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Citigroup Wants More Senior Women at Its Asia Markets Unit

Updated on
  • Bank seeks an equal balance at managing director level
  • Has taken steps in Asia to encourage new mothers to stay on

Citigroup Inc. wants to achieve parity between male and female managing directors at its markets business in Asia within three to five years, joining banks worldwide in stepping up efforts to close a longstanding gender gap.

The New York-based bank has a long way to go. Though women make up about half the 60,000 Citigroup workforce across all divisions in Asia-Pacific, the regional markets business currently has a 80:20 split in favor of men at the managing director level, according to Aditi Mahadevan, the unit’s head of human resources.

The plan to move to parity within five years "not only makes us more in tune with our clients but also it has been proved to be better for performance," Mahadevan said. "It leads to better decisions and more balanced thinking."

Banks around the world are under growing pressure to improve pay and career prospects for women. The initiative in Asia follows Citigroup’s pledge earlier this year to measure, publish and take steps to close the gaps between what it pays men and women in three countries and for U.S. minorities. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said last week it aims to have women make up half its workforce in the future, starting with an even split in its class of college graduates by 2021.

Read: Citigroup Discloses Gender and Racial Pay Gaps, Plans Raises

“Citi’s targets are ambitious," said Laura Deal Lacey, the executive director of the Milken Institute in Asia. "There aren’t a lot of banks willing to make those commitments. One is more likely to reach a goal with clearly defined goals and set timelines.”

As well as promoting and hiring more women into executive roles, Citigroup hopes to achieve the gender equality target by reducing churn among new mothers. In November, it introduced a program in Hong Kong and Singapore for working mothers in the markets division, which offers longer maternity leave, flexible hours and coaching.

High Turnover

Mahadevan said turnover among new mothers was about 25 percent last year. The bank hopes its new initiatives will reduce that rate to less than 10 percent in three years, she added.

“Post maternity is a challenging period for new parents, and statistics show that this period coincides with high female attrition” in Citigroup’s markets operation, said Sue Lee, the bank’s Asia Pacific head of corporate equity derivatives and the mother of two young children.

Citigroup currently has about 130 male and female managing directors in the Asia-Pacific markets and securities business, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Mahadevan declined to comment on the figure.

Citigroup’s markets division includes the primary and secondary business in equities and fixed income, as well as sales and client trading across fixed income, commodities and currencies, and equities. Revenue in its Asia-Pacific institutional clients group, to which markets and securities services is one of the largest contributors, reached $7.1 billion in 2017, according to a company filing.

“Trading floors are hard. You have so much testosterone floating around in one particular place,” said Nick Marsh, chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based headhunting firm Meraki Executive Search & Consulting. “Whereas if you have a balance, you’ll have wholly different thought processes going in.”

(Updates with comment from Milken Institute in fifth paragraph.)
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