More and more women are pursuing careers in consulting. From MBB to the Big 4 and beyond, all of the top firms preach the importance of gender diversity. Still, there is certainly room for improvement. In 2016, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that representation for women at McKinsey, Bain and BCG stood at 16%, 20%, and 25%, respectively. The firms recognize this and are actively making headway at identifying top female candidates. The good news for you? The consulting industry is actually a fantastic place for women to work!
Reasons Why Management Consulting Is A Great Place For Women To Work:
No Gender Pay Gap (at the entry levels)
Women in consulting don’t face discrimination when it comes to pay at the entry levels. As you can read about in our annual salary report, all major firms determine pay by degree qualification. At the entry level, there is an even playing field because all offers are standardized. Additionally, promotions come from merit-based, 360-degree performance reviews, ensuring much less bias makes its way into the process. So, women, for the same role, are compensated on an equal level.
However, there is a pay gap at more senior levels. Why? In our view, this isn’t due to inherent bias on the part of consulting firms. It’s due to a larger societal reality – women often opt for part-time work at some point during their consulting careers due to early child rearing. This means that, while technically, a male and female consultant may have the same years of service, there are more statistically significant examples of female consultants who have worked part-time that it skews the numbers.
For example, if a male and female Engagement Manager have 8 years of experience each, it is statistically more likely that the female Engagement Manager would have worked part-time for some of those 8 years. So, even though both of our hypothetical individuals have the same years of experience, one individual has worked more projects during those years, leading to a pay gap.
There is good news though. Firms are making positive moves towards more flexible work schedules, both across the board and in specific ways that benefit women and working mothers. Things are trending in the right direction.
High Levels of Flexibility at Senior Levels
Consultants work long hours but enjoy a lot of flexibility when it comes to when and where they work, especially at more senior levels. Senior women in consulting can customize their work schedules in a way that works best for life outside of work.
No matter your gender, you have to put in the hours and earn the right to move up the ladder in consulting. But once you do, the possibilities for customization open up. For example, we knew a senior woman at MBB who would schedule travel and meetings around her son’s soccer schedule.
In addition, because of the project-based nature of consulting, it is a surprisingly conducive career for raising families – more than most give it credit for. Why is that? Work-life balance in consulting is cyclical – meaning that because projects are pre-scripted, you know ahead of time which weeks will be busy and which ones will be a little lighter. With this knowledge comes the ability to plan.
Strong Support Groups for Women and Mothers
MBB and other firms are investing in many internal support groups for women and mothers, facilitating 1:1 peer connection and events. Women in consulting can plug into these groups to learn about benefits, connect with peers and build a support system at work.
There is still ground to cover when it comes to gender diversity in consulting. Yet with recent strides that firms are making, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The consulting industry is as close to a true meritocracy you can find in the corporate world and does more than just pay lip service to the ideals of gender equality.