For the past three years, the four-foot-tall bronze Fearless Girl statue has stood in Manhattan’s Financial District with hands defiantly on her hips, a symbol of female power. But that female power had not come to full fruition in her home environs until yesterday, when Citigroup announced that it was elevating Jane Fraser, 53, to become its chief executive officer.
When she takes the helm from her predecessor in February, the Scottish-born Fraser will be one of only 31 women among the chief executives of the 500 companies that make up the S&P 500 stock index, according to the advocacy group Catalyst.
The New York Times called her ascension “groundbreaking on Wall Street, which has never quite shaken off its longstanding reputation as a boys club, with men dominating the upper ranks of banks and other financial firms, despite efforts to recruit and promote more women.”
Most commenters have been full of praise for the move. “Congratulations to @Citi for naming Jane Fraser as its next CEO! Great news for the company and for women everywhere! A big and fantastic moment,” wrote Cathy Bessant on Twitter. Bessant is the chief operating officer at Bank of America and was recently considered for the CEO job at Wells Fargo.
Storming the Old Boys Club
But—predictably and sadly—chauvinism had to show its ugly face. “She is an unknown entity to the street,” a Wells Fargo analyst, Mike Mayo, wrote in a note to investors on Thursday. “For that reason, it is unclear whether she has what it takes to lead such a firm, and whether Citi should have looked externally.”
Really? Unknown entity? Fraser, the mother of two teenaged boys, is currently the President of Citi and the Chief Executive Officer of Global Consumer Banking. The chairman of Citigroup, when making the announcement, said the company had great confidence in Fraser because of her “deep experience across our lines of business and regions.”
Even though Fraser has landed such a lofty and powerful position, she sounds so real and relatable when she talks about her career-—and her self-doubt. “I always feel unless I’m 120 percent qualified for a new opportunity or challenge that I shouldn’t really be taking it on,” Fraser said in a 2016 talk, echoing findings that professional women suffer from a confidence gap. She went on: “I try to turn that doubt into a power of doubt to make sure that I’ve got a great team around who are more qualified than I am.”
Can you imagine a male CEO admitting to such feelings? Her frankness and her ability to bring people together in the service of a goal are some of the qualities that we think will make her a brilliant success in this new role. Brava Jane Fraser!