BCN Exclusive: Goldman Sachs launches One Million Black Women business initiatives to spur growth of Black women solopreneurs nationwide

BCN Exclusive: Goldman Sachs launches One Million Black Women business initiatives to spur growth of Black women solopreneurs nationwide

(Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part series on Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative.)

By Black Consumer News Executive Editor Wesley Brown – May 15, 2022 – One million is a sizable number. But that is the target for a new and bold initiative that Wall Street investment powerhouse Goldman Sachs hopes to inspire, grow and build wealth for one million Black women.

This past week, Goldman Sachs convened 150 Black women entrepreneurs participating in the Manhattan financial colossus’s One Million Black Women Black in Business initiative, the firm’s historic investment to support Black women solopreneurs, the fastest-growing segment of U.S. entrepreneurs. 

In an exclusive interview with Black Consumer News, Goldman Sachs Managing Director Jessica Taylor shared how the unprecedented Wall Street initiative for Black businesswomen is already a game-changer.

As national director of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses, one of the firm’s signature philanthropic initiatives that help entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing education, support services, and access to capital, Taylor joined the company in 2014 as a vice president.

Taylor recalled the moment in early March 2021 when Goldman Sachs became the first U.S.-based Fortune 500-type private or publicly held corporation to commit to advancing racial equity and economic opportunity by investing in Black women. That announcement occurred exactly one year after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 a global pandemic and several months after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis in late May 2020 that led to protests and civil unrest nationwide.

“It was a momentous, unprecedented moment for Goldman Sachs when David Solomon made that announcement. And I think it is a part of the groundwork that David as CEO has been laying across the firm, prioritizing diversity and inclusiveness and challenging our clients to say we are not going to take you public unless you have a woman on your board,” Taylor said of the firm’s top executive who took the reins of the Wall Street powerhouse in October 2018.

For Taylor, a former top aide for past New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that moment has set the tone at Goldman Sachs as retaining and hiring employees of color, which she says is now a transparent process and part of the company’s culture. In fact, Taylor was recently among the 643 individuals from across the company’s 45 national and global offices invited to become managing directors on the first day of 2022.

On Wall Street, making managing director at Goldman Sachs is among the most prestigious promotions, often leading those selected to top positions within the company and executive-level careers at other top Fortune 500 firms. As part of the Managing Director Class of 2021, Taylor was chosen among the 643 “exceptional group of individuals” from across the firm who have made meaningful contributions to Goldman Sach’s business and culture and embodies the firm’s core values of partnership, client service, integrity and excellence.

“It has been a wonderful evolution of [David’s] leadership and continuing to double-down on DE&I [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives,” Taylor said. “And One Million Black Women is a business decision to say that Black women are good investments. So, that is where that $10 billion direct investment capital came from, supported by $100 million in philanthropic capital. That is what is behind that.”

Goldman Sachs listening tours

According to Taylor, once Goldman Sachs’ commitment was on the table to tackle the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations, exacerbated by the pandemic, the firm began a nationwide “listening tour” with Black women leaders internally and externally.

Goldman Sachs Managing Director Jessica Taylor speaks at the Goldman Sachs’ Goldman Sachs recent One Million Black Women (OMBW) initiative.

Those involved came from Goldman Sachs’ global operation and included an Advisory Council of Black leaders of accomplished executives, policymakers, and government leaders. Among those serving on the panel are 1863 Ventures Founder Melissa Bradley; Food Host Entrepreneur Ayesha Curry and husband NBA Star Stephen Curry; and Rosalyn Brewer, the former CEO at Walmart’s Sam Club and COO at Starbucks who is now the first African American woman to become CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Others include Hope Credit CEO Bill Bynum, National Urban League CEO Marc Morial; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Producer and Actress Issa Rae; Prairie View A&M President Ruth Simmons, and many more.

The ongoing initiative is the most significant announcement of its kind in size and scope, and it was derived from those listening sessions to drive investment in housing; healthcare; access to capital; education; job creation and workforce advancement, digital connectivity, and financial health for Black women. During the listening period, Taylor said Goldman Sachs’ stance was one of learning but not saying, “We know what Black women need.”

“No, we said we were going to take time through 50 listening sessions, connecting with over 20,000 [Black women] to really understand what it is that we need and what we do in terms of our investment and our philanthropic programming is informed by and for Black women,” Taylor emphasized.

Goldman Sachs has also joined with partner organizations on listening sessions to understand the barriers to opportunity Black women face and how targeted investments can address these barriers. Black women are shaping it within Goldman Sachs, an alumna of the 10,000 Small Businesses program and partnerships with Black women’s organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., National Council of Negro Women, Power Rising, Black Women’s Roundtable and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Walker’s Legacy Foundation, Sistahs in Business Expo, and The Links Inc.

The Goldman Sachs executive noted that the company released a report by Black Womenomics estimating that reducing the earnings gap for Black women could create 1.2 to 1.7 million U.S. jobs and increase the annual U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by $300 billion to $450 billion. That total surpasses the growth of all but 18 of the 50 states in the U.S., according to recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data released on March 31.

From that same data, Taylor said Goldman Sachs’ also learned that Black women founded 17% of the new businesses started in the U.S. during the pandemic. But only about 3% of those businesses were able to mature and stay afloat, opening the door to solve a problem and boost the fortunes of Black women who mainly were sole proprietors.

“It was clear that we could help Black women solo entrepreneurs boost their earnings, reduce that 90% racial wealth gap, boost GDP by upwards of $350 million, and create jobs,” said Taylor. “So, it kind of became a no-brainer for us in terms of the opportunity we had.”

Black “woman” ingenuity and resilience

Fast forward to February 2022, Goldman Sachs opened the application process for the Black in Business program, which is a project under the umbrella of the One Million Black Women initiative. It received over 2,000 applications to be part of the first cohort for the ground-breaking initiative. From the review process, the company chose 150 select Black women to meet at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters for three days of an all-expenses-paid training and networking boot camp. Last week, the session ended on Wednesday (May 11) with a special keynote presentation by OMBW Advisory Council member Valerie Jarrett, a former top advisor to President Barack Obama. 

Taylor said the outcome of the three-day Summit held at Goldman Sachs’ Battery Park headquarters in Lower Manhattan, where the 150 Black women business owners came together, was overwhelming. She shared several anecdotes about how she connected with several entrepreneurs personally. They included Maryland native Temi Oni, who started a maternity wear business for Black mothers because there are no such products on the market today. She also spent time with former WNBA player and Connecticut University star Lorin Dixon, who had to supplement her basketball earnings by starting a pancake mold business and an NBA jersey collection line.

“It’s really phenomenal — the ingenuity and the resilience of [Black women]. And this is what we want to tap into, and this is what we are saying, ‘It’s legitimate,’ because so often society doesn’t legitimize their ideas and their businesses,” Taylor stated passionately. “So, again it’s Goldman Sachs saying these are good investments.”

Taylor said that by the end of the year, 450 Black women solo entrepreneurs will be included in the program to help them grow their businesses by providing education, support services, and access to capital. The program consists of a 12-week online program, a stipend, and a Black professional’s network to mentor and counsel the women. 

Taylor also said the 150 Black women attending the conference could meet and speak personally with such business leaders as Bradley, whose off-Wall Street, Black-owned investment firm gave a wealth-building presentation at the three-day conference. As a critical partner for the initiatives, Bradley’s firm will provide additional curriculum content for the cohorts over the summer.

But it was the presence of Valerie Jarrett that transformed the three-day event in New York City. Taylor said the former White House top aide shared personal experiences of her life where she had to overcome being the only Black woman in high-profile business and government settings.

“It was phenomenal. Because what Valerie did is she got vulnerable,” said Taylor. “And they asked questions, ‘Valerie, you’ve had such an amazing career. How do you make sure you are showing up in the room where you are the only Black woman?’ 

“And Valerie’s response was basically that I’ve been lucky because I have a strong support system that has helped drive me through my opportunities, but she said I am also not afraid to pivot,” continued Taylor. “If something is not working out, if I am not getting buy-in, and if I am not getting that feedback, I am going to make a change, and I am going to go where I am valued, and I can make a difference.

“So, it was really just a vulnerable but empowering message for the women,” said Taylor, “It felt like family.”

Following Jarrett’s powerful testimony last week, the cohort of 150 then spent the second day of the event attending panel discussions to learn about the “capital landscape” from key Wall Street lenders, financial counselors, investors, and venture capitalists. 

From those sessions, the participants learned about the range of capital opportunities to grow their businesses in the future at the right time, said Taylor. On the third day, the cohort pitched their startup ideas to the other participants and partners at the conference to make them feel comfortable explaining their stories as business owners.

“So, we are trying to expose them to those capital relationships, and give them knowledge about the capital landscape,” explained Taylor. “But then let’s start to exercise the muscle around how you pitch your business and how you identify the growth opportunity to which you are pitching.”

[The second part of this exclusive series, called “What’s Next for Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative,” will be published on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.]

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