Gender Pay Gap: Consulting Firms

One of the hottest topics in business – and society more broadly – is the gender pay gap. But is there a gender pay gap in management consulting?

Overall, the controlled gender pay gap is not as pronounced as some would have you believe. According to Payscale, in 2019, women in the United States earned 98 cents for every dollar a man earned – for the same job and with the same qualifications. So there is a gap to be sure, albeit a small one. How does the gender pay gap in management consulting play out, if at all?

Consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and Deloitte pride themselves on being some of the most progressive organizations in the world. If they have allowed a gender pay gap in management consulting, is there hope for other industries?

gender pay gap

The Gender Pay Gap Shows Itself at the Most Senior Levels

As always, the devil is in the detailed data. In the management consulting industry, there is complete transparency in salaries at both the pre- and post-MBA levels. Everyone – regardless of gender, age, or background – is paid the same. There is no negotiating at the entry level positions, and no gap.

However, the pay gap may come 3+ years down the line, as men typically make Partner faster than women. This is usually due to the fact that because of family or child-rearing reasons, women have been proven to be more likely to take more time off than male counterparts and/or then come back and work part-time, which decelerates their promotion timeline as a group. This is not accounting for maternity/paternity leave, which is equitable for both groups.

So is This the Firms’ Issue?

So is this a firm-level issue, or an issue we face as a society more broadly? We would argue that the firms have done a fantastic job of creating an environment where both men and women are treated (and paid) equally. Part-time work is counted equally towards your years of service, and parental leave is the longest out of any professional services industry.

It seems that women feel the need more than their partners to put career on hold for the sake of family. Whilst women are more likely to come back from maternity leave and work part-time, men come back from paternity leave and are back to full-time status.

For example, an average man who has 8 years of post-MBA experience may make Partner “on schedule”, but an average woman who has the same official tenure from start date is more likely to have taken extra time off or worked part time during that same period, and thus it will take her maybe 10 years to make Partner (accounting for the gender pay gap that exists). In consulting, years of service are not equal. The firm evaluates you based on your your utilization and revenue generation.

Then, there are other undeniable factors as well. For example, men typically negotiate more aggressively when coming in as experienced hires post-MBA (a gender pay gap issue not isolated within consulting).

Concluding Thoughts

So is there a gender pay gap in management consulting? Yes and no. At the entry levels (both pre- and post-MBA), no gender pay gap exists. The firms extend the same offers to every single successful candidate. However, as you move up the consulting career ladder, a gender pay gap does begin to materialize. This is not because firms pay male Partners more than female Partners, but because as a group males tend to accrue higher utilization over the same years of experience, and therefore higher revenue generation, and therefore make Partner faster.

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Filed Under: consulting salaries, management consulting