Thursday, December 3, 2020

Sandy Davis (BBA04) needed a major change. She loved her work as a vice president in Equity Capital Markets for Goldman Sachs, but after 10 years in the role, and a full house with three children and a husband who also worked full-time in finance, she was constantly burning the candle at both ends.

“I’d go in early thinking I could get ahead and get home by a certain time, but then a last-minute trade would pop up, and my husband would be working late, and we were panic texting our babysitter begging her to stay overtime again."

"I was determined to find a solution that wasn’t stay or quit.”

Davis’ colleague, Emily Baker, was working in the San Francisco office in a similar sprint, working East Coast trading hours from the West Coast and trying to find a way to make her professional life work with the demands of small children. The two 10-year Goldman veterans knew they needed an innovative solution and teamed up to explore their options.

Job sharing was an option on the company’s human resources website but culturally it wasn’t broadly implemented. “We had heard about a couple of people in a different division who had made it work successfully, but it almost seemed like an urban legend in finance.” Eventually, Davis and Baker tracked down the myth: two Goldman employees who indeed job shared. The pair offered them advice on how to make this atypical arrangement work.

Their proposal went through several iterations. Ultimately, in addition to proposing a job share, they also proposed pivoting to a new role. They socialized the idea with a few senior partners who supported the plan, and then took the proposal to HR and negotiated it “like a prenup.”

Negotiation A-Game

Michele Williams is a negotiation expert at the Tippie College of Business. She said Davis and Baker’s approach is consistent with the Negotiations A-Game framework she developed and teaches at Iowa. They set their aspirations high in not letting corporate cultural roadblocks deter them. They analyzed their worth to the company and made a compelling case for how the job share could benefit Goldman. They did their homework before approaching HR with a fully fleshed out proposal. And, privately, both were at the point where they were willing to walk away from the industry entirely if they were not able to work out a deal.

“Sandy and Emily knew their worth to Goldman and their walk-away point,” explained Williams, assistant professor and John L. Miclot Fellow in Entrepreneurship in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship. “Because of that, they were better able to assert their interests and less tempted to make an unworkable compromise in the moment.”

The deal was sealed, and Davis and Baker have been successfully job sharing for five years now.

“We have found this has allowed us to structure our lives so much more efficiently. Doing the job share made it such that when I'm at work, I can focus on just work. It is so much more productive.”

Over time, the pair have successfully expanded their role and built out a team. The added responsibility led them to negotiate the addition of an additional day of work per week, but both acknowledge that the flex back up toward full time is a marker of success, not a move backwards.

“Ultimately, the fact that Goldman was willing to work with us saved both of our careers,” said Davis.

“Goldman was committed to keeping two senior women at the firm. We hope it sets an example for more people in the future–and that flexibility is not just a working mom thing–but a tool that anyone can use. It’s an additional way to create value for employees.”


This article first appeared in the winter 2021 issue of  Tippie Magazine as part of the feature story titled "Fearless: Tackling professional and personal challenges with the Hawkeye spirit." Read more Fearless stories here.