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What if Goldman Sachs Was Run by 'Fiona' Blankfein?

04/03/2012 10:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2012

Wake up Goldman Sachs! If your firm had more women, things would be better.

In recent years, those of us on the outside have come to view Goldman Sachs as the perennial poster child for ethical lapses. But, when a departing employee -- an insider for 12 years -- writes an op-ed describing the Goldman environment as ''toxic and destructive" -- unrecognizable from when he joined in 1999, it's all the more damning:

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm's culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm's moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Which left me to wonder: what if Goldman were run instead by 'Fiona' Blankfein?

An interesting question in light of survey data just released by the Harvard Business Review which analyzes the leadership styles of women and men. Are women better leaders than men? The finding of the survey: unambiguously, yes!

Here's how the Goldman Sachs insider described the ingredients -- the secret sauce -- of the firm's successful culture: "It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients."

According to Harvard Business Review, a 'Fiona' would outperform Lloyd in every element: 'Collaboration and Teamwork' -- female mean percentile +6.1, 'Displays High Integrity and Honesty' +9.3, 'Practices Self Development' +9.4 and 'Builds Relationships' +7.1.

Women managers represent the same values which allowed Goldman to earn it's clients' trust for 143 years.

Truth is, however: the difficulties at Goldman Sachs are not unique -- even if they are the latest corporate pariah. My former employer, Morgan Stanley, recently announced its 2012 class of Managing Directors -- 83 percent are men. The same as our current Congress (83 percent) which, by the way, is the least productive and least popular Congress in our country's history!

The problem of gender imbalance is endemic and our leadership is failing us. Desperately failing us.

And here's the startling fact behind the numbers: unless we take action and change course, trends suggest gender imbalance will only get worse!

The Truth about Women's Progress:

Where are the Fionas? On Wall Street, in corporate America and in politics, women today aren't even getting into the pipeline.

In the last decade -- during the period depicted as 'toxic and destructive' in the Goldman op-ed -- 141, 000 women -- roughly 2.6 percent of female workers in finance -- left Wall Street (389,000, or 9.6 percent, more men entered). More alarming, over that same period, the number of college and young women entering Wall Street declined by 22 percent. (Read why women are leaving Wall Street here).

And it's not just on Wall Street. For the first time in decades, from corporate management to even politics, women's progress has stalled or is moving backwards.

The Rules of Engagement:

A gift of the women's movement in the 60s and 70s was for women to enter the workforce. But it was like giving us a car, without driving lessons. Women still haven't learned to play the game.

How could we? We haven't been taught and these ways aren't intuitive to us. It's not our rules of engagement. The game remains male defined and male oriented. Because men still occupy the vast majority of leadership positions.

And since we all tend to hire 'people like us' (We all pay lip service to the melting pot, but we really prefer the congealing pot), we're in a vicious cycle. The way to break the cycle is advancing Fionas. Once women have a chance to set new rules of engagement, we will flourish and succeed.

National Girlfriends Networking Day ('NGN Day'):

How do we get there? By cultivating and supporting one another.

Today, just as many Fionas are graduating from college as Lloyds. But after college, women and men have vastly different trajectories with salaries and promotions. Why? Connections and networks are readily available and established for men. But women don't have these connections, don't think we deserve them, and don't know how to build them.

Decades ago, as women entered the workforce, we made a conscious effort to bring our daughters to work once a year. Today, we need to teach our daughters what to do once they are there -- to teach women, young and old, to build their network of connections.

This year we are starting that process -- on June 4th -- the first annual National Girlfriends Networking Day!

On that day, we'll begin the process of linking women together by creating a national network to help us all succeed. Women around the country will be meeting for breakfast, coffee, lunch and drinks to connect. Get involved by pledging to connect, attending a virtual event around the country -- or making herstory as an Angel Investor along with prominent women like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and FOX News co-anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Desperately Seeking Fiona!

We also need to give college and young women -- our Fionas -- a road map to success: A Girlfriends' Guide. Our goal is to provide a realistic game plan -- concrete steps and actions which young women can take, starting in their 20s -- towards become tomorrow's Fionas. Teaching them how to build their networks, connections and brand -- and on their own terms! A Girlfriends' Guide changes lives (read this)!

Join us cultivating and supporting tomorrow's Fiona's: 1) Get involved in National Girlfriends Networking Day; 2) Devote one hour a month to mentor a young woman at The Mentor Exchange; and 3) Reach out to The New Agenda set up a presentation of A Girlfriends Guide on campus.