My "Competitive Spirit" Led to My Progress
By Ana Duarte-Mccarthy, Chief Diversity Officer, Citi March 12, 2015 12:00 PM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Ana Duarte McCarthy, Chief Diversity Officer at Citi, shares her story about the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
I like to win—I like the adrenaline rush, the excitement – the pure joy that comes with winning. Is it that I was a middle child seeking attention? I’m not sure. I know that I have always been happiest when playing on a team—starting with the Banana Splits girls’ recreation basketball team as a kid, and later playing high school varsity basketball on the Oak Knoll Bombers in New Jersey. I loved when my team’s work and skills all came together. The thrill was especially potent if the game was close, and we won at the buzzer. My parents were very happy to support my participation in sports. Mom would pack the team in her big Ford LTD station wagon, ferrying us around New Jersey, and dad would leave work early to come watch us play – which was unusual for a father to do in the 1970s.
Through competition and tasting the win, I learned that practice matters. I am not a natural athlete. I had to practice endlessly to become a solid shooter, develop a winning serve, play strong defense. I quickly learned that if I didn’t practice, my performance suffered. Later, in my career, this same devotion to practice continued. If facing a key presentation, meeting with a client or partner – you must be prepared.
I also learned the importance of teamwork. Just like my years as a Bomber, four decades later I still love being on a team of people excited about working towards a common goal, celebrating successes and having each others’ backs. There is nothing like it.
My early years as an athlete taught me another critical lesson: You will lose. And sometimes you lose hard. As someone once told me: “When you fall, you get up.” But getting up is not enough. You must examine why you fell. In a work environment, this means taking responsibility for what you could have done differently – and what you will change going forward.
My path has not been without its bumps. Over the years I’ve made the observation — one that is substantiated by research — that in the workplace, the desire to win is sometimes less valued in women than men. Women who express their desire to win may experience being in a double bind as research finds that competition is generally equated with male qualities whereas women are associated with communal qualities such as the compassionate treatment of others, being especially affectionate, friendly, kind and sympathetic.
These days my actual sports involvement is restricted to weekend activities. The satisfaction of teamwork and team wins are part of my life at Citi. In October, the Citi Pride Employee Network was named the Employee Network of the year by our partner, Out and Equal Workplace Advocates. Just like winning a high school basketball game at the buzzer, everyone from Citi ran up to the stage when the award was announced. The event organizers had told us that if we won only one person could go up, and we replied: “Not happening—we are Citi, and we are a team!” It was a wonderful moment, and a reminder that setting goals and the hard work of a committed team can ultimately lead to success. For me, that’s what winning is all about.