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PERSPECTIVES

Challenge Accepted

March 05, 2021
Peter Babej, Head of Banking

The theme of this year's International Women's Day (IWD) is "Choose to Challenge," a phrase that prompts each of us to think proactively about how we can help forge a gender equal world.

At Citi, we are proud to be marking IWD with Jane's appointment as our first female Chief Executive and the first female leader of a global bank. For a company with an over 200-year history and a mission of enabling growth and progress worldwide, this is a critical milestone.

Yes, real change is happening at last, and there are greater opportunities than ever for women to lead teams and organizations.

Another clear sign of progress is the growing consensus among business leaders that gender equality is key to delivering optimal performance and that the success of any firm depends on leadership representative of its communities and clients.

Yet to live up to our collective potential, we cannot be content with the progress to date. We need to stay focused on our long-term vision, and continually identify remaining gaps and opportunities.

In all of this, transparency is paramount, because only transparency can ensure accountability and change – which is why, three years ago, we became one of the first banks to disclose granular pay equity data.

In parallel, we implemented representation goals to increase diversity across the firm. This included a commitment to raise global female representation at assistant vice president to managing director levels to at least 40% by the end of 2021, up from 37% at the time.

The importance of this commitment was underscored by our global pay equity review in 2019. We found that, while women at Citi were compensated on average at 99% of men in equivalent roles, the raw pay gap – without adjusting for function, level or geography – told a starkly different story at just 71%.

We knew we had to do better, and we committed to change.

Our latest analysis, which we shared in January, showed that we are slowly starting to close the gap, with median pay for women at better than 74% of median pay for men. But clearly, we're nowhere close to where we want to be. To make pay equity a reality, we need to continually increase female representation at all levels of our organization

In Asia Pacific, we are fully focused on contributing to our firm's global goals. We have pushed forward with targeted recruitment including diverse slates and interview panels, investments in career development and enhanced promotion processes.

Over the past three years, our female campus hiring has ranged from 51% to 55%, and across our employee base of more than 65,000 in Asia we have achieved female representation of over 50%. These efforts are supported by 15 Women's Networks across the region, which provide mentoring and community engagement opportunities.

Yet even as we mark our progress over the past few years, the current global crisis is threatening to take us several steps back.

A 2020 study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey for U.S. corporations found that as many as two million women were considering leaving the workplace. One in three mothers felt pressure to reduce work commitments to manage childcare needs. At senior levels, women were 50% more likely than men to downshift or leave the workforce, with almost three in four pointing to burnout as a key factor. To address these concerns, organizations like ours must provide support and flexibility in line with today's reality.

And to keep moving toward full gender equality in this challenging environment, we need to redouble our efforts across the board.

We need to keep holding ourselves and each other accountable, and push forward together with focus and intensity. What better way to capture it all than this year's IWD theme – "Choose to Challenge."

As for Citi, we're all in.

This piece first appeared in The Business Times, Singapore, on March 5, 2021.

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