Sally Boyle: Women Supporting Women

Sally Boyle, international head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs, speaks about the importance of female role models in recognition of International Women’s Day.

Today is International Women’s Day and an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women across the world. Here in London we are celebrating with the help of two organisations: The Female Lead, which was established by Edwina Dunn to provide alternative and accessible role models for young women and The Prince’s Trust who have launched ‘Women Supporting Women,’ a community of successful women who care passionately about helping young women build brighter futures.

One of the reasons that I am proud to work at Goldman Sachs is the firm’s commitment to maximising the potential of all our people – we see this as key to our success and core to our business strategy.  As I reflect on my own career I realise that I have seen considerable change and progress with regards to women in the workplace and have personally been fortunate to have had a number of strong women as role models. Is there more that we can do? Absolutely. Are we committed to those efforts? Unequivocally.

When I started my career in the mid 1980’s, my manager was determined to ensure that my experience, in what was then a male dominated workplace, was positive. I watched and learned how she juggled being a partner at a large law firm with family responsibilities. When I decided to take a career break to have my two sons, she gave me honest advice, encouraged me to stay connected to the law through academic study and urged me to call her when I was ready to return to work.

Three years later I did exactly that and asked to work three days a week so I could continue spending time with my family while pursuing my career. Although the law firm had no part-time workers we made this arrangement work, so much so that clients and colleagues outside my department did not realise that I was working part-time. Thirty years on, I’m delighted that flexible working is more common, allowing women and men alike to balance work and other responsibilities more effectively.

My good fortune continued when I joined Goldman Sachs where, over the past 18 years, I have had inspirational managers who have been tremendous mentors and sponsors of my career. In my early days at the firm, it was invaluable to have a manager who understood my family responsibilities, gave sound advice and trusted me to do my work, whether in the office or at home.

As my career progressed, I continued to receive support from a number of senior women at Goldman Sachs, all of whom helped guide me through critical moments in my career, the most significant being my decision to leave the Legal Department and become the head of Human Capital Management in EMEA. These senior women are still there for me, many years later.

These personal experiences continue to influence my own approach. As a woman, a senior leader and a manager, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to sponsor and mentor women, especially those starting their careers. Most tell me that having role models, access to sponsors, networking opportunities and manager support are all key factors to help progress their careers. At Goldman Sachs we have worked to institutionalise some of these activities and I am proud that mentoring and sponsorship is a core part of our culture and available to women of all levels.

However there is always more to be done and each one of us has a role to play in empowering women to achieve career success. On International Women’s Day, let us all reflect on what we can do:

Take the time to get to know the women on your team – ask about their aspirations and experiences in the workplace
Be direct and open with your advice – people want honest feedback
Be an advocate – consider how to position a female colleague to maximise her potential 

Who are you a role model and inspiration for? Happy International Women’s day.