Q&A with Goldman Sachs Women’s Network Regional Heads

23 MAR 2021

In this Q&A, we catch up with Padideh Raphael, Anna Skoglund and Céline Méchain, regional heads of the Goldman Sachs Women’s Network in Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), who discuss how the network has been a source of support for themselves and other women at the firm throughout their careers, and what goals the network is hoping to reach in 2021. 

Tell us a little about your career path.

Padideh: I am currently a partner in the firm’s Global Markets Division in Asia Pacific, serving as co-head of Equities Sales, head of Prime Services and serve as a member of various firmwide committees including the Asia Pacific Inclusion and Diversity Committee. Over the course of my 22-year career at Goldman Sachs I have worked in New York, London, and now Hong Kong. It’s been a privilege to experience the full range of markets and cultures across the world.

Anna: Currently, I am the head of the Financial and Strategic Investors Group in EMEA, responsible for covering private equity in the Investment Banking Division and co-chair of the European Inclusion and Diversity Committee as well as an investment champion for Launch With GS, the firm’s $1 billion commitment to invest in companies and investment managers with diverse leadership. I am also a member of our Managing Director LGBTQ+ Ally initiative, which helps drive the LGBTQ+ inclusion dialogue within the firm.

Céline: I joined Goldman Sachs in 1998 in Leveraged Finance in London until 2002, when I had the opportunity to build the private equity coverage platform of Goldman Sachs in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. After moving to France I helped co-found the Women’s Network of Goldman Sachs in Paris and the Women Business Club of France Invest (French Venture Capital Association). I am now head of the France Cross-Markets Group responsible for covering key French corporates and Private Equity Sponsors and serve as an investment champion for Launch With GS.

For those unfamiliar with the Women’s Network, how would you describe the role of this network and how has it helped our people?

Padideh: The Women's Network is a collective voice for uplifting and supporting women within the firm and in the communities where we live and work. We focus on bringing gender equity into the conversation, and to position the firm as a thought-leader and employer of choice for women.

At the same time, the network has provided a platform and opportunity for our people to problem-solve, innovate, hone and showcase their leadership skills. The first GS women’s network was actually started over 20 years ago, and we are glad to see it evolving and growing to 40 women’s networks globally.

In 2020, we were able to help support several achievements across the firm:

  • Internal and client events focused on front of mind topics including; women in leadership, communications and personal branding, and parenting
  • Advancement of women leadership, helping establish greater representation of women making partner
  • More diverse representation for our 2020 campus analyst class, which comprises a majority of women for the first time.

What is the responsibility of someone who leads this network?

Padideh: As head of the APAC Women’s Network I champion the regional network focus and mission alignment to be in sync with similar groups around the globe. The responsibilities are focused on empowering women, building the strategy for the network and the firm’s broader approach to recruiting talent, and advising the network on key events and activities to maximize its contribution to and visibility at the firm.

What are some key objectives of the Women’s Network in 2021?

Céline: We have three global priorities for this year: amplifying visible role models across the firm, driving transparency around career milestones, and helping foster work / life balance as we all progress through different stages of our careers and personal lives.  

Anna: One of our biggest tasks right now is bringing together all of the different networks and grassroots movements at the firm – all of which are strong and functioning well independently, but we want to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction to maximize impact. By identifying the set of goals Céline mentioned, we now have a common platform to achieve this.

What advice would you give to those who are thinking about their career and the next step?

Céline: Many people think a promotion is a reward for past work, but really it is a reward for what you are going to build next. This is such an important takeaway for anyone thinking about the next step of their career.

And for someone just starting their career or a new role, I would encourage you to start thinking about building your network - if you don’t know where to start, joining a group like a women’s network and meeting new people the help of your managers and colleagues is the best step. These communities are invaluable as you grow within Goldman Sachs and at many other companies as well.

How have you managed the ‘new normal’ of the past year?

Anna: For a big part of the past year, I like so many others had to juggle multiple home duties with my job which was a humbling experience in many ways. I also felt a strong sense of accountability and responsibility for the people I manage and work with, so equal doses of positive energy and resilience have been key themes this year. One of my highlights was the brainstorming session we did with the various Women’s Network leads to discuss strategy for 2021; it highlighted the engagement, diversity and breadth of people that are involved in these initiatives. I like to think we all came away with a renewed energy.

Padideh: For me, along with the ongoing uncertainty we’ve all been navigating, the past year also marked the arrival of my third child. After first becoming a mother over 11 years ago while based in London, as well as working with and mentoring many colleagues who have also become parents, it was a great opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned and to share some of those lessons with my colleagues, clients, and friends.