Citi exceeded its 2022 goals to make leadership more diverse. A top exec explains what the firm is focused on next.
- In June 2021,
Citihired Erika Irish Brown to lead diversity and inclusionat the firm.
- Since then, Citi exceeded its goals to increase Black and female
- Brown shared what she's focused on next, including goals for teams worldwide.
Erika Irish Brown, Citi's head of diversity and inclusion, has always focused on the numbers. A former Wall Street analyst, Brown has a motto: "What gets measured gets achieved."
A little over a year into her role, after Fraser hired her in June 2021, Brown has exceeded numerical targets set for the firm and is setting new, broader goals for the coming year.
"As proud as we are of our representation goals, it's just one tool in the toolkit," Brown told Insider. "We're also continuing to drive the business case for diversity and inclusion forward, to show how it's driving commercial impact."
Citi increased the number of women in leadership to 41%, up from 37% in 2018. The firm also increased the representation of Black people in leadership roles in the US to 8.1% from 6% in 2018, per a February report.
Brown said she's committed to further gains. On Tuesday, Citi announced new goals, including to increase representation of women in leadership globally to 43.5% and the number of Black people in leadership roles in North America to 11.5%, according to data provided to Insider. The financial giant is also setting goals around increasing the number of LGBTQ+ employees and boosting the number of Hispanic workers in top roles.
"We are very focused on making sure we not only have grassroot efforts through our employee resource groups to drive inclusion in our culture, but that there's a real competency around inclusive leadership among our senior leaders," Brown said.
The financial sector is notoriously homogenous. At the entry level of US financial services firms, the percentage of people of color is in line with their representation in society — around 40%. But as you go up the corporate ladder, research shows, it falls steadily.
"I've always tried to connect the dots between racial equity, commercial, and human capital initiatives that drive the business case for diversity," she told Insider in a 2021 interview. Diversity goals, in other words, aren't separate from talent or business objectives. They're intimately connected.
There's ample evidence to support Brown's business case for diversity.
A McKinsey analysis in 2020 found that companies that had more gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have high profitability than companies with low gender diversity. Separate McKinsey research shows that companies with more racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than their respective national industry medians.
To change the status quo, leaders need to use every opportunity available to diversify their workforces, Brown said.
"We have very specific development and retention programs for mid-level Black employees as well as women," Brown said. These include active efforts to audit and close pay-equity gaps; and employee resources groups, such as Citi Women, a group for women and female-identifying employees. "We're going to continue to develop those."
Citi is also expanding partnerships it has with historically Black universities and colleges as well as Hispanic-serving institutions. While overseeing these initiatives, Brown has been meeting and listening to her colleagues, from interns to analysts to C-suite leaders, in order to learn more about the employee experience.
"It's time-consuming. My role is about understanding culture," she said. "It's about advancing diverse groups and you need those individual insights."
Having support from Fraser is key, but it's not the end-all-be-all. For Brown, diversity and inclusion isn't a one-department job; it's a company-wide priority.
"You need to have full buy-in throughout the firm," she said. "I think the more that you have an open dialogue and get that buy-in and have everybody feeling like, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion is part of my role, it's part of business, that's how we drive accountability."
This article was originally published in September 2021.
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