Discussion: Gender equality in consulting

By | November 2, 2014

Gender blind consulting? For any of us in management consulting, we are fairly blind to gender in the work place. You see men and women partners, principals, senior managers, managers, senior consultants, consultants, analysts, and interns. Yes, I do believe there are more women in administrative office-based roles, but for client delivery, it’s men and women everywhere.  My current project is 4 women, 2 men.

Thankfully, consulting is about your ability to think through problems, be resourceful, do the work, and persuade others to take action. Not a lot of man or woman in that.

Industries have gender bias. Some industries spike higher / lower in terms of women participation, pay equality, and seniority. For example, a few that you tend to see more men historically might be: low-skill manufacturing, trucking, mining, software coding. Some of that is historically based (when more of the work was physical), or related to the number and percentage of graduates coming from the related college majors.

Geography matters. The Economist put this chart together which shows the relative economic opportunity for women in different counties here. They used 29 different indicators, but unsurprisingly, the Scandinavian countries ranked as spots #1, #2, and #3.  Boom. The US was #14, and China was #68.

Women Economic Index

Bill Gates explains why limiting women’s rights limits growth.  At a talk in Saudia Arabia, someone from the audience asked if their country could become one of the most competitive countries. Looking across the segregated audience partitioned for men and women in their full-length abayas, he replied, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the top.” Boom.

Women in the workforce. Booz & Co notes that there will be 1 billion more women joining the potential global workforce over the next 10 years. Sadly, their economic potential is often hampered by regulation, culture, sexism, infrastructure, and ignorance.The Economist notes here that is female labor participation matched that of males, US GDP would grow by 5%, Japan’s by 9%, and Egypt’s by 30%+

Economist what if female participation rate

More women graduates. The Economist notes that the majority of college graduates now are women, as shown by the filled-in blue circle below. There is a pronounced difference in type of degree (more boys in science, more girls in health and welfare).

Women graduates

Women CEOs. Consultants know that it is not just the aggregate number which counts.  Yes, women are graduating from college in more numbers. Yes, there has been a quiet revolution as women are a larger part of the workforce in OECD countries. Yes, things are more equitable than in the past – but women still make up only 24 of the CEO spots at the Fortune 500. This is the highest it has ever been, which is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time.

Most of the people I know believe in meritocracy, how can you not?  Harvard Business Review makes a strong case that there are many un-seen barriers to women’s advancement in the corporate world – many of them subtle, yet, troublesome here.

Consultants. This is an apprenticeship business. Keep doing great work.  Learn from others. Help others to succeed. Develop authentic relationships with your clients. Recruit and retain the right people – Smart, Aware, Fun, and Eager. Men and Women.

Discussion. I am open to anything readers want to say about gender equality as it relates to management consulting. Feel free to post in the comments. Thanks,

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