London Recap: Changemaker Chat with Sharon Bell

We had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Sharon Bell, Managing Director and Senior European Equity Strategist at Goldman Sachs

True to Changemaker’s mantra, Sharon is a great example of “a woman on her way to changing the world”. She was the first person in her family to attend university, and after graduating with a degree in Economics from the University of Bath, Sharon went on to hold positions at HSBC and the Bank of England, followed by her most recent long and fulling tenure at Goldman Sachs. She regularly appears on Bloomberg News as a financial markets expert, providing insight on critical macroeconomic issues such as the impact of zero interest rates and political uncertainty on both sides of the pond. Sharon previously served as the co-head of Goldman Sach’s Women’s Network in EMEA, and is passionate about supporting women in finance.

The Challenge and Opportunity of Growing Responsibility
Reflecting on her journey to date, one of Sharon’s most memorable and fulfilling career experiences has been training and mentoring a large number of interns over the years. But as Sharon rose in seniority, she had to quickly learn how to run effective and high performing teams. Navigating the complexities of evolving team dynamics, diverse personalities and figuring out how to best motivate people to drive towards a collective goal has always presented a healthy challenge, and an exciting opportunity for Sharon. “As you become more senior, you tend to become more distant from the day to day dynamics of your team.” Occasionally Sharon has had to step outside her own world, removing her MD hat for a moment to really pay attention to the interpersonal dynamics taking place on her teams. Regardless of how senior you are, it is important to take the time to thoughtfully keep your finger on the pulse.

Balancing Personal Life and Work Life in a Male-Dominated Industry 
Such a small proportion of women hold senior positions in finance and so Sharon has made a point of supporting women in her male dominated industry. One of the most powerful enablers in her own journey has been has been her supportive boss. Thanks to his leadership, Sharon was afforded the flexibility and personal backing necessary to strike a good balance between work and family life, especially when her children were small. “There is no one size fits all model, every individual has to find the right balance to suit the different stages of their life.” It’s up to business leaders to provide the necessary support that will make this spectrum of balance possible. As Sharon reflects on the working world her two children will enter in the future, she is hopeful that workplaces will have a more established model for supporting employees and their families alike.

The Value of Community 
The three main communities Sharon has benefited from over the years have been the intern teams she has managed, various Women’s Networks she has been part of and helped lead and, somewhat unexpectedly, a group of mothers she met in her neighbourhood while her children were small. In different ways, each of these communities has inspired Sharon and have helped her grow during the various phases of her career and personal life. Never underestimate the value of community!

Shaping The Conversation Around Diversity & Inclusion
During her time as the co-head Goldman Sachs Women’s Network, Sharon had to figure out the best way to harness and include male allies in the important conversation. She was delighted to discover that some of the men she least suspected would be interested, ended up being the network’s fiercest supporters. Setting aside assumptions and finding creative ways to reach a broader audience was an important learning experience for Sharon. She is also finding that more and more business leaders understand the bottom line benefits that occur when women are part of teams and as they advance in seniority across a company. This perception shift is critical, not just at senior level management, but also in the mindset of junior and mid-level employees. Sharon is hopeful that conversations around diversity and inclusion that are taking place both at home and in the workplace, will shape a better world for generations to come.