“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the brick that others have thrown at her.” – Anonymous
According to Fortune, the number of women running Fortune 500 companies represents a mere 7.4% of the top spots in 2020. However, Jane Fraser shattered the glass ceiling and has helped to pave a way for women on Wall Street. Citigroup, the third-largest bank in the United States, named Ms. Fraser to take the reins as chief executive in February. She is the first woman to lead a major Wall Street bank and will succeed Michael Corbat who has been CEO for eight years.
Ms. Fraser has been working at Citi for sixteen years and currently heads up the company’s largest global division, the consumer bank catering to individual customers. Ms. Fraser has proven herself time and time again by running several of Citi’s businesses during the course of her sixteen-year term with the bank. In fact, John C. Dugan, Citi’s chairman, commented, “We believe Jane is the right person to build on Mike’s record and take Citi to the next level. She has deep experience across our lines of business and regions, and we are highly confident in her.”
Ms. Fraser’s ascent is absolutely groundbreaking for Wall Street. Quite interestingly, at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee in April 2019, one lawmaker asked Mr. Corbat of Citi and six of his peers — from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon, and State Street — to raise their hand if they believed a woman or person of color would succeed them. Not a single hand went up. This further illuminated Wall Street’s longstanding reputation of men primarily in the upper positions of banks and other financial firms, despite attempts to recruit and promote more women.
Ms. Fraser’s upcoming promotion has elicited many compliments from other women in executive roles. Beth Mooney, the former chief executive of KeyCorp, stated, “I always hoped that by the time I retired that there would be other women in CEO roles. What an incredibly proud day this is.”
According to the advocacy group, Catalyst, there are only thirty-one women among the chief executives of the 500 companies that make up the S&P 500 stock index. Upon taking on this position, Ms. Fraser will join a very small group of female leaders at major American corporations. Sadly, she will not have any female counterparts among the ten largest U.S. banks. Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, issued a report conveying that as of 2019, only 26% of all senior U.S. financial services executives were women. This was an increase of six percentage points from 2016. Despite this progress, the banking industry continues to struggle with engendering an environment of inclusion. Many times there is little thought given to accommodating women’s careers as they rise up the ranks, especially when they have to juggle job and family responsibilities.
Ms. Fraser sought a deliberate path that would allow her to start a family while pursuing a career. She joined the consulting firm McKinsey & Company early on in her career. However, she said that she found that it was always a balancing act. In her speech in a 2016 speech at a financial industry conference in Miami, Ms. Fraser recalled receiving a phone call from her boss expressing that she had made partner two weeks after she’d had a child. She found herself rushing through the conversation thinking, “I have to feed the baby.”
In Miami, Ms. Fraser joked, “I’m a working mother. I have three boys at home, I have a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old and a 59-year-old, and the oldest one, my husband, says he feels the same way.” Her husband, Alberto Piedra, ran Bank of America’s operations in Europe after spending 15 years at Goldman Sachs. He retired in 2009 as the head of global banking at Dresdner Kleinwort.
Ms. Fraser has said that one of her biggest obstacles is self-doubt. However, she overcomes this by reminding herself, “I try to turn that doubt into a power of doubt to make sure that I’ve got a great team around who are more qualified than I am.”
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