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New Citi CEO Jane Fraser gives Wall Street banks a fresh perspective

September 11, 2020, 1:09 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Bridgewater faces another claim of unequal pay, we learn more about an executive shake-up at Netflix, and a big U.S. bank finally gets a female CEO. Have a relaxing weekend.

– ‘A big and fantastic moment.’ Last year, I wrote about why Wall Street’s big banks had never had a female CEO. At the end of the story, I asked which institution would be the first to break that unfortunate streak. I got my answer yesterday, when Citigroup announced that Jane Fraser will become CEO when Michael Corbat retires in February.

As my colleague Maria Aspan reported yesterday, the appointment was an expected transition. Corbat named Fraser as his No. 2, tagging her as his heir apparent, last October. Still, Fraser’s new role is unprecedented.

Wall Street had corporate America’s most stubborn glass ceiling. Several women had come close to breaking it before the 2008 recession—Morgan Stanley’s Zoe Cruz, Lehman Brothers’ Erin Callan, Citi’s Sallie Krawcheck—but the ceiling stayed intact, even amid the fallout of the Great Recession, even as banks’ workforces diversified, even through the height of the #MeToo movement, even in the most analytical of industries that prizes performance above all else.

So women in the industry reacted with downright glee yesterday when Fraser finally smashed through.

“Congratulations to Citi for naming Jane Fraser as its next CEO! Great news for the company and for women everywhere! A big and fantastic moment,” Cathy Bessant, Bank of America’s chief operations and technology officer, tweeted.

“CEO jobs don’t come open very often,” said Betsy Duke, former Wells Fargo chair. “In the past the reason given for not choosing a woman was that none were ready. Jane is the first of many who are ready to step into these jobs now.”

Of course, Fraser’s promotion isn’t necessarily indicative of systemic change in the industry. In fact, it shows just how much of an outlier Citi is now. Citi’s board is already the most gender-diverse among S&P 500 banks. And with Fraser’s new appointment, it will become the only bank board at gender parity, according to Bloomberg data. On the operating teams that oversee the six biggest U.S. banks, collectively there are still two men for every woman.

When I asked women last year about the factors keeping women from ascending to the top of banking’s corporate ladder, not one cited the kind of blatant, sleazy sexism that once plagued trading floors. The bias, they said, was far more subtle than that, from “microaggressions” to “over-mentoring” and “under-sponsoring.” “It’s the small things, like men going out for a drink or men taking a business trip together,” Donna Milrod, head of State Street’s global clients division, told me last year. Those small things that disadvantage women “[become] emphasized over time.”

The small stuff won’t disappear in February. But for the first time, someone leading a big bank might know what the small stuff feels like.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Choppy waters. Karen Karniol-Tambour, the top-ranked woman at Bridgewater Associates, has reportedly issued a formal complaint to the hedge fund after discovering that she was paid less than men with similar or lesser responsibilities. Bridgewater didn't comment on the accusation to the WSJ, which broke the news. Karniol-Tambour's complaint comes after former co-CEO Eileen Murray sued the firm for gender discrimination and unequal pay this summer. Wall Street Journal 

- Bad buzz. The Disney live-action remake of Mulan has generated the wrong kind of buzz, most recently for filming parts of the film in Xinjiang, a region where China has interned Muslim-minority Uighurs in what the government calls “voluntary reeducation centers.” The company finally acknowledged the controversy on Thursday when CFO Christine McCarthy said, “It has generated a lot of publicity. Let’s leave it at that.” Bloomberg

- Showstopper. Why did Netflix suddenly oust longtime exec Cindy Holland to promote Bela Bajaria to VP of global television? It was reportedly part of an effort by new co-CEO Ted Sarandos to streamline the reporting process within the TV group, but some employees were stunned nonetheless. Hollywood Reporter

- Back-to-school benefits. As companies try to meet the changing needs of employees whose children are attending virtual school from home, they're rolling out perks for parents. Emma has a run-down of companies whose back-to-school benefits are the most innovative. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: WeWork CFO Kimberly Ross is stepping down this month after taking the position in March. The New York Times announced a new podcast called 'Sway,' which will be hosted by Kara Swisher. Colleen Taylor, previously of Wells Fargo, is joining American Express as president of merchant services.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Her call. ESPN Radio's Doris Burke will be the first woman to call the NBA conference finals and finals later this month. Never before has a woman served as a game analyst on a network television or radio broadcast this deep into the postseason. Associated Press

- Still asking questions. Elle has a new profile of TV journalist Ann Curry. She's spent the pandemic trying to share reliable information about COVID-19, but, as Elle puts it, Curry can't "bring truth to power" when it comes to her own professional history. She still doesn't understand why she was let go from the Today show. "I know I did nothing wrong. I know I was good at my job." Elle 

- A flexible firmEiko Hashiba left Goldman Sachs in Tokyo in 2002 to have a child at 23 and ten years later started consulting firm VisasQ whose advisors work as outside consultants. The idea was to give workers, women especially, a flexible way to stay in the labor force. VisasQ now has 110,000 consultants and, after listing in Tokyo in March, a market value of $238 million. CEO Hashiba, with a 52% stake, is a multimillionaire. Bloomberg

ON MY RADAR

Book recommendations from Fortune’s 40 Under 40 in government and policy Fortune

Inside ‘I Am Woman’: A new biopic tells the story of Helen Reddy and her famous song Fortune

How my mother and I became Chinese propaganda New Yorker

PARTING WORDS

"[Y]ou can’t always identify yourself as just one thing."

-Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Serena Williams to reach the U.S. Open final on Thursday, on being a mother and a tennis star.