Ex-Goldman Partner Defends Firm Against Bias Charges

In response to charges by three former employees that Goldman Sachs treats women unfairly, former Goldman partner and known woman

In response to charges by three former employees that Goldman Sachs (GS) treats women unfairly, former Goldman partner and known woman Jacki Zehner today penned a Bloomberg op-ed in defense of her old firm.

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The lawsuit alleges among other things that an unnamed Goldman employee pinned one plaintiff, Cristina Chen-Oster, against a wall, kissing and groping her. The event, per the complaint, happened at a company-sanctioned trip to the Scores strip club.

“As a former Goldman partner, I am upset by their accounts,” Zehner writes. But in her experience, she could always find a person to talk to about “bad-boy behavior,” “whenever it crossed the line.” It’s comforting to know that Goldman provides a sensitive ear in case of strip-club gropings.

Zehner then holds herself up as a counterexample to the theory that Goldman culture is sexist. She was hired in 1988, and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a manager at the fix-rate trading desk. In the spirit of Goldman’s progressive politics she shattered the glass ceiling and became the firm’s first female partner — in 1996.

Let’s not be too quick to accept the idea that Goldman is sexist, says Zehner. Even though women represent only 29 percent of vice presidents, 17 percent of managing directors, 14 percent of partners and 13 percent of the partnership committee, those figures are “among the best of any major Wall Street firm, and any large corporation in general.” Hooray! Plus, Goldman has been trying really hard to get more women involved:

Goldman’s efforts to hire, retain and promote women were the most comprehensive on Wall Street. The list of policies and initiatives was extensive. When a decade of such initiatives failed to produce the intended results, Goldman started a task force to focus on the issue, engaging people throughout the firm as well as outside consultants.

Goldman tried everything! Policies, initiatives — even a task force! The board members, Zehner says, even said in speeches that diversity was important. The lawsuit could be counterproductive, Zehner warns, because it may prompt managers to hire fewer women. She actually says this:

Cases like this may just motivate managers to hire, mentor or promote more men instead of the equally or more talented women because men are easier to fire if they are poor performers. We seem to be caught in a place where managers in many large organizations are often told to hire to achieve diversity, then are ill-equipped to manage it.

Don’t sue, ladies, or you can forget about ever getting equal representation at Goldman or any other Wall Street firm.

Zehner is the vice-chair of the Women’s Funding Network, “a global champion for investment in women.” Her piece was edited by two men, James Greiff and Laurence Arnold.

Ex-Goldman Partner Defends Firm Against Bias Charges