Goldman Sachs CEO’s diversity advice: ‘Set very specific, aspirational goals’

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When David Solomon started as chief executive of Goldman Sachs in October 2018, he spent his first couple days on the job at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

During this year’s virtual event, Solomon returned to discuss the investment bank’s consistent diversity goal-setting. He also offered advice to companies seeking to make strides in gender equality for themselves.

“We’ve really learned that by setting very specific, aspirational goals and then holding people accountable with great transparency, you can advance forward,” Solomon told the event’s audience, which prominently features female executives.

Earlier this year Goldman announced that it would take companies public only if they had at least one “diverse” board member, with a special emphasis on women. Next year the Wall Street bank is raising that quota to two.

“The big benefit” of the requirement, Solomon said, is that it puts “more focus” on the issue of diversity in corporate boardrooms. (Two-thirds of board seats among the Fortune 500 are held by white men, although more women are beginning to fill open board roles.)

Goldman has raised internal standards for itself as well. Last year the company set a goal of aiming for half its new analysts and entry-level associates in the U.S. to be women, 11% to be Black, and 14% to be Latino.

This summer’s virtual cohort of 2,800 analysts “was the most diverse class we’ve ever had,” Solomon said, noting that the bank “reached and achieved goals we laid out.”

By 2025, Goldman aims for 40% of its executives bearing the title vice president to be women. The company also aims for 7% of the execs to be Black and 9% to be Latino. “We’ve got work to do,” Solomon said.

During the session, Fortune and Goldman jointly honored two South African entrepreneurs with leadership awards. One went to Emma Dicks, founder of CodeSpace Academy, a coding school, while the other went to Rayana Edwards, founder of Sari for Change, an organization that recycles used clothing and teaches business skills and needlecraft to women in poverty.

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