February 26th, 2008 | 9:02 am

Goldman Sachs Sponsors a New Directions Program for Women Returning to Finance

filed under Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Next Level

A few weeks ago, we ran a story about the Pace Law School New Directions program for lawyers returning to practice after taking some time off. It turns out that a similar program exists for women returning to careers in finance. Sponsored by Goldman Sachs, the program is also called New Directions. The Goldman Sachs program began in 2006, and the Pace Law School program was launched in May 2007. At The Glass Hammer, we are just pleased that such excellent opportunities for returners exist in both law and finance. Last week, we had a chance to sit down with Elana Weinstein, Vice President in the Office of Global Leadership and Diversity at Goldman Sachs, and discuss their New Directions program.

Goldman Sachs launched the “New Directions: The Next Step in your Career” program with a kickoff event in May 2006. Ms. Weinstein explained that Goldman Sachs developed the idea for the program based on the findings of the Hidden Brain Drain Taskforce, a group whose studies are sponsored by the company. The group was founded by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Work/Life Policy, Princeton Professor Cornel West, and Carolyn Buck Luce. Hewlett wrote an influential book calling attention to the “brain drain” in the workplace caused when companies fail to optimize the work of women looking to off-ramp and on-ramp at different points in their careers.

Goldman was one of the first companies to sponsor the research of this task force, which later counted companies like Johnson & Johnson and GE among its supporters. Ms. Weinstein explained that, based on the task force’s research, Goldman decided to “implement a program tapping into the on-ramp market, to capitalize on the talent of returners who had taken time off and wanted to return to the workforce.”

The first New Directions event was a full day seminar in May 2006. The event was limited to 62 people, but the event planning team was impressed by the huge number of women who had expressed interest, and they compiled a waitlist of women eager to attend future events.

The kickoff New Directions event featured keynote speaker Myra Hart, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, whose research focuses on women on-ramping after taking time out from work. Experts from the Women @ Work Network gave a presentation called “While You Were Out,” which focused on changes in the business environment over the last few years. Finally, a panel of Goldman Sachs women who had successfully on-ramped shared their advice on how to smoothly transition back into the workplace.

The event was so popular that Goldman organized follow up events in November 2006. The New Directions event in New York brought in 102 people, and the London event had space for 92, but many more people signed up for the waiting list. Most, but not all participants were women.

Asked about how Goldman recruited participants to the workshop, Ms. Weinstein explained that “the majority of women who attended didn’t have a prior connection to Goldman Sachs. We tapped into our alumnae network, we partnered with Forte Foundation and the Financial Women’s Association, and also partnered with business schools that have organized returner programs, such as Harvard Business School and Tuck at Dartmouth.” While most of the candidates had prior experience in financial services, some did not, and were looking to make a major career change.

The Tuck Back in Business program and Harvard Business School help boost the New Directions program by bringing their candidates to informational interviews and networking events organized by Goldman Sachs for the purpose of attracting returners.

The most recent New Directions event took place on November 12, 2007 in New York. At this event, the sponsors focused on education and career preparation as opposed to recruitment of candidates. To that end, the workshop focused on teaching participants how to revise their resumes and confidently speak about the time they took off, and how they used that time productively. Many of the participants had taken time off to raise children, but also became leaders in community service organizations, took on pro bono projects or started their own businesses. The workshop focused on helping the candidates to tap into the skills that were useful and market them in an attractive way.

The popular “While You Were Out” segment covered recent developments in the industry and the “Career Coaching and Resume Tips” presentation offered practical advice for women reentering the job market. The participants were especially inspired by the panel of Goldman Sachs women who shared their stories about returning to the workplace after taking time off. Keynote speaker Monica McGrath, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Wharton School of Business Career Comeback program, offered some inspiring words to the would-be returners.

After the event, many of the 102 attendees went on to have exploratory interviews with Goldman Sachs, and some were placed initially at the firm, depending on the openings that were available. Not all of the women were ready to reenter the job market right after New Directions, but the majority of them stayed in contact with the Experienced Hire Diversity Recruiting team, which coordinates the program with the Office of Global Leadership and Diversity. At least 20 candidates have successfully on-boarded at Goldman Sachs or other financial institutions, and many more hope to on-ramp in the near future and continue to attend events.

Ms. Weinstein also explained that Goldman Sachs was piloting a new initiative called the New Directions Returnship Program.

“We identified a gap in returner programs,” she explained. “Women wanted to come back full time but in a different space, not necessarily doing what they did when they left. But hiring managers were reluctant to place someone in a new role and make the transition. So, we developed the returnship program to address this need.” Her department identified a handful of divisions at Goldman that were open to the new idea and brought returning women on board on a temporary basis to work on projects and make an assessment about whether they really want to do this type of job full time. If the returnship works out, the hiring manager then works with the candidate to try to convert their position into a full-time role. While the program is in its infancy now, it will expand by year end 2008.

The New Directions team noticed that the women who attended the November 2007 event were more interested in coming back full-time, whereas the women who had attended the 2006 events were generally looking for greater flexibility and a shorter work week. Ms. Weinstein pointed out that it is a misconception that most women want to come back part time, as many are ready to reenter the work-place in a full-time position.

Beyond New Directions, Goldman Sachs also offers a variety of programs to help its employees deal with work/life balance issues. Long known as a firm with generous benefits, including one of the best maternity and paternity leave policies on Wall Street, Goldman has also been a proponent of workplace flexibility initiatives. They offer “job-sharing,” whereby two people work part time and share the responsibilities of one job. Usually, each person works 3 days a week and the pair has one day of overlap for coordinating duties.

Additionally, options exist for employees to telecommute, either formally or informally, or work a reduced work-week (3-4 days a week) for reduced compensation, among other part-time options. Finally, depending on the nature of the job, some employees are able to continue working on alternative schedules. For example, one woman worked 6:00 am to 3:00 pm, which enabled her to spend time with her children and take care of her family responsibilities. Goldman Sachs works with their employees to make these flexible arrangements run smoothly.

With all of these exciting initiatives to help women on-ramp back into the world of finance, it is a better time than ever to jump-start your career and come back to work.

4 comments

  1. Top Ten Things for Which We Are Grateful » The Glass Hammer

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    [...] More on Goldman Sachs Brand New Directions program from The Glass Hammer. [...]

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