Leading With Purpose: A Fireside Chat With Dr. Carla Smith, CEO of The Center

28 JUN 2024

In recognition of Pride Month, the Americas LGBTQ+ Network, in partnership with the Americas Black Network, welcomed Dr. Carla Smith, CEO of The NYC LGBT Community Center, for a fireside chat with Michael Broadbery, global head of Global Banking & Markets Public Compliance, head of the Americas LGBTQ+ Network, and board member at The Center.  

Open to Goldman Sachs employees, family members, and clients, the fireside chat was followed by a live Q+A session and a networking event. Key themes from the evening included the importance of community, the value of representation in leadership, and the role of family within the LGBTQ+ community.

Below are some of the night's highlights.

On the history of The Center and the services it offers

Carla Smith: “The Center has been around since 1983, and grew out of the HIV AIDS epidemic. It was a very difficult time for LGBTQ New Yorkers. We needed to be in community with each other to respond to the urgent threat, grieve, and heal. At that time, there were not spaces that existed for us to be able to do that, and it has continued to be that vital gathering space for the community."

Michael Broadbery: “A number that struck me a couple of years ago is that The Center has touch points to about 300,000 people annually, either in person or online.”

CS: “There are many different kinds of people, in terms of intersecting identities, coming through our doors. Large numbers of communities of color, trans identified individuals, different age ranges, come to us to access support services or to just be in our space. We offer a number of services at The Center including health services, HIV services, mental health support, and substance use services. We have a behavioral health clinic and a lot of programs for young people. We maintain grief groups, victim services, case management services, and economic empowerment services. The other big arm of the organization is advocacy, so we partner with many different organizations throughout the city and state to advocate for the support that our community needs.”

On the importance of partnerships

MB: “Many of us [in the audience] are in privileged seats, where we can play a role in helping to keep The Center alive. Can you talk a little about this for us?”

CS: “[Private sector] partnerships are key to our success. We can’t do this work alone. 300,000 people coming through The Center requires a lot of resources. There is no one single government contract that covers the cost of doing what we do every day.”

On the value of representation in leadership

MB: “[As a board member] I had a ringside seat when The Center started looking for its new CEO. I think there were more than 200 candidates, but it was very important for The Center to identify a leader that represented the community it serves.”

CS: “That's right. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for more than 25 years, and actually came to The Center [as a community member] in the nineties when I first moved to New York. To be able to finish up my career at The Center and be the first Black person to lead the organization is a privilege. I recognize I don’t represent all the people who are coming to us, but I definitely have a way of acknowledging people and making them feel seen.”

MB: “I think it’s the same [at Goldman Sachs]. It’s a big part of the feedback we heard here at Goldman when we did a listening session and asked what was most important to people. To see visible representation at all the senior levels, is really important whether you are at The Center, at Goldman, or wherever you are in our community.”

CS: “It’s a huge privilege, and a lot of pressure, knowing you are the face of a group who haven’t felt seen in the past, and that you have the power to change things and give hope to people who didn’t necessarily think they would ever see someone in leadership that looks like them.”

On the role of family in the LGBTQ+ community

MB: “[Family] is one of the themes of our Pride Month dialogue. Earlier this year at Goldman, we launched our own Family Forum, that brings together LGBTQ+ parents, but also parents of gender nonconforming and transgender youth so that they can share experiences in community.”

CS: “As a parent, I understand the fear of making sure your kids are okay, especially parents who are new to the LGBTQ+ dialogue or unfamiliar with how their children choose to identify. The Center is a place to support that learning. Our mental health expansion will allow us to do family counseling, to help parents and children speak with each other, and teach parents how to support their child whose identity may be changing.”

MB: “It’s a really important aspect of the environment in which we’re living, which we should talk about, and provide support.”

CS: “I’m glad that we’re here to be part of that solution. [The Center] is often where [community members] find their chosen family, and maybe the only family that’s supporting them. For me, being able to do that is major. Being able to offer a space for parents to come and seek guidance to better support their children is one of my favorite things.”