Brokering Change: Goldman Sachs’ Interbank Conference for Multicultural Women

Business meeting.By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

On Friday, Goldman Sachs hosted its third annual interbank conference for multicultural women in the financial services, Brokering Change. The event, which featured distinguished speakers on the subject of diversity and inclusion, was opened by Edith Cooper, Goldman Sachs’ Managing Director and Global Head of Human Capital Management.

Cooper said, “To be the best we have to have diversity – it’s a business imperative.” She continued, “And financial services in the US will not be the best unless we embrace differences.”

Demonstrating Leadership: More Than a Check in the Box

Linda Alvarado, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alvarado Construction, Inc. and Sports Franchise Owner of the Colorado Rockies, gave an insightful and often humorous keynote speech. She opened her talk joking, “I’m a little nervous. I’m not used to being around so many women!”

Alvarado discussed her career path, often having to struggle to prove herself, both as a woman and as a Hispanic individual. To a nodding audience, Alvarado said that when she considers diversity, she often asks herself, “Am I a woman or am I a minority? Or am I both?” In the end, she said, “It’s not about keeping score.”

She explained that, today, minority women have many more choices than their grandmothers and mothers did – but still not enough. “Partnering will get us there faster,” she said, and “education and intelligence are great equalizers.”

“We’re making progress, not because of our numbers but because of our commitments,” she said, explaining that minority women can find more success by partnering together. She continued, “You have to demonstrate leadership, so you don’t just become that check in the box.”

When facing adversity, she continued, women need to persevere. She explained, “We have to be careful that a narrow world view doesn’t prevent us from going forward.”

Alvarado said that as an owner of the Colorado Rockies, she couldn’t conclude her talk without a reference to baseball – and said that what minority women are seeking is much like the sport itself, in which everyone gets to play by the same rules – same number of strikes, same distance between the bases, etc.

She said, “What we are looking for is an equal playing field, with equal access to capital, opportunity, and education.”

Perseverance and the Game of Life

After a day of breakout workshops and discussions, conference attendees enjoyed a final talk by Sheila C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Salamander Hospitality and Producer of A Powerful Noise. Johnson is also a Sports Franchise Owner of the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Washington Mystics (WNBA), and was a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Johnson began her talk with a discussion on leadership through adversity. She said, “Leadership is about knowing who you are and what you stand for.”

Quoting Dolly Parton, she continued, “If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.”

Johnson recalled how when she first became a franchise owner she noticed how underprivileged the Washington Mystics, a WNBA team, were compared to the Wizards (the Mystics’ male counterparts). She said her first order of business was talking the leadership into renovating the womens’ locker room, which was tiny compared to the men’s locker room.

She explained, “We have to fight for everything. What’s happening in sports is systematic [for women in other industries].”

Johnson continued that women must work harder to help one-another. “As Madeleine Albright said, ‘There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.’”

“Not only do we need to support one-another, but we need to learn to take risks. Taking risks means courage, and not taking risks means despair,” she added.

“Believe in your own power, and you will be the winner in your game of life.”