Jane Fraser, currently president and global consumer banking chief at Citigroup, will make history as the first female CEO of a major Wall Street bank when she steps into that role at Citi in February. And the glass-ceiling-smashing executive credits a key piece of advice for helping shape a pivotal phase of her journey to the C-suite.
Before her Citi days, Fraser was named partner at consulting firm McKinsey just weeks after her son was born, and she decided to work part-time for the duration of her position. “I think the best piece of advice I got was: Why am I in such a hurry?” Fraser said at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women virtual summit on Wednesday. “I remember one of my mentors saying to me, ‘Jane, you’re going to have several careers in your life, and your careers are going to be measured in decades, so why this sense of rush and trying to have everything at the same time? Just relax, chill, take a step back and enjoy the process more, and enjoy the different phases of your life.’”
One of corporate America’s most stubborn barriers shattered earlier this month when Fraser was named successor to Citi’s CEO job. The announcement has been impactful to women in business everywhere.
But for those watching her career journey (and perhaps hoping to clinch the title of the second female CEO of a major bank), Fraser advises that they needn’t fear being seen as vulnerable or wanting to take time for family. “I’m an example that it doesn’t need to sidetrack you from the longer-term goals. You can get balance in there,” she said. “I did feel the pressure to be Superwoman, and I’m sure there’s many people out there who feel the pressure to be Superwoman or Superman. You don’t have to be Superwoman, we can be normal.”
Of course taking the helm of a bank that had $103 billion in revenue last year may sound like a superhuman feat. But Fraser is adamant that being a superhero is “not life, that’s not the reality. I think part of the advice is: Give yourself a break, don’t set expectations at ridiculous levels, and take a bit of time and enjoy the different phases and make the most of them.”
While the CEO-designate has plenty on her plate as she prepares to head up Citigroup come February, she argues, “That phase for me of being part-time working, but being able to be with the kids when they were very little, was very precious, I’m so glad I did it.” Adds Fraser: “I honestly don’t think I would be here today if I hadn’t.”
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