How Citi is driving LGBT inclusion across the world

Citi has been using its global influence to support same sex marriage and LGBT issues across the world. But why is it so important for big companies to take a stand?

Bob Annibale, Global Director, Community Development and Inclusive Finance at Citi spoke to PinkNews to explain

Why is it important for you personally that Citi champions LGBT+ issues?

As a gay and ‘out’ executive whose career developed across a broad range of time, workplaces, countries and societies that have changed significantly for the LGBT+ community over the years, I know firsthand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

Just a few decades ago, it was nearly impossible to find ‘out’ senior executives or role models. While there has been much progress, today many colleagues still face challenges having to ‘come out’ to their peers at work.

Stonewall data for the UK indicates that in 2018, 35 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees have hidden they are LGBT+ at work because they are afraid of discrimination.

This rises to 58 percent for younger workers aged 18-24, many returning to the closet when they begin their careers.

Senior leaders and the corporations that they represent have a responsibility to remove barriers to inclusion of LGBT+ and other underrepresented groups in the workplace.

(Supplied: Citi)

That includes enabling employees to self-identify, as well as offering mobility, health insurance and other benefits to partners in a way that respects our needs and recognises who we define as our families.

I have faced many of these challenges personally. Over 25 years ago, while working in London, neither my partner who I met there, nor I had UK, or any other common nationality.

We were Brazilian and American, neither British permanent residents, and our partnership was not legally recognised in any of those countries, which raised personal and professional challenges. Citi, however, recognised my partnership before any country did.

For mobility and immigration issues, such recognition is crucial. By extending all benefits to my partner, Citi respected the integrity of my family and reduced the barriers to our remaining in London and pursuing our respective careers.

What are Citi’s goals when championing the rights of LGBT+ people across the globe?

Our main goal is to recruit the best talent and give them opportunities for success and mobility.

That explicitly includes ensuring LGBT+ candidates and employees have access to a safe, inclusive and diverse workplace.

We know to do that we have to confront unconscious biases and ensure policies and talent development are open to all.

(Supplied: Citi)

Therefore we focus on retention, self-identification and benefits policies that recognise our employees and their families. I also believe that we all benefit from role models in our lives and careers, so our encouraging more LGBT+ and other allied role models from diverse backgrounds is also an objective, as expressing the intersectionality of our individual profiles is fascinating and compelling.

What are some initiatives that Citi does internally for its LGBT+ staff?

The most effective strategy internally is our vast employee-led network, which spans 28 locations with our newest network in India. We have recognised and leveraged talent and leadership of local LGBT+ employees and are able to listen to them and harness their ideas and insights to help us drive progressive change.

Citi operates in more than 100 countries, some of which are very challenging places for LGBT+ people. Last year we expanded the demographic questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in our Voice of the Employee survey to 39 countries, reaching 82 percent of our employee base.

We will be expanding similar voluntary self-ID in our HR profiles as we undertake a detailed legal and data privacy analysis country by country. Responses to these voluntary questions will allow us to better understand the recruitment, progression and development needs and opportunities of our LGBT+ colleagues.

We recognise that employee benefits are critical to ensuring equality and mobility for our colleagues.

(Supplied: Citi)

Whilst we began in the US, we are expanding the eligibility of insurance and other benefits globally wherever permitted by local law, including countries such as India, Brazil, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Mexico. In addition to designating a spouse through marriage or civil partnership, employees will be able to designate a “partner,” of either sex, as an eligible family member.

Last summer, we initiated a new global badging policy to enable our transgender colleagues to more easily change the name reflected on their Citi identification badge – even if they have not changed their legal name.

What external partnerships has Citi established in order to further LGBT+ rights?

Citi’s external partnerships have been critical to informing our approach to creating our policies and participating in advocacy that serves LGBT+ communities globally.

Citi was a founding member of the Stonewall Global Program and continues to work with other organisations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Out on the Street, OUTLeadership and Out & Equal. We are increasing our partnership with local LGBT+ organisations in countries where we also have Citi Pride networks.

These organisations have guided us through best practices for employers, training and development.

They have also challenged us to leverage our voice in a wider public arena by advocating for LGBT+ rights alongside other employers, investors, civil rights and LGBT+ groups to expand rights and protections for the LGBT+ community.
Furthermore, we invest in programs that help solve vital economic challenges for some of the most vulnerable communities.

We recently participated in PinkNews’ 2019 Ageing Summit in the U.K., an important event that put focus on the needs of the growing aging LGBT+ population.

(Supplied: Citi)

It is paramount that we address issues of loneliness and mental health, which affect the elderly LGBT+ population. Many choose to go back into the closet when they enter the care/health system. These are areas where we can make a difference working together with a variety of partners.

For example, through our collaborations with PinkNews and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) in New York, , we are looking at how to ensure that ageing LGBT+ individuals are able to access safe, supportive and affordable housing.

In the United States, we are also working with True Colors United, a nonprofit co-founded by Cyndi Lauper, to address the housing challenges disproportionately facing LGBT+ homeless youth. With Citi’s support, True Colors United is increasing access to safe, inclusive, and welcoming housing and services by collaborating with service providers and municipalities to create programs, policies and physical spaces that better serve LGBT+ youth experiencing homelessness.

Here in the UK, where has Citi been most publicly outspoken on matters of LGBT+ rights?

I have lent my voice – as has Citi – particularly in support of the recognition of civil partnerships and marriage.

First in our internal processes by expanding our policies and benefits. And twice at the U.S. Supreme Court, where we have urged the Court to recognise same-sex marriage because there is profound personal and professional importance in access to the institution.

Last year, Citi in collaboration with PinkNews, convened business leaders and leaders from all of Northern Ireland’s political parties to support for the legalisation of same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, Citi was a signatory and speaker at the launch of ‘Business for Love Equality’ with over thirty other large employers in Northern Ireland supporting LGBT+ rights and marriage equality.

We are very focused on ensuring that we are incorporating best practices in all our policies and training to ensure that Trans employees view Citi as an attractive and inclusive employer.