Inspiration Through Representation
Khadeejah Granderson-Bilal ’09 is the regional head of Regulatory Middle Office, Goldman Sachs Asset Management Operations, Goldman Sachs, Jersey City, New Jersey.
My mother has enjoyed a long career in education. Because of this, I’m privileged with the perspective she first instilled in me to always keep learning. Whenever possible, I aim to teach and learn from the perspectives of others. This lifelong commitment to learning has allowed me to share some of the skills, perspectives, relationships and experiences that have proven invaluable to me.
I interned at my firm over a decade ago and now serve as vice president, with a role in hiring. But throughout my career, I’ve had to navigate being the “only” in the room or at the table. I’ve felt the pressure to combat negative stereotypes. I’ve had the awkward conversations correcting the mispronunciation of my phonetically spelled name. At every step of the way, I’ve found it necessary to arrive honestly and authentically in every seat that I’ve occupied — because representation is critical.
But I’ve also benefited from learning from tremendous, diverse mentors and have always felt a responsibility to lift others as I’ve climbed. My experiences have offered a perspective that is important to developing more community and more equity within the finance profession for women — particularly women of color. For the past dozen years that I’ve climbed, mis-stepped and climbed again, I’ve found it refreshing and important to my own professional and personal development to see a growing number of women in leadership.
Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to learn from a new hire that she was so affected by my wearing my natural hair regularly that she shared with her family that her hiring manager is Black and wears a head wrap. Again, representation — no matter how big or small — is critical. It is important for the next generation of leaders to see that this is an organization and a career where they can not only learn and grow, but also arrive authentically.
I will always fight for increasing equity in my field as well as others. That’s why I’m a longtime supporter of the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program (STEP). I often reflect back on the program, which gave me access to environments, opportunities and perspectives I would not have had otherwise.
I was born, raised and currently live in a busy, diverse inner city. As a student, I demonstrated sufficient knowledge to be inducted into Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. But despite that knowledge, when I was invited to the induction, I was told the attire was “country club casual.” “Country club casual” is a string of words that, at the time, I’d never heard put together before — and for which, I had zero context.
Part of the reason I pledge support to STEP is because I view the program as providing soft skills and disrupting systems that have not always allowed access for people who look like me.
I am thankful for the program and its participants because through them, the program has the potential to bring more skill and more equity into the workforce by supporting diverse talent and cultivating current and future leaders.