In just the last few years, the conversation surrounding women’s equality has been wide-ranging, ever-evolving, and contentious; from #MeToo, to the reflexive and often violent backlash, it seems that the cultural reevaluation of how women fit into society is deservedly at the center of the public discourse. At the core of it has been the growing awareness of how women are systematically held back (just this week, NASA faced backlash after scrapping what was set to be a historic all-women spacewalk because, at the heart of it, workplaces are structured to favor men and disadvantage women; it didn’t have two suits that fit). These problems affect women in every field, and it’s not hard to imagine how this continues to happen; for one, women are not recruited or promoted in anywhere near the numbers of their male counterparts, which just creates a feedback loop of self-perpetuating bias.
This isn’t a secret. It’s never been a secret. The research has been done, the numbers crunched. Men – as a rule – don’t promote women nearly as often as they promote and mentor other men. Women aren’t hired in the same numbers, and those that do get hired are met with workplace cultures that weren’t designed with them in mind. None of this is news; it’s been endlessly covered and re-covered in thinkpiece jeremiads written for people who already agree to nod along to. I myself have done that work. And, as someone who has lived most of her life in the corporate world, it’s impossible not to do this work without some pessimism. Change, at best, is slow.
Which is what makes the news coming out of Goldman Sachs so exciting: a policy change aimed at fundamentally reinventing hiring culture at one of the biggest financial firms in the world. I spoke with representatives from Goldman to see what it was and how it was going to work. That’s a critical question in an era when slapping down a new policy or diversity initiative is often more an empty PR move in response to criticism than a force for change. So I did not go in with high hopes.
But Goldman’s new policy, roundly oversimplified in reporting as “50% of junior bankers must be women,” actually seems to be a far-reaching and meaningful effort at reform. I was struck by how much it was driven by a deep, data-driven analysis of why women (and other minorities) don’t end up in leadership roles, with real efforts to locate problems in the company’s promotion and recruitment pipeline that couldn’t simply be fixed by with statements about how diversity matters or implementing, but not enforcing, a quota. You can’t fix a culture that easily.
Goldman, to its immense credit, is focusing on improvement over time driven by incentivizing better practices. Goldman’s managers (overwhelmingly white men) will quickly discover that continuing the same old hiring practices will impact compensation and promotions. Goldman has begun the process of redefining what successful hiring looks like by dangling both carrot and stick: follow the new hiring procedures – which demand widening the search and mandate diverse candidates for new positions – or find yourself held accountable for falling short of the firm’s goals.
Source : Forbes