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As Wall Street pulls away from DEI, Goldman Sachs backs Black women: ‘Our commitment is strong’

<span>Goldman Sachs also launched a public policy arm of its initiative, aimed at sharing data about the barriers to economic mobility Black women face.</span><span>Photograph: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images</span>
Goldman Sachs also launched a public policy arm of its initiative, aimed at sharing data about the barriers to economic mobility Black women face.Photograph: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

At a time when conservative legal activists are targeting diversity measures in corporate America, Goldman Sachs has announced it is expanding a component of one of its philanthropic equity programs.

The One Million Black Women initiative, a program the company started in 2021, aims to dedicate $10bn in investment and $100m in philanthropic spending to address racial and gender inequality over the course of 10 years.

The firm said it has spent over $2.3bn in investment capital and another $33m towards philanthropic since the initiative launched. And this fall, Goldman is doubling the number of entrepreneurs it is accepting into its Black in Business no-cost education program, which is open to early-stage business owners with no employees and who have been running their business for at least a year. The program has had 750 participants across five cohorts over the last two years.

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The expansion comes as Wall Street has been publicly distancing itself from diversity initiatives as the conservative legal movement targets diversity, equity and inclusion, known as DEI.

Last year, the American Alliance for Equal Rights – run by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, who was behind the push to get the supreme court to overturn affirmative action – filed a lawsuit against Fearless Fund, a small venture capital firm that primarily funded companies run by women of color, for discrimination.

Earlier this month, Trump-appointed judges on a Georgia-based federal appeals court ruled that a Fearless Fund diversity grant program for Black woman business owners is discriminatory. Lawyers for the fund said they are exploring options to fight the ruling.

Asahi Pompey, Goldman Sachs’s global head of corporate engagement and the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, said the company is “aware of what’s out there”.

“And we are very focused on achieving the objectives of our program,” she said. “Of course we do that in operation and in compliance with laws, but our commitment to One Million Black Women is strong.”

When One Million Black Women launched, the Covid-19 pandemic and the after-effects of the Black Lives Matter protests were sweeping the country. But Pompey said the company zeroed in on investment data that showed the economic case for investing in Black women.

“Reducing the earnings gap for Black women has the potential to create 1.2 to 1.7m jobs in the US and increase annual US GDP by $300bn to $400bn,” Pompey said. “It says when Black women rise, America rises, because she’s creating jobs, she’s increasing revenue, she’s making her community better.”

Investment and philanthropic capital is what is “needed in order to address the systemic issues that we know are out there”, Pompey added.

Black in Business will take in an additional 300 entrepreneurs for the 10-week certification program, which will run later this year, bringing the total number of participants to 600 people. More than 600 participants have graduated from the program over the last two years.

“Our data was showing that Black women are starting businesses faster than any other demographic in the United States,” said Pompey. “After three years in operation, 97% of those businesses failed.”

The company flies participants to Goldman Sachs headquarters at the beginning and end of the program, where they can network with other participants and Goldman Sachs leaders.

Though entrepreneurs in the Black in Business program do not receive a financial investment from Goldman Sachs, the company connects participants to a network of investors who are more willing to invest in smaller, early-stage companies.

Related: ‘We have a bias problem’: California bill addresses race and gender in venture capital funding

Goldman Sachs said 61% of participants reported an increase in revenue six months after finishing the program. Typically, only 33% of firms with no employees see revenue increases.

Along with expanding the Black in Business program, Goldman Sachs also launched a public policy arm of the initiative aimed at sharing data about the barriers to economic mobility Black women face.

In February, the company released survey data that showed Black women are more likely to have a part-time job in addition to working a full-time job, have student debt and use their income to help extended family.

Even amid political and legal backlash on diversity programs that, years ago, companies were eager to promote, Pompey said the company is proud of its investment in Black women so far.

“We’re creating a powerful community of individuals who are job creators, revenue generators, who are now more connected with each other,” Pompey said. “They come from 40 states, they’re across sectors. So I’m proud of that community that we’re building as well.”