Carla Zakhem-Hassan

SeeHer recently spoke with Carla Zakhem-Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi about gender equality.

  1. Your personal history with SeeHer goes back to 2016, when you were CMO at ToysRUs and SeeHer had just launched. Looking back, what made you jump in and actively participate in the movement? 

As with many aspects of my life, my inspiration came from my daughter, Noor. She is my source of strength and I am deeply passionate about doing my part to create a better future for her and all the girls and women that come after me. I want every girl to see themselves represented and know the incredible power that comes with being authentically themselves. As a marketer, I know we can make an impact in their lives by creating advertising and content that portrays women and girls as they really are. Media representation can transform societal perceptions and have profound impact on gender equality. I felt we had, and still have, an opportunity to increase visibility and inspire girls through our storytelling and I was eager to do my part.

  1. Citi joined SeeHer in 2018 and immediately leaned in to accelerate the role of women in music and sports. Can you share why both verticals are so important to your marketing approach?

Music and sports are two top passion points for Citi’s customers and can serve as a connector, and often healer, in times of crisis. They are both integral parts of all of our lives and with the unprecedented challenges this year has brought, the power of music and sport was tested and it delivered.

Yet these are also two areas where women and girls are grossly underrepresented. Women make up 44% of athletes yet only 4% sports media coverage is dedicated to women’s sports. And in the music space, the numbers are equally disappointing. Across popular songs from 2012-2019, women make up only 21.7% of artists, 12.5% of songwriters and 2.6% of producers.

As brands and marketers, we have an incredible opportunity to give back to an industry from which we gain so much. We are proud to leverage Citi’s scale and existing partnerships to further the SeeHer movement’s impact in these areas.

  1. Citi was one of the first brands to incorporate SeeHer’s Gender Equality Measure™ (GEM®™) into all of your copy testing. It also was the first marketer to host bootcamps in other global markets.  What insights can you share about how that impacted your teams and how you’ve maximized the movement’s tools and resources?

Citi has embarked on an important journey to ensure girls and women are accurately represented in the media and to tackle unconscious gender bias in marketing. The truth is that we all have biases. What’s important is that we learn what our biases are and how we can address them so we can continue to innovate, enable progress and be the best for our clients. GEM® testing equips us with a powerful tool to help us measure the ads we create. This is critical because we all know what gets measured gets done. Seeing where we can improve helps us move toward our goal of creating work that makes those viewing it feel seen and represented. Through this partnership, we not only have the opportunity to more accurately portray females in our campaigns, but we also have an actionable way for us marketers to make an impact together.

  1. In celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 11, what advice can you share with your daughter – and all girls – about gender equality?

I would tell all girls, my daughter included, that they are the next generation of leaders. Now is their time. Be brave. Have courage. Use your voice now more than ever. Use it wisely, use it carefully and use it in a way that makes an impact. But use it.

This year, Citi has several exciting initiatives coinciding with the International Day of the Girl, that get to the heart of using your voice. One we are incredibly proud of is Citi Foundation’s work with Girl Scouts. Together they are educating young leaders on the importance of civic engaGEM®ent today so they can lead the way to a better tomorrow. You can learn more about our civics badge and this powerful work in our new spot

Also, with the help of your team at SeeHer, we are continuing the important conversation around female representation in sport. Our Team Citi golfers Hannah Green and Danielle Kang will be joining us on Citi’s Twitter to answer fan questions about their experiences later this month.

  1. What’s next? What should we do in our ongoing effort to eliminate gender bias in society and in the marketplace going forward?

It’s important that we stay committed to transparency and accountability. You can’t solve a problem until you really understand it. That’s why we’ve been transparent about pay equity at Citi – even when it has meant revealing an ugly number. Citi is committed to closing the gap and has set goals to increase representation of women and U.S. minorities in senior and higher-paying roles across the firm by the end of 2021. This is part of holding ourselves and others accountable for taking tangible action toward progress. We alongside other brands – AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Mastercard, and Pepsi – are proudly working closely with SeeHer to drive more visibility and distribution of women in across sports, music and the media.