In March, financial services group Goldman Sachs shared plans for their One Million Black Women (OMBW) initiative, a $10 billion investment in support of Black women over the next 10 years. The initiative is named for and guided by the organization’s goal of impacting the lives of at least one million Black women by 2030.
A statement about the program notes that Goldman Sachs will commit $10 billion in investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to address “the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
The program’s advisory council includes top female executives including Rosalind Brewer, Chief Executive Officer of Walgreens, Lisa Jackson, the vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, and current president of the Obama Foundation. The OMBW program aims to advance racial equity, narrow opportunity gaps and drive economic progress, by promoting investment in Black women as entrepreneurs and leaders in the workplace.
Robert F. Smith, a leading philanthropist and supporter of racial equity solutions, such as his 2% Solution, praised the initiative as a “win for all Americans and a great example of the 2% Solution for corporate community engagement,” Smith noted on Twitter. “Investment, not just philanthropy, creates systemic change.”
Smith’s 2% Solution poses the idea that if private companies invested just 2% of their net profits in Black communities and business, we could make tremendous progress in closing the racial wealth gap. It also makes a point that inclusion can begin at the top of a corporation, as well as at the bottom. “CEOs have the great advantage of seeing the entire infrastructure of which they are the purveyors and managers. So, implement conscious inclusion not just in your hiring practices, but in your supply chain purchases,” Smith said in a recent virtual speaker series with the BlackNorth Initiative. The 2% Solution was honored with the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2020 from Forbes for “Most Intriguing Idea.”
Before founding Vista Equity Partners in 2000, Smith led many mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs, as the Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage. As a top Black executive in the U.S., Smith has often spoken candidly about the struggles facing African Americans who wish to climb the corporate ladder. “Nowhere is structural racism more apparent than in corporate America,” Smith said in an interview with Forbes about the 2% Solution.
Growing research shows that Black women, especially Black female corporate executives, face significant barriers in the workplace. Only three Black women have ever been CEO of a Fortune 500 company, of which Brewer is the third. Black women face the dual challenges of structural racism and sexism, which leads to them being sidelined by corporate executives and their work being undervalued and underpaid.
Moreover, the impact of the student loan debt crisis disproportionately harms Black women. The American Association of University Women found that women hold two-thirds of America’s nearly $1.5 trillion student loan debt, with Black women carrying the highest student loan debt of any racial or ethnic group. When Black women graduate and enter the corporate workforce, they confront a widening gender pay gap, which allows their white male peers to pay off loans far quicker.
Smith is committed to solving America’s student debt problem, specifically how it targets communities of color. After paying off the loans of roughly 400 graduating seniors’ student loans at the HBCU Morehouse College in 2019, Smith explained how debt can hamper the ability of young Black leaders to make investments and grow wealth. “The most important thing that lifts people in their station in life is education, and we have to make it in a way that is affordable and effective,” he said in a CNBC interview.
Find out more about Goldman Sachs’ OMBW program in a recent podcast. Read more about Smith’s work to create career opportunities for women and marginalized communities, to close racial gaps in career growth through internships, and promote educational opportunities, including preventing crippling student debt, such as with the Student Freedom Initiative.