Talent Fueller interview with Carolanne Minashi, Citi. “Talent Fueller” is our name for individuals who are working to keep, support and fuel female talent whether part of their role or ‘off the side of their desk.’
Carolanne Minashi heads up diversity, employee relations and engagement for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Citi – a role comprising around 55 countries and approximately 35,000 people. Beyond Citi having a positive, pioneering story to tell on the maternity transition front – our initial point of connection – what attracted us to profiling Carolanne is her commitment to spreading their learning externally. She says she’s recently accompanied Citi Relationship Managers to client meetings, “We’re basically trying to share our journey in diversity with the client. We’re adding value to them in a different way.”
In this piece we hear about using the ‘diverse slate’ approach to attracting more women to Citi; retaining female talent and Citi’s approach to maternity and paternity transitions. Of her role she says “I think my role is to help shape the organisation – it’s to create the policy that meets the needs of the business and creates an environment and a culture where talented people will grow and develop and thrive.”
Simplifying the gender agenda
“As far as our gender agenda is concerned, we want to see more women in senior roles. There are only three levers we can use to achieve that:
- You can hire more women than you have done in the past.
- You can promote women faster (and more women) than you have historically.
- You can lose less women.
It’s really simple and two things work in your favour: 1) the size of the opportunity that the lever presents you and 2) how hard you work at it.”
Hiring from a diverse slate
“Looking at those levers in the context of an industry in challenging times, , our opportunity to make an impact by hiring is limited. Losing less women or ‘talent keeping’ is key. But when we do have opportunities to hire at the senior level, its really important that we are attracting women. Part of our hiring strategy is a concept called ‘diverse slates’ which basically says, any senior position – director, managing director level role that is open should have a slate of candidates considered for that job, i.e. more than just one person and where possible, there should be a diverse pool. We track the appointments made and how many came from a diverse slate.
Having that metric has meant we’ve had different conversations with our hiring managers and recruiting partners to make sure they are seriously searching the available market to get diverse talent, because it matters to us. It just might mean they have to work a bit harder to find where those women are.”
Stoking the female graduate pipeline
At the junior level the challenge is helping young women at university, or even before, to think of financial services as a career option worth exploring. We’ve done a number of initiatives around creating relationships with young women at university and bringing them into our organisation for a week to see what it’s like. The important thing I’ve learnt from looking at junior talent is connecting them with senior people – women who are living the life that they may have – to start to create a relationship where they feel free to ask the women what their career has been like, how they got into it, what the pressures are.
Citi are hot on the metrics surrounding maternity and paternity transitions. Carolanne says they’re measuring pretty much everything they can measure on the diversity agenda and that the gender element is the one that can be measured most accurately. She knows:
- How many women a year in her business go off on maternity leave (200 this year)
- How many men are taking paternity leave
- How many people are adopting
- How long women are taking off for maternity (about 75% take nine months, less than five percent come back within three months and the rest trickle back at the 12 month period – she encourages women to take the time they need by reassuring them that over the span of their whole career a few months won’t have much impact)
- How much it costs (maternity leavers are paid in full for the first 26 weeks and paternity leavers are paid in full for their two weeks of Ordinary Paternity Leave and of the matched period of Additional Paternity Leave)
- How many people become parents every year (five percent)
- Retention rate both on immediate return and also 3 years later
“I wouldn’t say we’re perfect but I think we’ve made a lot of progress on how we support and engage women and dads during their maternity/paternity transitions. It’s a very quick win for an organisation to pick up on. It’s about understanding the profile of the women who are going off on maternity leave. I know that when a woman takes her first maternity leave, she’s got about 10 years worth of work experience. So these are women who are highly invested in their careers and predisposed to want to come back. I also know that a high proportion of the women who work at Citi are the main breadwinners for their family and so there is an economic orientation for them to want to continue their career.”
The role of line managers in maternity transitions
Citi’s retention rate was high before they introduced what we call ‘support the returner’ and ‘shape the landscape’ activities so we asked what made Carolanne choose to implement them. “One of my roles is to agitate the system so the fact that something’s working well doesn’t mean to say it can’t be better and certainly doesn’t mean to say it’s perfect. I was talking to lots of women and lots of managers and what I was hearing was although we were doing a really good job providing the policy, the pay and the backup childcare, the single biggest impact on women going through their maternity experience was their line manager and the quality of their experience with their line manager. When I probed that, I knew we could do a better job.”
Citi started a workshop for line managers of maternity leavers five years ago and it’s since become mandatory. We talk about how to handle it well for the woman going off on maternity leave, for the team, for the client that needs to be covered. “It’s not rocket science; by bringing people into a workshop where you can just share some views, give them some stats, what we found was the quality of that management intervention went up and so that was great. It’s really about facilitating good conversations and I think you could do that if you were a small communications company with 20 people or if you were a manufacturing company in the north east employing 100 people, you could do that – you don’t have to be Citi with all of our resources in order to achieve the same things.”
The difference supporting maternity and paternity transitions makes
Citi’s maternity retention rate in the EMEA region is currently 95%. The line manager training has played a role in that as have the maternity comeback workshops Citi offers all maternity leavers. Out of these workshops has grown a workshop for new dads which Minashi says is making a difference in terms of being valued by the organisation. She says that to date six dads have taken Additional Paternity Leave and in every case so far, mum has been the main breadwinner.
“There’s a new generation of fathers who want to be much more involved with their kids and are with partners who expect them to be much more involved and expect that there is going to be much more of a shared work and shared care deal going on. If I look ahead, I think the majority of the leave will still be taken by women but I think it opens up the space for men to have much greater access and time off from their job.”
Retaining women more broadly isn’t necessarily about flexibility
“We’ve just completed a global study looking at the root causes for senior female attrition. We did qualitative research with 500 senior men and women who had left Citi in recent years and approximately 30 deep-dive follow-up interviews. Before when I asked senior leaders why they thought that senior women were leaving Citi voluntarily most of them didn’t know, but within a very short space of time said it’s something to do with work life balance, family commitments or flexible work and we found no evidence of that.”
Minashi says that of the women who left their EMEA business, not one is at home looking after the kids. They’re all back in financial services (63% of both the men and women who left Citi have stayed within the industry) or running their own business. The reason for leaving? Frustration with pace of career growth and stretch, not an absence of ‘balance’ or flex options.
We found some very interesting data on flex work and work life balance and some very strong feedback that from their perspective they had the balance and their flex options about right so it wasn’t about that, but about career growth and stretch.
“Maybe it’s like a hierarchy of needs,” Carolanne reflects, “when flexibility isn’t a pressing need the next pressing issue is career development and what we found is that what women want is really stretching career opportunities that continue to grow their skills and for some of these women, we weren’t able to accommodate that quite quickly enough and completely enough and that’s why they left.”
What’s really clear from the energetic conversation we had with Carolanne is that she’s on the front-foot and committed to constantly striving to make improvements. She says her job now is sit down with Citi leaders and to talk to them about the findings (such as how women are not quitting to stay at home with the kids) and to help them understand what they can do. Helping leaders prioritise career development conversations with their team members and mid-year feedback discussions are key.
Is there someone in your organisation who’s making efforts to keep, support and stretch female talent that we could shine a light on? Go on, make their day and put us in touch with him or her.