August 02, 2011 01:29 PM
By Sophia Stewart, Institutional Clients Group, Citi
Citi recently hosted "Pride in Citi", a panel discussion and networking event for LGBT undergraduate and graduate students at the company's markets and banking division, headquartered in downtown New York City. Suni Harford, ICG Regional Head of Markets for North America, kicked off the panel by emphasizing Citi's commitment to all forms of diversity. "Diversity in our employee talent pool at Citi is a business imperative given the diversity of our clients, the diversity of our products, the diversity of the geographic regions in which we work, and the diversity inherent in the communities in which we serve," she said to the over 50 students in attendance, comprising mainly interns at Citi and other firms on Wall Street.
Citi strives to foster an environment that promotes an employee's ability to contribute to corporate and business objectives regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We're proud that this commitment to diversity and inclusion as an integral part of everyday business practice has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign, which has awarded Citi a 100% rating in its Corporate Equality Index every year since 2004.
Panel speakers anecdotally relayed stories of Citi's commitment to providing a safe space for those employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Wes Walraven, Co-Head, Global Industrials Group, Investment Banking, shared that in all his years as an investment banker with Citi, he has never tried to hide his sexuality as a gay man, and that it has been a nonissue for his colleagues and the company. "My partner has always been a part of my benefits plan and the firm helped us with our relocation back to New York from the West Coast," he said.
When asked at the end of the discussion what she wanted the biggest take away from the event to be, Lisa Davis, Co-Chair of the Citi Pride Network NYC and Global Transaction Services Project Manager, stated, "My hope is that the students walk away understanding the importance of a company's commitment to diversity, not just from a business profitability perspective, but just as a good business practice, [and that] whatever my affinity is, it will be important to the firm."
Kartik Arora, a Citi summer intern, shared his thoughts on Citi hosting such an event. "It's great to have allies. If I'm here 12 hours a day, I want to be able to be comfortable with who I am and know that the company I work for is comfortable with that as well," Arora said. Meikel Mokry, another Citi summer intern, genuinely enjoyed the panel discussion, saying, "I like that Citi is making a united effort to create a supportive environment. I consider myself an ally and I definitely see building an ally-base as a positive for the firm. It will make Citi an even better place, employees more comfortable and ultimately result in a more efficient work environment."
Nasser Malik, Managing Director, Structured Finance, summed up the evening's sentiment best when he said, "I've been with Citi for 24 years and it's been a fantastic 24 years. Being LGBT in the workplace has been very much a non-event for me." Chad Leat, Global Banking Vice Chairman, echoed this thought with his statement, "I don't think my sexuality has had any influence on my success. I can't think of a single time in almost 30 years where my sexuality has hindered my professional development."