Women in consulting - how HR needs to look at the wider agenda

Article Index
Overview


Being a woman working in the consulting industry isnโ€™t easy. The famously long hours, the extensive travel, the need to be able to respond to a client request at the drop of a hat are all exceptionally difficult to deal with - especially if youโ€™re also juggling a busy family life. But thereโ€™s a danger that motherhood becomes the only โ€˜lensโ€™ through which consulting firms, anxious to keep high-performing staff, see their female consultants.

Source Information Services and nbi recently teamed up to do someย research into the road to partnership for women consultants, interviewing almost 40 senior people in leading consulting firms around the world. Regrettably, two-thirds of them think that consulting continues to be a difficult industry for women to work in, and four out of five had personally experienced pressure to conform to a male stereotype. While three-quarters felt that theyโ€™d received positive encouragement to go for promotion to partner, almost exactly the same percentage thought that the promotion process was biased in favour of men. Thatโ€™s no surprise: anyone at the level of partner (male or female) will be, by necessity, a high-performing individual Therefore it becomes hard to find an objective method of separating the exceptional from the best and so itโ€™s tempting to fall back on more subjective ways to make decisions.

What surprised us more was the number of people (70%+ of those we interviewed) who felt that consulting firms tend to see women and mothers as synonymous, and that more effort goes into finding family-friendly ways of working than into other aspects of womenโ€™s career progression. In other words, consulting firms, in their efforts to tempt women back from their maternity leave, may be missing other factors that determine whether a female consultant wants to stay. One size doesnโ€™t fit all.

The challenge for HR is how to address the full range of factors which make it harder for women to move up through the consulting ranks โ€“ or up through the ranks of any profession for that matter. Women, our research suggests, are more likely to feel comfortable going for promotion if theyโ€™re working in a team with a lot of other women (the occasional, token woman really doesnโ€™t help much). They need sponsors, not just mentors โ€“ people who can proactively promote an individualโ€™s interests (women tend to be more reluctant than men when it comes to overtly advancing their own interests).

One of our interviewees recounted an incident that summed up the issue as far as she was concerned, recalling how a senior partner sat down next to her at an event:

โ€˜I was spending the break working on my laptop when he โ€ฆ sat down next to me, so I stopped what I was doing and chatted to him, asking lots of questions and just being me โ€ฆ. I thought nothing more of it until a couple of weeks later when I was talking to my immediate boss: โ€œI thought it was ... brilliant the way you positioned yourselfโ€. It was as though, in his mind, Iโ€™d created the whole thing so I could present myself positively. I think it was at that point that I started to wake up a little bit as to how people thinkโ€™.

Giving women the support and flexibility they need to balance work and family life is vitally important and consulting firms should be congratulated for investing so much energy and money in getting this right, because itโ€™s been no mean feat. But itโ€™s also a battle thatโ€™s been largely won. The focus now needs to be on understanding and accommodating the different ways in which many women work. HR functions played a pivotal role in changing maternity leave arrangements โ€“ and they should be leading the charge here too.

Sandra gratefully acknowledges the invaluable help of Fiona Czerniawska, founder ofย Source Information Services, in preparing this article.


 

Comments 

 
# davidGar 2018-01-27 18:04
Hi I have a lot of new customers for you. can i contact by phone?
Reply
 
 
# ItayWek 2018-07-29 11:50
ื”ื™ื™ ืžื” ืฉืœื•ืžืš ืื ื™ ืžืขื•ื ื™ื™ืŸ ืœื”ืฆื™ืข ืœืš ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช ื—ื“ืฉื™ื ืœืขืกืง

ืื ื—ื ื• ืžืคืชื—ื™ื ื™ืขื•ื“ื™ื™ื ืกื™ื™ื‘ืจ ืขื™ืœื™ืช

ืคื™ืชื—ื ื• ืžืขืจื›ืช ืžืžื•ื—ืฉื‘ืช ื‘ืขืœืช

ืื™ื ื˜ื™ืœื’ื ืฆื™ื” ืžืœืื›ื•ืชื™ืช ืฉืžื™ื™ืฆืจืช ื›ืžื•ืช ืขืฆื•ืžื” ืฉืœ ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช ืคื•ื˜ื ืฆื™ืืœื™ื

ื‘ืคืœืื˜ืคื•ืจืžืช ื”ืื™ื ืกื˜ื’ืจื

ื”ืื ืืคืฉืจ ืœื™ืฆื•ืจ ืงืฉืจ ื˜ืœืคื•ื ื™ ?
Reply
 
 
# ItayWek 2018-08-15 09:58
ื”ื™ื™ ืžื” ืฉืœื•ืžืš ืื ื™ ืžืขื•ื ื™ื™ืŸ ืœื”ืฆื™ืข ืœืš ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช ื—ื“ืฉื™ื ืœืขืกืง

ืื ื—ื ื• ืžืคืชื—ื™ื ื™ืขื•ื“ื™ื™ื ืกื™ื™ื‘ืจ ืขื™ืœื™ืช

ืคื™ืชื—ื ื• ืžืขืจื›ืช ืžืžื•ื—ืฉื‘ืช ื‘ืขืœืช

ืื™ื ื˜ื™ืœื’ื ืฆื™ื” ืžืœืื›ื•ืชื™ืช ืฉืžื™ื™ืฆืจืช ื›ืžื•ืช ืขืฆื•ืžื” ืฉืœ ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช ืคื•ื˜ื ืฆื™ืืœื™ื

ื‘ืคืœืื˜ืคื•ืจืžืช ื”ืื™ื ืกื˜ื’ืจื

ื”ืื ืืคืฉืจ ืœื™ืฆื•ืจ ืงืฉืจ ื˜ืœืคื•ื ื™ ?
Reply
 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh