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Citigroup CEO: We Have to Change Our Culture to Keep Talented Women and Minorities

Citigroup has made headlines recently for recognizing the gender pay gap in its own organization, and setting goals to increase the number of women and minorities among its higher-ranking employees.

But speaking at Fortune’s CEO Initiative forum in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat acknowledged that—beyond setting ambitious markers for a more equitable and diverse workforce—banks like Citi need to dig deeper to create a “sustainable” culture that promotes such values.

“Where our industry has fallen short before is the organic, sustainable piece of it,” Corbat told Fortune’s Ellen McGirt. “I think we’ve been okay at bringing women and minorities into the firm, but I don’t think we’ve created the environment that creates the sustainability of them wanting to be there.”

The result, Corbat added, is an “attrition” of women and minority talent that has looked to take their careers elsewhere. “As fast as you can bring in these talented people, you’re losing them,” he said. “You’ve got to admit that we probably haven’t created the right environment that they want to stay and invest their careers in.”

Earlier this year, Citi revealed unflattering “raw” median pay gap figures that showed its female employees globally earned 29% less than their male counterparts. (The “raw” pay gap metric is not adjusted to account for factors including “job function, level and geography,” according to the bank.) Additionally, it found that minority employees in the U.S. earned 7% less than non-minorities.

The bank concluded that it needed to increase the number of women and minorities in “senior and higher-paying roles at Citi,” and set targets to increase representation within the “assistant vice president through managing director levels.” Citi aims to have at least 40% of such jobs occupied by women globally, and 8% occupied by black employees in the U.S., by the end of 2021.

As McGirt noted, “gender equity is harder than it sounds in the headlines,” and Corbat said that the “journey” toward a more equitably compensated workforce began by recognizing that “we’ve got to change our approach.”

“I’m 36 years at our company, and I’ve sat around the table with a bunch of, politely put, middle-aged white men and had groupthink,” he noted. “Part of what we’ve talked about is this necessity to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

To that end, he noted that this year’s incoming class of new hires at Citi will be split 50/50 between men and women.

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