Running a company is hard in normal times. In a pandemic, it’s even more challenging. In our Company Building panel at the 2020 Table Stakes Summit, Stephanie Cohen, chief strategy officer at Goldman Sachs, and Jen Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, chatted about leading their companies through COVID, trends in the fashion and financial industries, diversity and inclusion, and more.
(This transcript has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.)
Leading Rent the Runway through a pandemic
Stephanie: Jen, it’s been really fun watching you grow Rent the Runway. And over these last couple of months, I’ve learned a lot from how you’ve navigated the pandemic. So I think we should start there. Let’s go back to the early stages of the pandemic—what that was like for you and Rent the Runway and how you navigated everything.
Jen: We started thinking about COVID in January because 80% of fashion is produced out of China and we thought COVID was going to be a supply chain issue. So in January and February, we were really diligent about getting in touch with hundreds of vendors, telling them, “hey, we think you’re going to have supply chain issues because of this coronavirus thing, so we want to switch the styles that we have on order from those that are produced in China to those that are produced in other places in Southeast Asia, Europe, etc.”
People literally thought we were insane calling about a supply chain issue. Then, because of the frequency with which people use their subscription product, we saw data super early in March that really gave us the clarity that things were not going to look good for Rent the Runway.
As we’ve now seen in hindsight, demand for the fashion industry really just disappeared this year. I’m sure many of you have been stuck at home wearing a lot of pajamas and athleisure. That’s not good for a business that’s based on showing up in your life, showing up at work, and wanting variety in your wardrobe.
So starting very early in March, we had to dramatically cut costs. We cut 51% of our operating expenses, capital expenses, and inventory expenses across the business. We had to financially restructure the business and make very difficult decisions as it relates to human capital, meaning we conducted layoffs, furloughs—really the most difficult decisions of my life.
What we were doing was setting up the company to have the financial runway to get through what we knew was going to be a very long period of time—we thought the fashion industry was not going to recover until there was a vaccine, which seemed very far away last March.
We wanted to recover as a different company than the one we were before.
We also wanted to recover as a different company than the one we were before. What is the world that we’re going to be entering post COVID? We actually think the world we’re entering is going to be even more likely to value sustainability, value the circular economy, and want to make smarter choices around having their closet in the cloud. Our demand basically disappeared this year, but next year we think business can come back stronger, so we need to make sure our financial model is stronger than ever and that we’re offering an even wider value proposition to our customer base.
We’ve done more this year than we’ve done over the past 10 years in terms of decisiveness, strategy, and the decisions we’ve made. I think I’ll look back on this year as one that I never would have wished for, but one that has truly defined what I’m calling the second founding moment of the company.
I think I’ll look back on this year as one that I never would have wished for, but one that has truly defined what I’m calling the second founding moment of the company.
Stephanie: When you talk about COVID, you talk about two phases: this shelter-at-home phase and the recovery phase. And we’re certainly closer to a vaccine now than we were at the beginning when you first started hoping for one. Where do you think we are in the recovery? How do you think about that given the data you see?
Jen: I’ve been starting every meeting at work with Florence and the Machine, which is actually from an Irish poet—it’s always darkest before the dawn. We’re back to those dark days we had in March, April, and May in terms of consumer behavior.
There were two distinct phases that we saw of consumer behavior. March, April, and May were really about people going inward. People were sheltering at home, and a lot of their consumption patterns changed. And then we saw a dramatic shift starting in June. People started to get dressed again, resume some semblance of leaving their home, some social activities—some people were even coming back into the office on a limited basis. I think that given the rates of COVID in the country right now, the next few months are going to feel a lot more similar to the March through May timeframe.
But I think what’s important is I’ve stopped looking at the daily metrics with as much intensity as I did in March, April, and May. One of the lessons I’ve learned during this pandemic is—similar to the travel industry, live events, and the restaurant business—you can’t manufacture demand in this environment for fashion. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Rent the Runway, or if you’re Net-a-Porter. You’re just not going to create the demand.
What we’re doing is putting all of our focus on our plan for the recovery and who we’re going to be when the world comes back to life and people are excited to celebrate again or go back into an office again—how do we make sure we’re showing up for that?
Fashion and the circular economy
Stephanie: Let’s talk about some bigger trends for a minute. You talked about the circular economy. Can you talk a little more about what that means and how we’re going to make sustainability aspirational—what you saw a decade ago, where we’re headed, and if some of this has sped it up as you alluded to.
Jen: I’ve always considered fashion to be the most wasteful industry on Earth for two reasons. One is it’s a $2.4 trillion industry where 80% of the items purchased each year are really never used more than once or twice. So it’s wasteful financially in that way.
Second, it’s wasteful in that it’s the second most pollutive industry on Earth. Manufacturing a tshirt or a pair of leggings takes more energy and more water than anything beyond production of oil and gas. In a world where we’re buying 70 new articles of clothing per year, that just seemed insane to me. The initial premise of Rent the Runway was why does the $2.4 trillion industry of fashion have to be articles of clothing that are brand new?
Can’t a portion of what we wear be items that are secondhand, meaning items that have been worn before? What Rent the Runway has done over the past decade is create new ways to consume secondhand clothing. You can consume secondhand clothing on our platform via a subscription, which is really providing a frictionless way to get dressed every day, via an a la carte rental, via buying clothing secondhand. Fundamentally that was the belief set—that secondhand clothing is just as aspirational and cool as buying things that are brand new and then throwing them in a landfill.
What’s interesting is over the past 10 years, we’ve had to push a boulder up a hill in telling that story. A lot of people for a long period of time thought that the secondhand economy, which is often also called the circular economy, was on the fringes of how people were living.
We’ve seen now that sustainability has gone from being a nice to have to a need to have in terms of consumer value. Suddenly, people actually think that secondary clothing is just as cool and normal as new clothes.
In the younger consumer, with GenZ, 50% of what they buy is actually secondhand. So now the secondhand economy has an equal seat at the table, and that has been accelerated by COVID because if there’s anything that’s going to get the world to focus on health and the environment and sustainability, it is a global pandemic that we’re all going through at the same time.
The other thing is that the business has always focused on a smarter way to spend your money on getting dressed. We’re in a global recession, and I think people are going to be even more conscious of how they spend their money, and that is something that’s good for us.
If there’s anything that’s going to get the world to focus on health and the environment and sustainability, it is a global pandemic that we’re all going through at the same time.
Leadership in a remote environment
Stephanie: We’ve all been remote for a long time. How have you thought about leadership in a remote environment and some of the positives as it relates to flexibility, but also some of the negatives in terms of those occasions where you just bump into someone and come up with a new idea. How have you thought about leading during this time?
Jen: I think the pandemic is going to do more for women in senior positions than anything ever before. It’s going to accelerate women like you, who are already in the C-suite of your organization but are rising up to even higher levels of power in the biggest organizations in the world.
A new way of working has become accepted in a way that flexibility was not accepted in the past, especially as you became more senior in an organization. Typically, even more senior women are doing the lion’s share of the work around their homes and in their families. So a world that lends itself toward more flexibility and more work from home will enable even more successful careers, as well as allowing women to do what they want to do in their home and family life.
But that pandemic has been devastating for women who are in the lower rungs or in mid rungs of the workforce. So we have this bifurcated outcome of what the pandemic has led to for different groups of women.
As I think about my own leadership, I think that number one, I have tried to lead with complete transparency and communication. In a time where we’re remote, I think everyone being on the same page, everyone understanding the whys behind why we’re doing things is even more important. So I’ve brought the team together probably 4x the amount that we were gathering in the past. I’ve opened up ask me anything sessions so everyone feels like there’s nothing off the table to ask and that all of the data and information on how we’re doing is shared broadly.
In a time where we’re remote, I think everyone being on the same page, everyone understanding the whys behind why we’re doing things is even more important.
But alongside that transparency has come with a focus on leading with empathy first. Rent the Runway has always been a culture where we valued community and empathy. One of our core values is bring your authentic self into the office. And I think part of what people have loved the most about their jobs is their colleagues and socializing with those colleagues—that’s what’s driven the employee loyalty rates we’ve had at the company. This year, two things are happening. Number one is people are separated from the very thing they liked the most about the company. They like seeing their friends. They like seeing their colleagues. They like laughing with those colleagues. They like brainstorming. They respect their colleagues. That just doesn’t happen as much on Zoom as in real life. Real life community and real life collaboration are critically important.
The second thing is people are going through a lot in their own personal lives. And as much as authenticity has always been a value, I think all of us have had a work persona and a life persona in our lives prior to the pandemic. And we have shown up to work with slightly different mannerisms and not necessarily bringing our full personal life into work. Now, given that there’s literally no boundary between work and home and because people are going through very difficult situations related to health and anxiety and mental health, people have brought more of their personal lives into the office.
Leading with empathy and teaching my team that their first priority should actually be their own health, their own family, their own relationships with the people they love and that work is actually less important of a priority has been one of the biggest changes of this year, especially as someone who is as passionate about my business as I am. I’m effectively saying to my employees: listen, I love Rent the Runway. I co-founded it. I’m passionate about it. But work is not everything. Let’s focus on making sure everything is great and happy and as healthy as can be in your personal life.
So I think empathy and leading with your personal life first is something that’s going to be a permanent change for leadership across the board.
Empathy and leading with your personal life first is something that’s going to be a permanent change for leadership across the board.
How Goldman Sachs helped its people and community through COVID
Jen: One of the things that I noticed is how involved Goldman Sachs was in the crisis in general and in leading the country through it. Can you talk a little bit about how you navigated a massive firm like Goldman Sachs through the crisis and also the kind of counsel you were providing to other entities outside of Goldman through the pandemic?
Stephanie: We absolutely had to take care of our people first. It was the most important thing that we were doing—taking care of our people and taking care of their families. We did that because it was obviously the right thing to do, but it’s also the only way we could take care of our clients and ultimately our community. So that’s where we focused first.
And then there’s this whole idea of community. In our view, we earn the right to operate in the communities that we serve. So our communities are really important to us and our people felt really strongly about the need and desire to help our communities—I’ll come back to that.
This is where leadership becomes really important. We have 40,000 people. So the question is: how do you scale your impact? Because day to day, you really don’t know what’s going on. One of the ways is mirroring good behavior—trying to mirror the behavior you want to see from the other people in the company.
One example is I spent most of the pandemic wearing my workout clothes because it was really important to me to find 20 or 30 minutes to go for a run and go do something. I would say that to people on a call and they’d kind of laugh and I’d explain it makes it easier for me to go for a run. And what I noticed is it gave everyone else the right to take a break and go do something.
I spent most of the pandemic wearing my workout clothes because it was really important to me to find 20 or 30 minutes to go for a run. And what I noticed is it gave everyone else the right to take a break and go do something.
The other piece of it was communication. You just constantly have to communicate. One-on-one communication, group communication, emails, voice messaging, and videos were really important through all of this. And the message had to be that we actually didn’t have all the answers because it was obvious that no one had all the answers. And we had to keep seeking what I would call progress over perfection every day. And I think that mentality when you’re the senior leadership of a very large firm makes it clear that this is a scary time, but we’re going to get through it together and we’re going to continue to make progress. I think that gives people a little bit of comfort that we’re going to find our way out of stuff like this.
This is first and foremost a health and humanitarian crisis. And none of us had really ever seen anything like this—the market went from peak to trough in 23 trading days. GDP went down 10% in two quarters. In the global financial crisis, it went down less than 4% in four quarters. So in half the time, more than double the decline. The reason why this felt crazy and kind of incredible is because it really was.
GDP went down 10% in two quarters. In the global financial crisis, it went down less than 4% in four quarters. So in half the time, more than double the decline. The reason why this felt crazy and kind of incredible is because it really was.
The one benefit, though, was that the financial system could be a mechanism for recovery. In the financial crisis, the financial system was the center of the crisis. But in this one, it wasn’t. So that’s why Goldman Sachs and institutions like ours—big and small—had to really bind together to really help.
We did four things. One, we had to provide liquidity. In our business, we’re market makers. We help people who need to sell things and people who need to buy things. In the height of the pandemic, we were running at double market volumes with all of our traders at home. No one ever thought that could happen. No one thought you could trade global markets from home. And we did that at double the trading volumes.
The second thing we needed to do was get capital to people who needed it. No one ever ran models at revenue zero—those models didn’t exist. People ran downside cases, but no one ever ran revenue zero models. And that meant getting capital out to companies was really important.
We also have a consumer business, which I’m super excited to run, and that’s about every individual person. One of the things we did was roll out our customer assistance program. We were the first to do it, and that allowed people to defer payments on loans and credit cards up to six months. And that was really important. People talk about this bridge that people need from where they were to hopefully where we’re going to get to. We were part of that help in providing that bridge. I’ve listened to customer calls and how important that was to help people manage their lives.
The last thing I’ll talk about is helping our communities—we needed to get money out to small businesses. There’s so much talk about what’s going on in the small business economy. It’s actually not that easy to get money out to small businesses in an efficient way. Through our 10,000 small businesses program and our Urban Investment Group, we developed relationships with community development financial institutions. So we got almost $700 million of capital out to those small businesses. There were 15,000 of them, and they got an average loan of $45,000. About half of them were in communities that are majority underrepresented minority. These are the people who really needed capital.
All these things we were doing from home and dealing with all of our people. But I think it’s why people are excited to show up at work every day, whether they show up in their home on Zoom or in the office. These are the things that make people proud to be part of the system.
Jen: What do you think are the trends that the pandemic has accelerated in financial services, and how’s Goldman capitalizing on them?
Stephanie: One of them is the idea of having a bank on your phone. There are all these things you can do on your phone—you can order groceries, you can do holiday shopping. But it’s really hard to manage your financial life on your phone. If you looked at the numbers pre-pandemic, people were managing about 50% of their financial life on their phone. That number is now up to over 60%, and we think it’s going to keep climbing. And in an important part of the population—the part of the population that didn’t grow up managing their lives on their phone every day—we’ve seen a massive increase in online shopping. In late stage professionals, it’s over two times and in retired people it’s around two times. We look at that as a sign that that’s what’s to come in financial services. At Marcus, our consumer business, we’re trying to build the digital bank of the future—the bank on your phone. So luckily for us, it was one of those trends that we had already thought of. And now it’s just been sped up.
The other trend I’m really excited about is this idea of financial services being embedded into other ecosystems. So this idea that you don’t do financial services in one place, and then the rest of your life in another place—you want to do that together.
And we’re seeing that happen more and more. In the middle of the pandemic, we started providing loans to merchants selling on Amazon and Walmart’s platform. They’re not going to go to a bank to get a loan. But they want to sell more of their products and need to build up their inventory and want a loan. Now, they can get that directly through the ecosystem. Last week, we announced something with Stripe that allows their platform users to provide business bank accounts in their ecosystems. I want to explain this because I think it’s really important to getting to a place of sustainable economic growth and financial opportunity—leveling the playing field.
Goldman Sachs itself needed to build a system to manage our own cash. Money moves in and out of Goldman Sachs every day, we build something, and our treasurer, Beth Hammock uses it. We then took that system and provided it to other big companies—companies we serve in our investment bank. But now with the Stripe partnership, we can provide it to millions of small merchants. And that’s where I think the world is going—taking really powerful financial services products and allowing companies to access them via API so it’s available not just to the world’s biggest financial institutions, but to all the small merchants so they can do a better job of running their companies and serving their customers.
That’s where I think the world is going—taking really powerful financial services products and allowing companies to access them via API so it’s available not just to the world’s biggest financial institutions, but to all the small merchants so they can do a better job of running their companies and serving their customers.
The digital world
The pandemic has accelerated the digital adoption of everything. We’ve seen decades worth of growth over the past nine months.
Jen: It’s so interesting how the pandemic has accelerated the digital adoption of everything. We’ve seen decades worth of growth over the past nine months.
As it relates to commerce, one of the interesting things is people had always written off the idea of the ageless consumer, which is women above the ages of 50, ever shopping online. They’re shopping online in droves right now. We saw that over the Cyber Monday, Black Friday time period. Retail store traffic was down 52%, but online commerce was up significantly. All of these changes—banking on your phone, retail shopping—some people might’ve had skepticism 10 months ago, but it’s just become normal.
We’ve moved toward a world where more people are considering the world of digital, whether it’s in financial services or e-commerce. There’s even more personalized one-to-one experiences we can have in a digital world. And that’s an advantage—you can do things like one-on-one styling, virtual try-ons, sampling programs, and try before you buy—all these things that would be impossible in a physical format.
Giving access to confidence
Stephanie: Jen, one of the things you’ve always talked about is this idea of giving people access to confidence—providing more people and women in particular access to confidence. Can you talk about what that means? I think it’s an important topic.
Jen: Yeah. The initial thesis of the business was not only was the industry wasteful, but it was also undemocratic because 99% of the world is taught to aspire to a lifestyle they can’t afford—that would be very financially unwise for them to actually purchase. So giving people access to wear what they want whenever they want is fundamentally about confidence because we derive so much of our confidence via how we express ourselves. And fashion is one of the key ways that we express ourselves to the world. So it’s essentially enabling everyone to access self-expression. And for that self-expression to change over time.
The thing about buying clothes or buying any physical good is you’re fundamentally connected to it forever. You’re making a lifelong investment decision in this top. And that just feels very archaic—to have to decide and make a lifelong commitment to every single article of clothing that you bought. Having the freedom to have things on rotation, to not need to commit to something forever is actually giving yourself freedom to change as your life stage changes, as your mood changes. You wake up in the morning and you’re like, who do I want to be today? That is what the vision has always been for bringing an unlimited closet into the cloud.
Equal benefits for everyone
People’s benefits should be the same.
Stephanie: One thing I’ve always loved about your business is the clarity of the mission and how it goes all the way down the organization and to everything that you do. Can you talk a little bit about your equalization of benefits? I thought that was a really important moment—not just for Rent the Runway, but also for the business community. How did you come to that conclusion, and what has it meant for you and your employees?
Jen: A few years ago, I started thinking about inconsistencies in how companies across the country pay and treat their hourly employees. Rent the Runway is a very logistically intensive business. While we have a huge team of data scientists, engineers, and marketers, the majority of our workforce is an hourly population that works in a warehouse—cleaning clothes, steaming clothes, shipping out clothes, etc.
We have a system in this country where salaried employees often get not only much higher wages, but often much more generous benefits that provide them with security in their life and also provide them with flexibility. So, whereas I believe engineers should make more money than warehouse workers, we already made that distinction based on salary. People’s benefits should actually be the same.
So we made this dramatic change in 2018 to equalize access to paid family and sick leave, sabbatical policies, bereavement leave, and health care policies amongst our hourly and salaried employees. This meant if our salaried employees were receiving four months of paid parental leave, every individual in our warehouse would receive that too. If our salaried employees were receiving a month of bereavement leave if a close family member passed away, everyone in our warehouse would get that too.
If our salaried employees were receiving four months of paid parental leave, every individual in our warehouse would receive that too. If our salaried employees were receiving a month of bereavement leave if a close family member passed away, everyone in our warehouse would get that too.
I thought the incremental costs of providing these benefits to our hourly employees would be saved in increased loyalty rates and increased productivity because you now have more loyal employees—typically the issue within a warehouse is turnover. That proved itself out throughout 2019—this was an incredibly important benefit, both from a moral perspective and a financial perspective for the company. Coming into 2020, no one could have imagined how important those equalized benefits would have become.
We have real moral issues to grapple with when it comes to the hourly employee base in this country. How they’re one step away from real financial devastation. We saw that come to bear over the last nine or 10 months. There’s no true security or real benefits. And there’s clearly not a social safety net from a government perspective. So I’m really happy we made these moves prior to the pandemic, because I think it created a lot more health, safety, and financial security for our hourly employees during this time.
Ramping back up after COVID
Steph: Let’s look to the future. What do you think will be the hardest thing to do as you try to ramp the business back up—when there’s a vaccine and life starts to look a little bit more normal in 2021?
Jen: We’re entering into one of the most exciting periods in our company’s history, where we’ve had to go from 100 to 0 over the past nine months and now we have to go from 0 to 150.
We’re entering a world where our value proposition has never been more relevant. People are going to want to show up in the world wearing clothes. This is a massive challenge. It’s easier to solve on the marketing front. On the inventory front, it’s hard to solve as it relates to logistics.
We’ve made changes this year to customer service so we can ramp much quicker, but what’s hard for any business leader is uncertainty. And here we have uncertainty around when a vaccine is going to happen and the intensity and speed at which it’ll happen. Is there going to be one day in May where everyone leaves their homes and has a celebration in the street? Or is that going to happen more gradually? Creating our budget for this year and our plans has been one of the most challenging mental gymnastics exercises we’ve ever been through.
So we’re trying to plan for what we think will be a massive ramp in the back half of the year. And I feel confident we’ll be able to capture all of that demand.
Lessons from 2020
Ruthless prioritization and simplicity is key.
Steph: If you take away one leadership lesson from this time that you absolutely want to make sure we don’t forget when we get to 2021, what is it? What is the one thing you just don’t want to forget when you get to the other side?
Jen: Ruthless prioritization and simplicity is key. The pandemic forced us to basically remove as many things from our plate and from our focus as possible and only focus on the most important things. And by nature of doing that, we not only have done those things, but we’ve done them brilliantly.
I think that often when you’re in growth mode, it’s all about how much you can add to the plate. As a leader, I’m going to be focused on what my number one goal in the future is going to be, which is simplification—how do we edit as much as possible so that as the organization gets bigger, we actually get more simplified and more edited in what we work on.
Launch with GS
Inclusion and diversity is imperative. 85% of venture capital dollars go to all-male founded teams. 99% go to all-white teams
Jen: One of the big things you have always advocated for is equity. During your tenure as chief strategy officer, you started Launch with Goldman Sachs and you’ve architected its growth over the past few years. Can you talk about the origins of this initiative and what you’ve learned through Launch with GS?
Stephanie: It’s definitely one of the things I’m most proud of in terms of what we’ve done during my time as chief strategy officer with a really amazing team. Our view is that inclusion and diversity is imperative. It’s the only way for us to build a leading business. What we noticed was that diverse and inclusive teams outperform. We also noticed that there was this big gap—85% of venture capital dollars go to all-male founded teams. 99% go to all-white teams. If you look at those numbers, they’re obviously not equitable. On top of that, if you have diverse people on your team, you’re going to get diverse perspectives and are going to outperform.
So we said this is a business initiative. This is an investment initiative. This is an alpha investing initiative. And we want to invest behind it. But in addition to investing behind it, we actually want to close the gap. So in addition to saying we’re investors, we invest for a living, we’re going to invest behind it, we also said we’re going to do things to close the gap.
We decided to do three things: invest directly in companies, invest with clients behind managers who are diverse, and build an ecosystem around it. And it was important that we did all of those things because the first one was going to deliver outsized returns. And the second one would deliver outsized returns. But only if you do all three can you actually close the gap because you have to invest in companies, but we don’t have enough capital and no one has enough capital to close that gap.
We have to get money into the hands of diverse managers because they themselves will get money into the hands of diverse founders and diverse teams. And then we have to build this ecosystem because one of the things people try to say is there’s a pipeline issue. There’s not a pipeline issue. There’s a network issue. We’re not all in the same network, so people don’t have the same access to capital. If you get a warm introduction, you’re something like 13x more likely to get funding. We need to get the right people to get those warm introductions. So it’s something we’re super excited about. We committed $500 million, and we’ve invested around $400 million. And we’re just getting started.
We have to get money into the hands of diverse managers because they themselves will get money into the hands of diverse founders and diverse teams.
Listening to customers
Jen: Now that you’re moving to co-head consumer wealth at Goldman, what is leading that business going to entail? And what are you excited about as you transition over?
Stephanie: I’m on my listening tour—I’m learning what that is going to entail. And that is the most fun part of what I’m going to do because this is an entire segment focused on individuals. We’re going to help individuals manage their financial lives across the wealth spectrum. Some of it is advisor led, and some of it is digital led.
The thing I love about it is that it’s all about people. The ultimate end customer is a person. There may be a lot of technology and code in between, but it’s ultimately about people. And so I’m really excited about getting to know the people inside of Goldman Sachs who run the business, but I’m really excited about getting to know our clients, and I’ve started to do that. I’ve started to spend time with clients. I’ve gotten a bunch of feedback, and it’s so fun to hear what we can do in terms of making people’s lives better.
If you think about our wealth management business, which is really a person to person relationship business, the stories I hear about how we’ve helped people and their children achieve their goals is really exciting. I love that it’s my job to sit and listen to people who are calling into our centers and talking about ways we can help them and the issues they have.
It makes me excited and optimistic that if we put all of the smarts together—our smarts and the people that we’re able to partner with outside of Goldman Sachs—we can really change the way people experience financial services. So I couldn’t be more excited. Goldman Sachs has lots of great businesses, but I’m biased… this is the most fun one.
Diversity and inclusion
Jen: You’ve always made it a priority to think about equity when you build teams and cultures. Because of you, Goldman and all of the businesses you touch are going to become more diverse and inclusive. Can you talk about how you think about that and how you ensure women and people of color have an equal seat at the table?
Stephanie: Yeah, I think it’s really important. When it was first announced that Tucker and I would run this business together, we started talking about it immediately—how is the organization organized and who are the key leaders? I think it’s really important that you do this from the beginning. It’s obviously about the leadership, but it’s also about the people you put into those key positions—how they think about it, how they approach their teams, and how they approach this idea of diversity and inclusion. We’ve thought about it from the very beginning, and I’m certain we will make mistakes. But we recently announced our team and we’re really proud of it.
So we’re going to care about diversity and inclusion inside of Goldman Sachs, and we’re also gonna care about it outside of Goldman Sachs—who are our clients and how are we servicing them and are we talking to them. Part of the reason why it’s so hard for people to manage their financial lives is because I don’t think financial services companies have always done a perfect job of talking to people and meeting people where they are—meeting people where they want to experience it. That’s one of the major areas that we’re going to focus on.
You’re only great at something that you love. Don’t waste your time just being on the track.
Stephanie: What’s one fact people don’t know about you?
Jen: I’m an amazing karaoke participant.
Stephanie: Oh, good. I can dance. I can’t sing. What’s your favorite thing that’s happened in quarantine?
Jen: It’s the first time in my life I’ve been able to have dinner with my kids every night. Last night was the first time I met my co-founder for dinner. And I left the house and my three-year-old started hysterically crying. Nine months ago I wasn’t home for dinner half the time. So this has completely been the best thing that’s happened to my personal life.
Stephanie: What’s one piece of advice you got early in your career that you’d love for other people to know?
Jen: You’re only great at something that you love. Don’t waste your time just being on the track.
Ok some for you: what is your favorite podcast?
Stephanie: Invest like the best.
Jen: Your COVID guilty pleasure?
Stephanie: Well, I’m really not a cook. But I’ve started to do a little bit of cooking. My kids call me Shef-anie. I’ve allowed the Shef-anie cook to be a baker every once in a while. And I’ll eat the baked goods if we cook them.
Jen: Okay. Last one: the thing you’re most excited to do in 2021?
Stephanie: Get on an airplane, go on vacation, and not have it be a whole logistical experience. I’m excited to not have to remember all the things you have to remember to keep people safe. It’s really important right now, but hopefully we’ll move beyond that and we’ll be able to just get on an airplane and land in another place.