Why Goldman Sachs is investing billions to address the disparities Black women face

October 12, 2021, 7:30 PM UTC

Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO David Solomon was bombarded by his employees last year.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis had ignited a nationwide conversation about race and discrimination in the U.S., one that quickly found its way onto college campuses, within the health care field, and into corporate boardrooms. And like many across the business world, Goldman employees wanted to know what the Wall Street giant was going to do for its part.

What Goldman came up with was the One Million Black Women initiative, an effort to direct $10 billion of investment capital, as well as $100 million of philanthropic support, over the next decade toward addressing the racial and gender disparities that Black women still face today.

“Over the course of the last year, we’ve thought a lot about some of the things that we could do on our platform to have an impact,” said Solomon, who spoke at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “And it’s very, very clear that there’s a need to continue to make investments in our society to bring people along broadly.”

Black women have for generations lived with structural disadvantages in almost every part of their daily lives, from an underinvestment in their educations to a staggeringly high maternal mortality rate to a wage gap that can have lifelong implications. And many of those have likely worsened over the course of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even found in February that the life expectancy of Black women fell by 2.3 years from 2019 to 2020. The life expectancy of white women, by comparison, dropped by a little over half a year, according to the report.

The One Million Black Women initiative has set out to make investments in businesses and companies that are working on issues that span across a Black woman’s life.

“It’s not just about writing a check,” says Morehouse School of Medicine president and CEO Valerie Montgomery Rice, who spoke alongside Solomon at the summit. “It’s about helping you to invest in your organization to measure that return.”

Goldman has said the One Million Black Women initiative is being led by Black women within the bank, as well as an advisory council of Black leaders that includes Montgomery Rice, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and actress Issa Rae.

To start, the effort, which is being helped along by several Black women’s organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the National Council of Negro Women, and Power Rising, has launched a listening tour to understand the issues having the greatest impact on Black women’s lives today and the adjacent areas where investments can be made. But while the initiative is still talking with Black women around the country, it has already made its first round of investments. In May, Goldman Sachs announced that One Million Black Women would either make an investment in—or provide a grant to—12 different organizations based across the U.S.

Among them were BlocPower WiFi, a company dedicated to providing broadband service to low-income neighborhoods in New York City; the Sadie Collective, a group based in Washington, D.C., that works to create economic clubs for young Black girls in high school; and Buy From a Black Woman, an Atlanta organization that focuses on helping small businesses owned by Black women with some back-end operations like website development and grant funding.

“We’re trying to take a much more holistic view,” said Solomon. “Our research shows that the average net worth of a Black woman in this country is materially lower than that of a Black man and obviously materially lower than white men and women. How can we make investments over the coming decades that will actually change that so we have a different economic outcome that is sustainable for an extended period of time? We’re trying to think about ways to really get capital into places that can make that difference.”

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