Citigroup: Not Such A "Best Place to Work" After All

I've said it before and I'm saying it again: a trophy case of "best place to work" awards is no defense if your corporate culture actually discriminates against women.

Citigroup is the latest to trot out this hollow argument. It was just hit with a sweeping discrimination lawsuit. Who, us? We're a Best Place to Work! bleated Citi's lawyers. Here's an interview with one of the plaintiffs on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" show.

MARTIN: One of the other statements that Citigroup makes here is that they say that they have a long-standing commitment to equal employment practices. But they also point out that their diversity work has been recognized by external organizations like Working Mother magazine, which names Citi as one of the 100 best companies for working mothers 19 times, and Diversity Inc. magazine, which recognizes city as its top 25 noteworthy companies for diversity. So Joan Williams, what does that suggest to you?
Prof. WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, very often these diversity initiatives focus on helping the women, and even if you have in good faith a woman's initiative, flexible work arrangements, these things are going to remain marginalized and women will remain somewhat embattled, unless you go back and really recognize that you have to focus on the men. The men matter in reshaping this kind of corporate culture, and simply having a woman's initiative or having nice work-family policies that look really great on paper, they don't ultimately change that corporate culture, which is what leaves women so embattled.
MARTIN: Dorly Hazan-Amir, what about that? I think what Professor Williams is saying is that there might be these initiatives, but that they don't affect the core culture. And I would like to ask, what you make of the disconnect between how the institution that you work for has been viewed by others and how you see it from the inside?
Ms. HAZAN-AMIR: It's actually quite interesting that you bring up those rankings because I was aware of them before joining Citigroup. And they actually were a factor in my decision-making process on choosing my next place of employment, when I accepted Citigroup's offer and was extremely disappointed to come and be faced with a very different reality at the Asset Finance Group. I can't really speak towards any of these awards or rankings. I don't know how they work. I don't know whose publicist was calling who and getting Citigroup's name out there. What I can tell you is the reality of the matter, and that is that I was demoted immediately upon having a child. The woman who got pregnant before me was demoted immediately upon having her first child and laid off during the maternity leave after having her second child. The woman who got pregnant before her was forced out of the group immediately after she gave birth. It's quite a simple story. If you are a woman who has a child in the Asset Finance Group, you will be pushed out. That is the history. That's the way it is.
Shoddy methodology results in meaningless awards. Meaningless awards set you up for embarrassment when you try to hide behind them when lawsuits are flying. If you can't back up your award, don't play the "Best Places to Work" game.