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IWD 2018: Sustainable Consulting – Counteracting Push and Pull Factors for Women in Consulting

March 8, 2018

Culture Blog

Written by: Bami Oshinowo

CBPartners’ Women@CBP initiative celebrate International Women’s Day 2018

t’s a hot topic, but also particularly relevant in our line of work – so how can consulting firms ensure gender diversity across all levels?

It’s clear that gender diverse teams lead to improvements in financial performance:

  • A study from as far back as 2007 showed a 50% improvement in the EBIT performance of 89 companies with gender diverse top management compared to their industry average.
  • Results from a global survey published in 2016 estimates that for a profitable firm, a shift from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in net revenue margin, as demonstrated by an analysis of close to 22,000 firms across 91 countries

Time and time again, published reports conclude that the influence of women in the workplace is positive, so it is unfortunate that there are still common factors that push (and pull) women away from competitive job roles.

Let’s have a look at some of those push and pull factors:

Push Factors:

  • Lack of role models – being unable to visualize progression due to underrepresentation; having to be the first and pave the way can seem daunting and near impossible at the best of times.
  • Unconscious bias – this includes decision-makers making generalizations about commitment to career goals post-partum, and even not selecting a woman for an opportunity, very simply, due to not being of the same gender as the majority of the team.
  • Gender pay gap – whether this calculation is reflective of differences in take-home pay within the same role, fewer opportunities being offered to women, or lack of gender diversity at the top of a company’s hierarchy (or all of the above).

Pull Factors:

  •  Family commitments  although this is equally as relevant to men, this is still a significant pull factor for women – to keep this short but in perspective; a study comprised of about 2,500 highly qualified women with at least an undergraduate degree showed that 44% of these women voluntarily left the work force for family reasons.

While it is not possible to control how the rest of the consulting industry operates, it is important for firms to acknowledge these push / pull factors and actively work to diminish their presence to retain the females within the higher end of employee performance.

This may be easier said than done, but we have listed just a couple of things that consulting firms could do to counteract these push and pull factors:

  • Be actively mindful – regularly and impartially assess the decision-making surrounding opportunity or promotion, and ensure that decisions are not reached based on the ‘we’ve always done it like this’ mentality – progression means change!
  • Don’t make assumptions – ensure that consultants are asked about their career goals and ability to handle extra workstreams; don’t assume their answers due to family commitments or a change in situation outside of work (even if this is done with the best intentions).
  • Create a support strategy – develop strong internal resources and communication channels for firmwide access. It is important that guidance is available when issues arise, so that understanding of the issues faced by women in consulting is not driven by one’s own experiences or ‘blanket thinking.’ It is also equally important to communicate that it’s okay (and encouraged) to ask for this support – which takes us to the next point…
  • Spread awareness meaningfully – making the workforce sit through a four-hour seminar about equality for women in consulting is not likely to have much meaningful impact in the long-term – put teachings into practice by re-evaluating company policies and guidelines so that they can be of benefit to all genders, and assess current processes to eliminate the chance of bias affecting decision-making.
  • Be public! – don’t keep female-positive initiatives exclusive to just the women at the firm – the issues that are discussed, the case studies that are read, and even after-work social events are all valuable to share with the firm in its entirety if awareness is truly to be raised!
  • …and finally, something new to add to this list for 2018 – evaluate gender pay gap data against competitor firms – Since April 2017, UK companies are legally obliged to publicly publish this data by the beginning of April annually. Despite this pertaining to UK companies specifically, this could be a useful positioning tool for firms globally to evaluate where their ‘push factor’ influences may lie.

 

CBPartners celebrates diversity and is committed to creating a fair and welcoming environment for all employees to reach their full potential at the firm. The Women@CBP initiative began to ensure that the entire firm remains actively aware of challenges faced by women in this industry so that we can take measures to counteract push and pull factors before they affect our talent pool.