Is Goldman Sachs Hoping The Ladies Will Fix Its PR Problem?

If Goldman Sachs' PR nightmare of recent years hasn't quite abated, here's the perfect counterbalance: They love women! So much!

Perhaps it's a coincidence that Fortune has posted this video interview with its "head of global human capital" (is that HR?), pegged to "The Best Companies To Work For" package, around the same time that its chief strategist, Abby Joseph Cohen, gave an interview to the habitually combative Deborah Solomon in the Times magazine. (Perhaps it's also a coincidence that Goldman co-sponsors Fortune's Most Powerful Women conference.)


The tagline for the Fortune video is "Goldman Sachs' head of global human capital says there's still a lot of work to do in gaining equality for women on Wall Street." But most of the interview is spent talking about how awesome it is now compared to how it was before.

That's not to discount this woman's individual experience, or any work she might be doing to advance the female variety of human capital. But the whole thing comes off as a rehearsed public relations gimme.

Not so much at the Times magazine. Even by the standards of a Solomon interview, things got kinda awkward with Goldman's Cohen. Solomon began by asking Cohen about numbers that belie the rosy picture painted above.

But if women make up 30 percent of M.B.A. programs, as has been reported, why do they represent only 12 percent of the current partners at Goldman Sachs?
I don't think that we are proud of it, and I think we do have aspirations of improving the numbers.


Then it got rougher.

Do you feel any responsibility for the economic meltdown of 2008, which you failed to foresee?
That's an odd question to be asking me.

I did not think that was part of what we were going to be talking about.


The question is, what did she think they were going to be talking about? There doesn't seem to be any particular time-peg for an interview with Cohen — she has no book, hasn't herself been featured in some recent event. Business blogs have been wondering why she's back in the spotlight after years of avoiding it when her bullish predictions started to look wrongheaded. But the first three questions in the interview were about women. Even allowing for the feature's avowed "condensing" and "editing," it's reasonable to wonder whether Cohen was offered to Solomon as a way to highlight a high-ranking woman. Goldman already has its admirable 10,000 Women project to provide business educations to women in the developing world.

It's not that we think Goldman shouldn't be spotlighting the work of women in its ranks, or spreading around its considerable wealth to create more of them. It's just that it all seems like a rather convenient way to distract from that whole "vampire squid" thing. Or that sex-discrimination lawsuit, for that matter.


Questions For Abby Joseph Coen [NYT]
Being A Female Partner At Goldman [CNN]

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