From being among the first institutions to disclose pay equity data, to driving a 40% female representation goal, Aditi Mahadevan Nair, Asia Pacific Head of Talent, Learning and Diversity, Citi, tells all in this exclusive with Priya Sunil.

We are at a time where women have greater opportunities than ever before, which reinforces the importance of diversity and inclusion efforts, says Aditi Mahadevan Nair, Asia Pacific Head of Talent, Learning and Diversity, Citi. And Citi is no stranger to advocating these efforts - be it in gender and race diversity, pay equity, or pay transparency, building a diverse and inclusive culture has long been a business imperative at the bank.

Aditi shares: "At Citi, we actively seek out diverse perspectives at all levels of our organisation because we know that it will improve performance, and boost innovation as well as engagement. Over the past few years, we have elevated the conversation around race, gender and equal pay for equal work as part of our broader diversity and inclusion focus."

Pay equity, for one, is a "very important principle" at the firm, she notes. "Our ongoing focus in this area furthers our goal to be an employer of choice for candidates of diverse backgrounds, and it supports our efforts to attract and retain the best talent."

Engagement with its people throughout their careers at Citi, along with a commitment to being a company with values that they can be proud of, is also essential to the bank's success, she adds.

Overall, through its various programmes, the leadership team makes it a point to constantly innovate how it engages with, recruits and develops talent, including female talent, at the bank.

The bank also recently saw progress at the top. Aditi shares:

This year, we welcomed International Women's Day with Jane Fraser in the seat of Chief Executive Officer. With her appointment, Citi's Board is 50% female and 50% male.

She highlights: "In Asia Pacific, over half of our over 65,000 employee base are women. Within the regional leadership team, our Chief Operating Officer and CEOs of key markets including China, Hong Kong and Korea are female. The team also comprises senior women leading key functions including Legal, Compliance, and Operations & Technology."

Interview excerpts follow:

Q In 2018, Citi became one of the first institutions to disclose pay equity data, in selected regions. The following year, this was announced globally. What drove this move? Talk us through it.

We continuously evaluate market conditions to inform pay, and we conduct rigorous reviews of pay recommendations across the company as part of our annual compensation process each year.

In 2018, we decided to expand on these efforts to assess pay between women and men, as well as US minorities to non-minorities. We wanted to use data to better understand gaps in the organisation and we became the first major US bank to publicly disclose pay equity data.

As a starting point, the pay equity review covered the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. To make comparisons meaningful, we had accounted for various factors in our analysis including job function, level and geography.

We found then that women were paid on average 99% of what men were paid at Citi and we made appropriate adjustments. We also committed to doing a global pay equity review and later in the year, we announced firm-wide diversity representation goals.

Amongst these goals, we committed to global female representation of at least 40% by the end of 2021, from the assistant vice president level to the managing director level, up from 37% at the time.

In 2019, we shared results from our global pay equity review. We found that women globally were paid on average 99% of what men were paid at Citi.

However, we went one step further. We decided to be transparent about another metric – the unadjusted or raw pay gap. Based on this metric, the analysis showed that the median pay for women globally was 71% of the median pay for men.

As a measurement of the difference in median total compensation without adjusting for factors including job function, level or geography, the raw pay gap gave us a clearer picture of what we needed to address to be able to achieve pay equity.

It also reinforced the importance of the representation goals we had committed to. With greater representation of women at the mid to senior level, we would be able to improve pay equity.

Q These were such hard facts to disclose to employees. What was their reaction like – more positive, more negative, surprise, resistance? Tell us about it.

Our increased transparency, which in turns breeds accountability and credibility, is a force for change both inside and outside our company. Our colleagues recognise this.

The decision to share pay equity information sent an important signal to them, as well as clients and partners, about how we are moving in the right direction.

Broadly speaking, it was a welcome move in the industry, and our colleagues appreciated us for taking the initiative to be one of the first few banks to openly address this issue. It has also encouraged colleagues across the firm, both male and female, to get involved in advancing gender diversity efforts.

We have senior level accountability for our representation goals, advocacy programmes across our businesses to ensure we recognise and retain strong female talent and through our 15 Women's Network in the region, colleagues are actively involved in various activities including mentorship, networking and community engagement efforts.

Q You mentioned that Citi publicly committed to 40% female representation globally, from the AVP to MD levels by end of 2021. Are you on track to achieving this?

In Asia Pacific, we are making good progress to contribute to Citi's global representation goals. We have in place key initiatives to help us hire, promote and retain more diverse talent across the organisation.

Critically, our campus hiring programmes become the pipeline for assistant vice president and ab

ove talent and we see these programmes as an opportunity to help us identify, hire and mentor diverse talent for our summer analyst programme.

Globally, Citi’s 2020 summer intern class was the bank's most diverse ever, both in terms of gender and ethnicity. Over the past three years, our cohort of summer analysts as well as full-time campus hires in Asia Pacific have been roughly evenly split between males and females.

Additionally, when we hire from assistant vice president to managing director level, we remain focused on giving equal consideration to all groups for our open roles.

This means we strive to identify qualified, diverse candidates for interviews, as well as ensuring that the panel of interviewers is diverse. The key to success is ensuring we have executives lead on this from the top.

In developing and retaining female talent, our women-focused development programmes help colleagues establish their executive presence and encourage them to widen their perspective and explore opportunities across every level of the organisation.

In parallel, ongoing career conversations with high-performing female talent serve as invaluable feedback as we continue to improve the support they are given and widen the opportunities they have access to.

The 15 Women's Networks in the region help to foster connectivity with active involvement from both male and female colleagues. These networks complement efforts to advance women in the workplace through various initiatives and opportunities.

As an example, last year, the Asia Pacific Citi Women's Affinity led the launch of a Maternity Matters programme across the region, helping to retain first-time mothers.

The programme gives returning mothers access to maternity coaching and peer support, encouraging them to return to work at a time when many may reconsider doing so. Managers and expecting mothers are provided with comprehensive toolkits that help educate and sensitise them about the maternity experience.

When we promote talent, we look internally first, giving our diverse talent pool access to equally diverse opportunities.

Last year, like in 2019, around 30% of our managing director promotions in Asia Pacific were female candidates. This was up from around 21% in 2018. We have also notably increased female representation across all levels, including at the senior vice president and director levels.

Q What does it take for a banking major like Citi to be serious about DEI, and to push for It globally, especially when many institutions in Asia say they are not ready for it?

With diversity and inclusion already being critical and important priorities for the company, we had to think about how to take this focus further and in a meaningful way.

To do that, we had to first assess where we were at to determine where we wanted to be. This led Citi to adopt a data-driven approach, relying on objective information and facts to determine our next course of action.

We made the decision to disclose relevant information, set global goals, and publicly commit to them. We also made these goals a collective responsibility at Citi, driven by senior leadership across the firm.

Our hope is that by achieving these goals in the short term, we will build the foundation for a more inclusive Citi in the future.

When our global goals were first announced, we had the challenge of ensuring that they were seamlessly cascaded across the organisation. If we were serious about achieving these goals, we needed to ensure that they were understood and appreciated by all colleagues across the bank. This included communicating the importance of these goals to colleagues at different levels of the organisation, and creating a sense of ownership and accountability.

We also identified advocates and allies across our different businesses who continue to drive the diversity and inclusion agenda within their organisations.

While our engagement efforts are ongoing, we had the benefit of building on a solid foundation and we continue to work with our networks, allies, advocates and seniors in the bank to reinforce diversity and inclusion.

We are also committed to extending our efforts beyond our firm, using our financial resources, the time and talents of our people, and our corporate voice to advance progress around issues of broader diversity and inclusion globally.

Q Overall, how has diversity at Citi improved now compared to a few years ago?

We rely on data to track our ongoing progress. Since we first shared our raw pay gap in 2019, we have seen steady progress.

In 2020, we found that the median compensation for women was at better than 73% of the median for men, up from 71% in the previous year. In January of this year, this number inched higher, with the raw pay gap at better than 74% of the median compensation for men.

In addition to pay equity, we look to data to track our representation goals and the effectiveness of various diversity related programmes.

We also rely on qualitative data and insights from ongoing conversations with relevant stakeholders and colleagues across the organisation.

Regular and open conversations have made a marked difference in engagement levels, enabling us to gain valuable insights from our employee base, both male and female.

We have also strengthened our annual employee survey by adding more questions related to employees' experiences and perceptions, helping us to better understand where we need to focus for continued progress.

Q Lastly, what advice do you have for other organisations looking to take that step and push for DEI in their workforce?

First, it is necessary to secure buy-in, support and commitment from senior leaders. It is not enough for organisations to have policies in place if they are not being enacted. Tone and cadence are also important, so diversity and inclusion have to be first led from the top and then lived by all within the organisation.

Organisations where leaders actively drive diversity and inclusion stand a better chance of success.

Second, building awareness and educating employees on the importance of diversity and inclusion is imperative. Diversity and inclusion training can equip teams with practical skills to build a more inclusive workforce while providing them with an in-depth understanding of the importance of these priorities.

Whether it's learning about privilege in the workplace, or how to alleviate unconscious bias from interview panels, these are topics that are important to talk about and for everyone to be aware of.

Third, in embedding diversity and inclusion in a firm's culture, they need to involve and engage employees at all levels.

Employee network groups can provide strong support and help implement inclusion strategies. These networks are much more approachable to employees and can generate valuable ideas.

In short, it begins with making a commitment and then doing all the things necessary – assessing the situation, identifying goals and strategies, securing leadership buy-in and engaging employees – to make it happen.


Photo / Provided by Citi [Pictured: Aditi Mahadevan Nair, Asia Pacific Head of Talent, Learning and Diversity, Citi]

Human Resources Online is on Telegram! Follow us @humanresourcesonline or click here for all the latest weekly HR and manpower news from around the region.