Cohen, Johnson Deliver Goldman's Diversity Message

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A scattering of high-powered women and minority individuals working on the Street have smashed through the glass ceiling, but for many in the lower and middle ranks the clear barrier through to the upper echelons is still both tantalizing and frustrating.

Goldman Sachs' Abby Cohen and Suzanne Nora Johnson belie the often male-held belief that women can't cut it in finance. Where they have led, others will follow - and banks are slowly coming round to the idea that having a workforce which reflects their increasingly global marketplace is important. Climbing to the top is still no easy task for either minority groups or women, but there are moves afoot to improve their chances of getting there.

At the Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Conference in New York last week, Abby Cohen, Chief U.S. Investment Strategist at the bank, spoke to an international group of student leaders. She described her career journey as being neither meteoric nor easy.

Cohen saw sexism, racial and religious discrimination in her early career, and quickly came to realize that the playing field was far from level. Her being a mother could also bring on discrimination. "I decided very early on that I would always be totally open about my family commitments," Cohen said. "If I had to leave work early to go to a school play, I said so, sometimes to the surprise of my male colleagues. Now I find that even the men are making a point of leaving the office when they want family time for things like baseball games - which wouldn't have happened before."

Cohen added, "You need to have a sponsor or mentor to look out for you and guide you. Suzanne Nora Johnson has been a terrific mentor to me, and I am very grateful for the clarity of her advice and the sheer common sense she provides."

Johnson, Vice Chairman at Goldman Sachs, spoke at the conference, too, and emphasized the fact that women and minority employees need a Big Kahuna to help them keep their careers on track if they are to succeed in a predominantly white, male world.

"I have succeeded because I have organized my life," Johnson said. "I make time to do the things I want to do, to read the books and magazines I want to read, but I structure my time so that I can do so. I have succeeded in my career, through hard work and persistence, but I hope I have managed to balance work with the rest of my life."

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