Responding to the investment management firm Arjuna Capital, the global financial giant Citigroup announced earlier this week that it would close the gender pay gap in three countries where it conducts business.
While the bank claimed that the pay gap between women and racial minorities compared to white male employees was only 1 percent in the U.S., United Kingdom and Germany, Citigroup nonetheless said it would work to equalize compensation across the company.
As noted on publications including Fortune, banks are often the worst offenders when it comes to the pay gap between men and women. In the U.K., for example, Arjuna cited research saying that they divide between male and female banking employees could be as wide as 24 percent.
Citigroup has claimed that “pay equity is an importance principle” at the company, and also touts unconscious bias training and employee peer networks as steps it has taken to ensure a fairer workplace. Other banks, such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, have also said they are aggressively taking on gender pay equity.
But according to Arjuna, the words banks have been saying are often not matched by deeds. Shareholders of several of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. rejected proposals last year that would have mandated reports detailing the pay gap based on gender, race and ethnicity.
And it is not much better across the pond, as Quartz has reported that female employees at the Bank of England earn on average 20 to 25 percent less than their male counterparts in salaries and bonuses. Yet that divide is even better than the entire U.K. financial industry as a whole, which reports an aggregate gap of over 30 percent.
Observers of the industry are dubious that Citigroup’s gesture will go very far. As reported on Bloomberg, the company is due to report another gender pay assessment, and that gap is expected to be wider than what was addressed this week. Industry experts generally agree that Citigroup’s overall track record is more progressive than the rest of the finance industry.
“Citigroup is stepping into a leadership role on the gender pay gap that we have not seen from any of its U.S. financial peers,” said Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna in a public statement. “Other leading banks can either follow Citi’s example on gender pay or risk further laggard status on issues of concern to women.”
One problem with addressing the global pay gap between men and women is that most companies are reluctant to publish this data in the first place. According to Bloomberg, less than 600 out of 9000 companies in the U.K. have not publicly disclosed such information because bottom line, the results are “embarrassing.” Hence for those seeking fairness in the workplace, they have a huge hurdle to overcome: transparency.
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