Citi recently hosted a two day symposium at our headquarters in New York City for 86 students currently attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The program was open to first and second year HBCU students who were selected following a rigorous application process. It was designed to provide an overview of topics such as career preparedness, entrepreneurship and personal financial management while also offering networking opportunities – not only with a wide range of Citi professionals, but also with their fellow HBCU students.
As a proud graduate of Howard University myself, I welcomed the opportunity to spend time with this diverse group of students, representing 22 different HBCUs. And I speak for all my Citi colleagues who were involved when I say that the students were impressive in their intellect, infectious with their enthusiasm and insatiable in their curiosity. Our vision for the event was to enable and empower young black leaders of tomorrow to be successful in their careers, regardless of whatever path they choose to pursue.
The sessions included an overview of the many different professional opportunities available within financial services, expert tips on public speaking and executive presence, and team building exercises designed to hone entrepreneurship skills. In addition, the students had an opportunity to spend time with a wide array Citi professionals at various stages of their careers – some of whom also attended HBCUs, but many who did not. The students spent a considerable amount of time asking the Citi employees questions about their career paths, tips for obtaining that first job after graduation, and what to do if they are unsure about which profession to pursue.
These discussions had special resonance for me because I, along with many of my peers who graduated from HBCUs, know the impact that pre-professional programs and access to mentors can have on a student. Some of the young men and women who attended had little previous awareness about the range of career options available to them. And while we certainly would like these students to come away from the symposium considering the possibility of a future with Citi, our one true goal was to provide them with helpful tools on their path to professional success without regard for industry or profession.
It is no secret that diversity in corporate America needs to improve. And that holds true, not only for financial services broadly, but right here within Citi as well. Acknowledging the need for improvement is an important first step – but what's really important is what comes next. At Citi, we recently established representation goals for black employees in the U.S. and for women globally. These goals are important in part because they will make our workforce more representative of the communities where we work and live. But a more diverse workforce has another significant impact – it drives positive business performance. At Citi, we are committed to the idea that unique individuals, collaborative teams, and inclusive leaders have far-reaching impact and are the engines of new ideas and greater success. Citi's two-day symposium with HBCU students was one part of a much broader effort across the bank as we strive to create a more diverse and equitable workforce. For example, through our CUPID program, run jointly by Campus Recruitment & Citi Ventures, we have collaborated and hosted 23 tailored events at the HBCUs including case competitions, co-teaching courses on campus, and supporting accelerator programs for black women in STEM.
The HBCU students we hosted for this event were an impressive group. And whether they eventually work for Citi (which we hope!) or not, I am proud of this step we took to champion a more inclusive workforce. Much remains to be done, but after spending two days with these amazing young men and women, I remain optimistic about the future.