Citigroup unveils plan to reverse its declining diversity

Top leaders at the firm will be measured on the progress of diversity goals on their scorecard, as they are with other business priorities

Aug 22, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

By Bloomberg News

After years of scant progress on diversity measures, Citigroup Inc. has created hard targets for raising the percentages of women and African Americans in management positions by 2021, according to an internal memo from chief executive Michael Corbat.

Black employees in the U.S. will make up 8% of managers in roles from assistant vice president to managing directors within three years, up from 6% today. The bank also plans to boost the share of women in those management positions globally to 40% from 37%.

(More: InvestmentNews Diversity & Inclusion initiative)

Citigroup's top leaders will be measured on the progress of this diversity goal on their scorecard, as they are with the firm's other business priorities, according to Mr. Corbat's memo. Among those leaders to be held accountable will be the bank's 18-person operating committee, which currently includes three women and no African Americans.

"To be a healthy, high-performing organization, we need a well-balanced team that is representative of the places where we operate, in every part of the world," Mr. Corbat wrote in the memo, which was sent to employees last Thursday. "It's simply smart business."

In 2009, black employees made up about one in six employees at Citigroup. African-American workers are now down to about one in 10 workers at the firm, according to 2017 figures.

(More: Why a lack of diversity among financial planners persists)

At the highest levels, representation is even lower. Black workers at the executive and senior manager level ticked up to 1.8% in 2017, after having fallen from 2012 to 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sara Wechter, Citigroup's head of human resources and one of three women on the operating committee, said it was important to make these diversity targets around black employees because the decline in black bankers was "fundamentally a problem," she said. "We know it and we're trying to be transparent."

Citigroup isn't the only bank struggling with this issue. Black diversity has been falling at big U.S. banks in recent years. The percentage of women in executive and senior management typically hovers around 30%.

In addition to setting public goals and holding senior leaders accountable for meeting them, the bank is expanding its in-person unconscious bias workshops — designed to expose workers to deeply ingrained stereotypes they might not even know they hold. More than 80% of Citigroup employees have already participated in the existing online training.

(More: Race is hard to talk about at work — here's how to make it easier)

"We know that the results we want to see will not come overnight," the memo read. "These initial goals will ensure we quickly learn which new efforts are working and which, frankly, aren't."

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