Diversity Discussions with Citi Executives
By Jamie Forese, President, Citi and Head of ICG and Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Inclusive Finance and Community Development June 19, 2017 10:00 AM
From your perspective, how does diversity drive business outcomes?
JF: Any time you run a business, especially one that relies as heavily on relationships as ours does, the people you hire to represent you make a huge difference. First and foremost, we want great people working for us. We can’t limit ourselves to a subset of talented individuals because we are incapable of being an attractive workplace to diverse communities. If you want great people – the ones with the best ideas and the strongest work ethic – you cannot place limits on who you hire. What’s more, we have a diverse set of clients; and we have to be diverse as well in order to give them confidence that we can relate to them and understand their needs. We have to make our company as attractive as possible to every single part of the population to give people a reason to want to work for us and to work with us. Of course there’s the compassionate and idealistic side to wanting to have a diverse workforce, but even ignoring that, there is a strong business rationale.
You’ve been an active and visible supporter for Pride, across many roles and Citi locations globally. How has your work with Citi Pride evolved?
BA: As a gay and ‘out’ executive who has spent more than three decades working at Citi, I have held regional and global positions in Athens, Bahrain, Nairobi, London and New York; my career developed across a span of time, workplaces, countries and societies that have changed significantly for the LGBT community over the years, for the better in some countries, yet still very challenging in others. For some years, in my early career, diversity was narrowly defined and there were no diversity networks or ‘out’ senior role models for those of us who were LGBT, and few for others such as women, people of color, and other groups who were often marginally represented in finance.
I have been long active in fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, through volunteering, demonstrating and then board services, before I became aware of a newly formed Citi Pride network in New York, which I then joined as a member in 2005. The Pride networks inform, advise and advocate across the businesses, legal, government affairs and Diversity offices, to globally promote LGBT inclusion and rights at Citi and externally. As my career evolved, I remained a member of Citi Pride and eventually became the first ‘out’ business sponsor for both the London and New York Pride employee networks. Today I am co-leading the global Citi Pride Affinity with Jamie Forese.
How do you define inclusive leadership?
JF: Diversity and inclusion are two different things. Unlike diversity, you can’t define your degree of inclusiveness simply by the numbers. Anyone can look at a spreadsheet and use statistics to show their firm’s diversity. But there’s a difference between raw diversity and inclusiveness. Achieving the former is relatively straightforward – I can hire X number of people from this group or that group, put it on the sheet and credibly call my workplace diverse. But just being numerically diverse doesn’t mean you’ve created an inclusive environment. To be authentically inclusive, you need to start with a wide, diverse slate and then take concrete and deliberate steps to ensure you keep that inclusiveness intact as you move up the chain of command. To create an environment that’s both diverse and inclusive, every member of a minority or diverse group needs to feel as equal a contributor to the team as everyone else, at every level from the most junior to most senior roles.
What do you see as the challenges and opportunity for the Pride agenda at Citi?
BA: Sadly, it is still a fact that many people across the globe are afraid to be out and proud in fear of political persecution or not being able to rise in their careers. In the U.S., there are many challenges to the progress that the LGBT community has made over the last decades, at both the federal and state level. Citi can and must be a place where employees and clients are able to feel valued, supported, respected and heard, and we can be an important business advocate to secure LGBT rights, which in turn, makes the communities where we live and work more progressive and inclusive.
For many years, Citi has been a pioneer in supporting the LGBT community. Citi was a founding member of the Stonewall Global Diversity Champions Group. We were one of the first financial institutions to sign amicus briefs in the historic Supreme Court cases, U.S. v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, which led to marriage equality in the United States. We joined more than 100 other companies in public opposition to anti-Trans legislation in North Carolina. Citi sponsors and participates in a growing number of annual Pride Parades in London, New York City, Mexico City and elsewhere. We continue to work with the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations such as Out on the Street, Out & Equal and most recently with SAGE USA’s Elder Housing Initiative. In 2017, we must continue to take a stand for the gay community both externally and internally and I look forward to ensuring that Citi enables progress, mobility, and inclusion for our LGBT employees and clients.
Why do you think it is important to have the Affinity Leader role and why did you take on this role for Pride?
JF: Citi has been sponsoring diversity networks across our firm for a long time, and I’m proud of all we’ve done to support all of them. With respect to our LGBT colleagues, I feel that my direct involvement at the Affinity level can help bring further support for the community and send a message that we truly are committed to making Citi’s workplace even more comfortable. From supporting marriage equality as a signatory of the amicus brief backing the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act, to our long history of offering domestic partnership benefits to our gay and lesbian employees, Citi actively promotes a workplace that both respects and protects the rights of LGBT people. Our environment is inclusive of everyone, and we need to make certain we’re letting people know that they have the full support from our senior management team to lead their lives free from interference and with complete acceptance. Taking on this role is my way of demonstrating this support to all of our colleagues, regardless of how they identify.
BA: In order to ensure that our diversity values and goals are deeply embedded in Citi, our CEO Mike Corbat announced the Affinity structure, which is a unique model that introduces global co-leads, for key Diversity areas of focus. I am delighted to be partnering with Jamie Forese, my fellow Pride affinity co-leader. Jamie and I, in coordination with dedicated employees and network members, will contribute to establishing core goals and messages for the Citi Pride agenda in order to recruit, develop and retain LGBT talent, to ensure LGBT inclusive policies and practices at Citi, to generate awareness, engage allies, facilitate best practices sharing, and empower our employees across all markets. This is especially important for those who may be in more sensitive areas where there is less legal or community support for the LGBT population. Together, our role as affinity leads can ensure that our network members have maximum access, influence, and credibility.