Dina Powell Before Goldman Sachs Bio
Prior to entering the private business sector, Dina has worked extensively with the public service sector, spending 15 years at the White House and the State Department. She was often described by her fellow public servants as ‘dedicated’ and ‘honest,’ genuinely serving the interests of the people.
Dina’s amazing intellect and political skills were further exposed after the devastating 9/11 attacks, when the United States government decided to put the Middle East into greater focus—Dina became the Deputy Undersecretary of State and Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, then later on moved to work as the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Many of Dina’s colleagues and superiors praise her highly for her beauty, confidence, competence, and amazing speaking abilities. She is a very diplomatic person, and is always able to draw the attention of any listener. More than once, her superior officers have spoken highly of her. In fact, during an interview with Andrew Card, a former White House chief of staff, he said of Dina:
“She is extremely attractive, very competent, well spoken, young, she's got quiet confidence and she is task-oriented. In other words, she gets the job done.”
Carlos Gutierrez, a former chief executive officer of Kellogg’s, who became the secretary of commerce by Dina’s suggestion, said of her:
“In a nutshell, Dina Powell is probably one of the most talented people I've ever met in my life.”
Goldman Sachs Legacy: 10,000 Women initiative and Goldman Sachs Gives
While all of Dina’s accomplishments would have enabled her to further her political career, she chose to give it up for the sake of what she wants to do most—help her fellow women in need. Dina is one of the advocates of the Goldman Sachs Foundation’s “10,000 Women project,” an initiative that seeks to help women around the world by giving them business and management education to empower them to start their own careers in the business sector.
Dina is also the president of the “Goldman Sachs Gives,” a firm-donor fund that centers on making jobs and growing the economy, building and strengthening communities, increasing educational opportunities, and honoring workers and veterans for their services.
Dina on Making Corrections
It is amazing that with such a diverse career background, Dina has been able to easily adapt to the changing work environments; this can be attributed to her open-mindedness, which has always helped her cope with the demands of whatever work she was tasked to do. In an interview made with her, Dina stated:
“One of the things I often say is be careful not to overplan your life. Because the less you are open to opportunities as they come along, the less you have the advantage of a diversity of experience.”
This perspective has also enabled Dina to be open to both sides of any argument, which has served her greatly in her work at Goldman Sachs. Having spent time in both the private and public sectors, Dina has been able to balance her decision making to benefit both sides. She often states:
“I think having experience in both is key; when I think of the many opportunities we have now to work together to solve problems—I think it’s vital to understand how the other side works.”
In short, Dina does not mind taking risks by doing trial and error. Once something doesn’t work, she simply tries another option and corrects what needs to be set straight. She’s mastered the art of balancing and decisive judgment call.
Dina Born in Egypt
It should not surprise anyone to ponder upon how Dina could have so much skill in public service—it is in her blood. Her father, Onsi Habib, was a middle ranking military officer (a captain in the Egyptian army) in Egypt, while her mother, Hoda Soliman, was a public servant who received her degree from the American University in Cairo.
While both Onsi and Hoda came from differing backgrounds, they had something in common—their belief in the American dream. Back in the 1970s, Egypt was in quite a tumultuous situation due to the public unrest over the leadership of Anwar Sadat, who was the reigning president of the country that time.
When Onsi and Hoda met sometime in 1972, their common goal brought them close to each other. Eventually, they fell in love and got married. A year later, in 1973, while living in Cairo, Hoda gave birth to a daughter, which they both named Dina.
Dina spent some of her growing up years in Egypt with her sister. Due to Egypt being predominantly Muslim, women there were given little importance by men. Women were often seen as second class, and some were even abused. However, it was a different story for Dina.
Although her father Onsi was a military officer, he did not treat his family the same way his fellow Egyptian men treated theirs. In fact, Dina’s parents gave her and her sister much love and care, something that Dina would come to appreciate as she grew up. Dina’s parents were Coptic Christians who were firmly rooted in the Christian faith.
In Search of the American Dream
For a long time, both Onsi and Hoda have always looked up to the American culture and way of life, and have done their best to adopt the culture to their family. It was not that easy to do, as there was an atmosphere of hatred towards Western culture among their fellow countrymen. However, when the opportunity presented itself in the late seventies, Dina and her family did not spare any moment and left the country for the United States. In an interview made with Dina many years later, she stated:
“My parents believed in the American dream and they wanted their daughters to have every opportunity.”
Through their guidance and wisdom, Dina’s parents instilled in her the desire to adapt to the American culture and way of life. Whenever they would talk to their daughters, both Onsi and Hoda would relate how coming to the United States was a great opportunity for them to start afresh, and live the ideal life that any person would want to live—free. This is what Dina herself stated in a speech she made during a political meeting with the Arab leaders years later:
“I believe my story is a classic American one; as everyone in the United States, but the native Americans, is either an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants, so I believe my story helps to explain why the Unites States is a country that is brimming with hope and idealism for at its core is the belief that every individual deserves an opportunity to reach their dreams. My story provides the perfect example.”
And it really was classic, considering how Dina would come to love the country that she found herself in many years later.
Upon their arrival in the United States in 1977, the Habib family settled at the bustling city of Dallas, Texas, where Osni started working as a bus driver, and later on opened his own convenience store. It was a marvelous experience, as their dream to live in the country of the free finally came to pass. From that time on, Dina would spend the rest of her life in the United States.
And while Onsi and Hoda nurtured and exposed their children to American values and culture, they never forgot to instill in their children the value of knowing their heritage. So even though they were already living in an American community, the Habib family did not stop speaking Arabic at home and kept on talking about their cultural traditions. They would often remind both Dina and her sister to never let themselves forget their roots, telling them how one would never fully appreciate who they are in the present without knowing where they came from.
An Egyptian in America
Dina was enrolled at a local school in her neighborhood. It was quite an adventure for her and her sister, as during their first time in school they felt quite awkward, not speaking English and wearing clothes that were not ‘in keeping’ with the then-current American fashion. And while their schoolmates brought food such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school for their breaks, Dina and her sister would bring mousakka (a traditional Egyptian snack which was made of cooked aubergine) and waraa einab (composed of stuffed vine leaves).
Because of their difference, it was not unusual for Dina and her sister to have some people who jeered and discriminated them. Fortunately though, Dina found a lot of friends who accepted her for who she was. Interestingly, even though she grew up being surrounded by a lot of white people, she found them to be caring and accepting, as contrary to the common fear in the East that most of the Americans were racists. Eventually, through the friendships that she made, Dina became more comfortable adapting to the culture, while not forgetting her roots.
Dina’s Academic Excellence
Even in her younger years, Dina was already an excellent student. She was often praised by her teachers and mentors for her amazing intellect and ability to quickly cope with her lessons. She stood among the best students of the school and always received high remarks.
Dina was also very attractive and had a charming personality; in fact, during her high school years, Dina had a lot of friends and would often come across suitors who were stunned by her amazing intellect and beauty. In some of the interviews made with Dina many years later, she would jokingly recall how she sometimes got in trouble with her father because of the boys who would try to ask her out on a date.
Because both her parents worked in the government when they were still in Egypt, it became most likely for Dina to enter the world of politics. Even at a young age, Dina was already intrigued by the workings of the political world, and would often talk to her father about it. As she grew up, Dina became more interested with how politics worked, and even at school, had quite an influence over political affairs.
Upon her graduation from high school, Dina entered the University of Texas to study humanities. She was among the most excellent students of her class, and her interest in politics got her the attention of a then-prominent Texas state senator, who appointed Dina as a full time policy assistant. Back then, Dina was very impressed with George W. Bush (the son of the forty-first president George H.W. Bush), who was then running for state senator. Dina graduated from the University of Texas with honors and earned her bachelor’s degree.
Working for the Government of the United States
Dina’s excellent work as a policy assistant, as well as her high marks in school, got the attention of Dick Armey (who was back then the majority leader of the House of Representatives), a senior member of the United States congress, who invited Dina to work with him as his liaison to the more than 200 members of the House of Representatives. She then moved from Dallas to Washington, D.C. to be able to work with the Representative.
Under Dick’s mentorship, Dina was able to build her political career and be exposed to the workings of the United States politics. Dick spared no time in teaching Dina everything he knew about public service, which Dina eagerly took all in.
In 1999, Dina was offered a post at the Republican National Committee as the director of congressional affairs. With Dick Armey’s blessing, Dina left his entourage and accepted the offer for the new position, right around the same time when George W. Bush announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Being a firm supporter of Bush, Dina spared no time in helping his candidacy in 2000 through her work in the Republican Party.
Dina Becomes Special Assistant to the President
Her outstanding contribution to the Bush campaign did not go unnoticed, and the day after the presidential elections, Dina received a call from one of Bush’s closest advisors, asking her to join the transition team that was being formed to prepare the handover of power.
Upon the inauguration of President Bush, Dina was among those who devoted her efforts in helping establish the new seat of government. It was no easy task, as the coming of the new president meant the appointment of 4,000 political appointees, but Dina took her time in lending her aid in the picking.
Her efforts impressed many of her superiors, including Clay Johnson III, who was the White House personnel director during that time. He offered Dina a position to become the Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director, which she readily accepted.
During her tenure as a special assistant, Dina worked tirelessly in assisting Clay in making policies for the White House committees. In a speech she made during a visit to the Arab nations, she said of her job:
“My team in the White House is responsible for identifying, interviewing, vetting and recommending to the president candidates for the aforementioned political appointments, which are ambassadors, cabinet members and commissioners.”
The 9/11 Attacks
Dina was Clay’s number one pick to replace him and made Dina his deputy. After the devastating 9/11 attacks in New York City, Dina found herself in the spotlight, being appointed Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel in 2003, after Clay moved on to work in the White House budget office. She recalled in an interview:
“After 9/11, when our relationship with the Middle East came into greater focus, the ability to understand the culture and the language gave me the opportunity to play a more meaningful role.”
In 2004, Dina participated in a one-week visit by the United States officials to Egypt to discuss the significance of Egypt’s role in starting a change in the Middle East. This was a good experience for Dina, who took the opportunity of exploring her birth nation. She said in the meeting:
“Egypt is a leader in the region on many key issues. Egypt has shown the way to peace. And as an Egyptian-American I know you will also lead the region in history, in culture, in civil society. Thus there is great appreciation of Egypt's role as a special friend of the United States, and great expectations, too.”
Dina’s diplomatic nature and excellence in speech has enabled her to become a key figure in keeping the diplomatic ties between the United States and some Arab nations like Egypt.
In 2005, President Bush personally nominated Dina to become the new Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs under Karen Hughes, as a result of seeing her amazing work in the White House office. After a unanimous vote, Dina was confirmed by the Senate and was also designated as the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to Karen Hughes. Her position in the State Department enabled Dina to further work on the diplomatic relationships of the United States and the Arab countries.
As dedicated as Dina was in her work with the United States government, she somehow felt in herself that she was not yet doing enough. One of things that Dina felt very strongly about when she worked as the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs was her work with women not just from the United States, but from different parts of the world as well. In an interview made with her regarding her work with women, she stated:
“I’ve had the privilege of working with so many women around the world and it’s given me so much faith in women. Women in many parts of the world – Afghanistan, India, Egypt – are faced with so many challenges. Yet they are determined to do everything they can to invest in their communities and their children. When we give women the chance to reach their full potential, it makes a huge difference.”
Understanding the value of women in society enabled Dina to focus her efforts in helping them, no matter what country they may be from. And since her work in the State Department was general in terms of scope, Dina was in a way hindered from doing what she wanted to do most.
Commencing Contact with Goldman Sachs
And so, in 2007, Dina started to shift from public service and politics and entered the world of the private sector. In May of that year, she announced her resignation from her position as the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs in the State Department to work as the Director of Global Corporate Engagement for the Goldman Sachs Group, an investment firm. When she was interviewed as to why she chose to work with Goldman Sachs, Dina stated:
“I had long admired Goldman Sachs, and the firm’s work in corporate engagement. But I was especially struck by the interest in women in the economy globally. Empowering women leads to GDP growth around the world and a boost to local economies. And it has a major impact in ensuring communities around the world are more peaceful.”
The Goldman Sachs Foundation and the Goldman Sachs Gives
Dina’s work with the Goldman Sachs Group as its managing director enabled her to oversee the foundation’s projects such as the 10,000 Women project, a five–year initiative that offered business and management education to women entrepreneurs around the world; and 10,000 Small Businesses project, an effort that provided undeserved small business owners in the country with access to capital, business education, and mentors and networks.
Under her leadership, the Goldman Sachs Foundation placed a heavy emphasis on mentorship and networking, as Dina believed having a good mentor brings great success into someone’s life. She stated:
“There are a number of things that I’ve learned during my career, like the importance of having a mentor and networking. The impact that a good mentor has on someone is really invaluable.”
In 2010, the Goldman Sachs Group named Dina as a partner. She was also made the president of the Goldman Sachs Gives project, a firm-donor advised fund.
Remaining a Republican
All throughout her life, Dina and her family has remained Republican in their political stand. When she was asked, Dina responded with this statement:
“I grew up in a household that was very Republican, very pro-Reagan. And it's interesting how much of an impression such things have on you, even as a young child. But I think when I started to work with Republicans I realized that I agree with the views of personal empowerment, of less government involvement, of having the ability to talk about things without the government necessarily being involved. And on the economic side I'm definitely a believer that people should spend more of their money and spend it the way they think so and invest it wisely, which is being proven very well right now. After 9/11 you can imagine; the economy was heading anyway towards recession, 9/11 hugely affected the stock market, then the corporate scandals. No one thought the economy would sustain or recover. It's recovering very well, which I tell you is due to the economic policies of the president. I'm just a big believer that people, not government, should be able to make decisions for themselves.”
This is exactly why Dina strongly supported President Bush all throughout his campaign and tenure. And even when he took fire for his actions that led to the war in Iraq, Dina remained a firm supporter of the president.
Dina Featured in Town & Country Article
As her Golman Sachs' organizations and initiatives grow, her prominence in the world of philanthropy soon became known worldwide. In fact, she was featured in the Philanthropy Issue of Town & Country magazine for the difference that her 10,000 Women Initiative was making. Author Joanna Krotz wrote an article featuring Dina Powell and her work at Goldman Sachs.
Dina Becomes a Powell
Dina’s personal life can be described as successful just as her career is. She is married to Richard Powell, who is chief operating officer for the Burson-Marsteller company. Dina met Richard sometime after she graduated from college. After building a friendly relationship, the couple fell in love and eventually got married.
Dina bore Richard two daughters, whom she states she is really proud of. Just like her experience with her parents, Dina never forgets to spend quality time with her daughters, always making sure that she puts them first before her job. She says:
“For women, you’re your daughters’ first role model and that’s a huge privilege. It’s the most important part of my job.”
Dina Powell's YouTube Videos
Not only was Dina a favorite subject of writers. Her speaking engagements were also uploaded on YouTube where those interested to learn more about her crusade could hear her speak on the subjects closest to her heart. She's a delight to watch, being pretty and all. In this video for instance, Dina speaks about meeting the needs of children victimized by child trafficking during a symposium at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. If you want to listen to her talk about philanthropy, you may watch this video.
- 1999-2001: Director of Congressional Affairs, United States Republican National Committee
- 2001-2003: Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director
- 2003-2005: Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel
- 2005-2007: Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Goldman Sachs Foundation
- 10,000 Women
- Acumen Fund
- Camfed International
- Clinton Global Initiative
- Half the Sky Movement
- Women for Women International
- Women’s Campaign International
- Room to Read
- National Entrepreneurship Network
- Center for Global Development
- George W. Bush Institute
- International Center for Research on Women
- International Women’s Media Foundation
- CHF International
- Africa America Institute
- Global Health Corps
- Programs for the Americas
- United States Department of State
- The Republican Party
- Indego Africa
- Global Business School Network
Awards and Achievements
- 2011: Received the Excellence Award in Corporate Philanthropy (Goldman Sachs Foundation)