It’s a bit of an open secret that the financial services industry runs as a “boys club,” so few were surprised when Citigroup Inc was accused of gender bias in a federal lawsuit filed this week. The claims, brought by six women, allege the banking giant routinely denied women professionals equality with men in pay, assignments and promotions. The allegations mirror allegations made in a separate suit filed last month against Goldman Sachs.
The allegations also touch on a a recurring theme as the economy begins to sort itself out, and that is that many employers used the recession as a way to purge female employees from its ranks. According to the lawsuit, five of the women were among thousands laid off in November 2008 amid the banking crisis while “in most circumstances Citigroup retained less qualified male employees.” The one female employee who did not lose her job during this time was demoted after returning from maternity leave.
The women had already filed an action with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who, after an initial investigation of the allegations, found the women had probable cause to proceed with the federal lawsuit.
The women are seeking class action status for women currently and formerly employed at Citigroup at levels including managing director, director, vice president, assistant vice president, associate and analyst between February 2006 and the present.
This suit, like the Goldman suit before it, exposes the degree to which women have yet to achieve the highest levels of corporate leadership and the forces that remain in their way. Take the makeup of Citigroup’s Senior Leadership Committee, for example. It’s dominated by men–39 men to five women–and all 19 members of the Executive Committee are men. Until there is some parity in the highest levels of leadership in our corporate structures there’s no reason to think this kind of behavior or attitude will change.
photo courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr