Edith Cooper, the first Black woman to become a partner at Goldman Sachs, is a trailblazer in the finance industry. However, she admits that without the support of key mentors, she may have walked away from her finance career. In an interview with host Porter Braswell, Cooper discussed the role race plays at work, employee retention strategies, and the importance of having sponsors for one’s career.
Cooper led Goldman Sachs’ Human Capital Management division for a decade and is currently on the board of directors for Slack, Etsy, and Grain Management. Additionally, she co-founded a new professional development startup called Medley. Her extensive experience in the industry is a testament to the value of mentorship and sponsorship.
Cooper believes sponsorship is vital for career advancement, especially for minorities and women. Sponsors are advocates who help individuals navigate their careers and provide growth opportunities. According to Cooper, “sponsors are people who have a vested interest in your success.” They use their influence to open doors, make introductions, and recommend individuals for promotions.
Cooper’s success results from the support and guidance she received from her mentors and sponsors. Her mentors recognized her leadership potential and provided her with the tools and resources to succeed. They helped her develop her skills and build her confidence.
As a Black woman in a predominantly white industry, Cooper understands the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She advocates for creating a culture of belonging and a supportive environment for employees. In her view, “it’s not just about recruiting diverse talent; it’s about retaining them.”
Cooper’s achievements and leadership serve as a source of inspiration for Black women in the finance industry. Her dedication to mentoring and sponsorship highlights the importance of building relationships and finding advocates who believe in one’s potential. By advocating for diversity and inclusion, Cooper is helping to create a more equitable workplace for all employees.