When I started working on Wall Street about 30 years ago, the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was practically nonexistent. Throughout my career, I’ve made it my mission to do my part to diversify the financial sector and take DEI from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘business imperative’ – because it is foundational to doing business and directly impacts a company’s financial success.
For DEI to thrive, it must be woven into the fabric of the way a company does business; it requires a data and business driven strategy to drive growth and progress. To achieve that, a company’s goals must be transparent and measurable, and the company must hold themselves accountable to achieve those goals. These efforts must be led with intention, empathy and authenticity to truly foster inclusive environments.
Here are some key tips for making DEI a core part of your business:
Don’t Shy Away from the Data: Companies need to be transparent about where there are opportunities for improvement across their talent and diversity programs. I often say, “what gets measured gets achieved.” At Citi, we have publicly disclosed our pay gap since 2017 and set representation goals since 2018; the first and only major Wall St. bank to do so at that time. Recently, we expanded those representation and recruiting goals to new markets and additional underrepresented groups, which allow us to globalize our DEI efforts even more. It is important the goals are set at all levels of your company because diversity attracts diversity. For instance, we’re the first major Wall Street bank to set LGBTQ+ goals for recruitment, and we have a goal for Black and Pardo talent in Brazil. The macro-demographics of our world continue to evolve, so it’s important DEI efforts evolve as well.
Engage Across All Dimensions of Diversity: The various elements of a person’s identity do not operate in a vacuum independently, and it’s the combination of these identities and traits – including ability, sexual orientation, race, gender identity, generation, military experience and socioeconomic status –that create unique lived experiences for each person. This is the essence of what we call intersectionality in DEI, and it’s important companies empower and celebrate all aspects of their employees’ identities so their employees can show up as their authentic selves to work.
Rethink the Way You Do Business: Implementing DEI within your business does not stop at your workforce. It should include who you do business with, invest in and raise capital with. For instance, as part of our Action for Racial Equity initiative, we created our Diverse Financial Institutions Group – a dedicated team within the company to expand firmwide engagement with diverse financial institutions, like minority depository institutions and diverse broker dealers. By helping these institutions grow and scale, they in turn can invest in their local communities by supporting small businesses, providing access to loans, funding startup companies, and more. Rethinking business strategy also means meeting your customers where they are, which is why we also created a centralized Financial Inclusion and Racial Equity (FI&RE) team within U.S. Personal Banking – a team formed to understand how to provide our customers equity, education and access to affordable financial solutions, products and services. Supporting our local economies at many levels, then fuels more financial success. A win for us all.
Tap Diversity as a Source for Innovation: Celebrating diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and ideas leads to more creativity and more business opportunities. Our $500 million Citi Impact Fund, which is focused on social impact investing, is primarily focused on providing access to capital to women and diverse entrepreneurs. We use Citi’s own funds to support unique startups that are addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, like climate change, homelessness, healthcare and more. By creating a fund like this in house, we not only empower our teams to think differently about how they can make an impact in the communities we serve, but in turn we’re supporting diverse entrepreneurs in scaling their idea to tackle a tough problem in the market.
Our workplaces should reflect the changing macro demographics we’re seeing in our world today, but the lens and impact of DEI shouldn’t be limited to creating a diverse workforce. The steps Citi has taken to embed equity in all that we do can be replicated not only by other financial institutions, but across all sectors. It’s been a long and challenging road for DEI, but I’m encouraged by the work that’s being done and excited for what’s ahead.