent gender gap at Goldman Sachs.

Late last year, Starling Insights published "An Epidemic of Silence," a video conversation featuring Amy Edmondson and Jamie Fiore Higgins, author of Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs, moderated by Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. The video explores what creates "toxic" work environments, why employees within them largely remain silent, and the role that effective culture risk management, including a focus on "psychological safety," can play in identifying and resolving such concerns. ▸ Watch Now

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