The First Woman CEO of a Big Bank Worked Part-Time When Her Kids Were Young

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There’s another crack in the glass ceiling: In February, Jane Fraser will become the first woman to lead a major US bank when she steps into the CEO role at Citigroup.

Citi CEO Michael Corbat announced Thursday he will retire after 37 years at the company, according to a company statement, and Citi’s board selected Fraser, currently the president and CEO of global consumer banking, to take over.

The news is notable not only because Fraser will be the only woman leading a major American financial institution, but also because she’s a working mom of two boys who has talked candidly about the sacrifices she’s made in her climb to the top. “You cannot have it all,” Fraser said in 2012, Axios reports. “Many things have had to give, personally and professionally.”

What had to give when her kids were little, apparently, was a full-time job. She began her career in investing at Goldman Sachs, but she wanted to have a family, and there weren’t any working mom role models for her to follow at the time, so she switched to a part-time role in consulting at McKinsey. “That was tough,” she told CNN. “You’re seeing people who you’ve managed and you’ve brought into the firm then progressing faster than you.”

She got the news she had made partner at McKinsey two weeks after she’d had a child, The New York Times reports. In a 2016 speech at a financial industry conference in Miami, she recalled rushing through the conversation thinking, “I have to feed the baby.”

Part-time at McKinsey was still a demanding job. Fraser’s mentor, Lowell Bryan, told the Financial Times that when he was staying with Fraser and her husband, he would find her working on her computer in the kitchen at 3 a.m.

Still, the story should give hope to moms everywhere who would like to scale back their working hours while their children are young (or, perhaps, during a pandemic) without giving up on their long-term career goals.

Though we make up roughly half the labor force, women are still underrepresented at the top, especially in managerial jobs and what social scientists call the greedy professions, such as finance, law and consulting, according to The New York Times. Educated women make up just 5 percent of big company chief executives and a quarter of the top 10 percent of earners in the US.

A big reason for the gap: Once they have children, educated married women tend to take less-demanding positions, so they can tackle more domestic duties and allow their partners to work long hours. That “mommy track” typically places women out of contention for the corner office—another reason why Fraser’s ascension is so historic.

After a decade at McKinsey, she joined Citi in 2004 in the Corporate and Investment Banking division, and worked her way up for the next 16 years, now running its biggest global division. However, the working mom had a pretty big assist during that time: In 2008, her husband, Alberto Piedra, quit his job as head of global banking at Dresdner Kleinwort to look after their children and support her career.

That’s a perk men often enjoy but not women. A 2019 study found that 70 percent of top-earning married men have stay-at-home partners. Only 22 percent of top-earning married women have a spouse who stays home.

It’s another way Fraser’s biography sparks hope: For ambitious, dual-earning couples with kids, it’s possible to pave a path to success by alternating which career will take priority during different stages of your life. That’s not to say any of it will be easy.

“Being a mother of young children and having a career is the toughest thing I have ever had to do,” Fraser confessed to an internal McKinsey interviewer after she left the consulting firm, Axios reports.

We’re happy her hard work paid off, blazing a path for her fellow working moms to follow.



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