Beecher Reagan is focused on how professional services firms can tailor the workplace to hire and retain top women leaders in consulting.
Progressive firms seek to foster a more gender-balanced workforce to model diversity and create a success path for women at all levels. While there is a myriad of challenges for leaders in the workforce, the issues that women leaders face in the consulting industry are somewhat unique. The high academic requirements, long hours, travel, and ability to juggle multiple clients and workstreams already create a high barrier to entry for both men and women as they enter the consulting industry. As consultants grow in their careers, the parity between men and women being promoted is significant, with 100 male promotions for every 79 females at the “Manager Level” according to a recent McKinsey Report. Due to these gender gaps, sixty-two percent of manager roles are held by men and a staggering thirty-eight percent by women. The loss of a significant portion of elite women leaders has been a growing issue for professional services firms. To battle this problem, we’ve identified three key actions to aid in hiring and retaining top women in Consulting.
Assess Your Talent
By identifying top women leaders and learning where they excel, consulting firms can gain a better understanding benefiting both the firm and the leader. Verity, Beecher Reagan’s unique consulting assessment platform, powered by Hogan Assessments, allows firms to identify future success markers for their consultants and staff. Verity identifies behavioral markers for success in client development, project management and strong values (culture). Verity was designed to allow firms to identify the leaders who are more likely to succeed in each category, enabling career development that positively impacts both the individual and the firm. Firms that properly utilize benchmarked assessment tools, enable meaningful talent development and activate career planning based on a leaders’ strengths. This detailed insight and customized career planning can make a material difference in retaining top women in consulting.
Create an Inclusive Environment
For women in consulting, creating an environment where they are encouraged to speak openly of their personal and professional aspirations is imperative to ensure they are able to achieve their highest potential. Mentors and peer groups consisting of like-minded individuals who have similar goals are key when fostering an inclusive environment. While there are a variety of issues that impact women leaders in the workforce, one of the most recognized life events that drives women to leave consulting is the decision to start a family. In fact, 60% of women consulting leaders polled at Beecher Reagan site family as the number one reason. When coupled with the long hours, client demands and travel involved in the traditional consulting model, it is easy to see why the consulting industry can be a unique challenge for women leaders. Work and family should not be mutually exclusive; the key is creating an environment where leaders with family commitments can continue their corporate journey. “It is important for younger women, and their male peers, to see leaders managing family commitments in a manner that models inclusivity. Telling a new mom that she will be supported is not enough. She needs to have seen it in action before she decides to start a family; otherwise, she will be skeptical.,” suggests Beth Schiavo, Founder and CEO of The Gender Plan. By creating a flexible work/travel schedule, ensuring proper parental leave is in place and encouraging peer group meetings to guarantee a seamless transition, firms can foster a more favorable environment for leaders. This shift is meaningful for attraction and retention of women in the workplace.
Mentorship is a critical component for growth in all professions. When mentors share their experiences with their mentees, they provide knowledge and coaching on hurdles, life changes or unexpected situations within their careers. The mentor‘s role is intricate; they play the confidante, career counselor and personal goal planner. Early on in a consultant’s career, a mentor should be assigned for professional and moral support. Providing women in consulting a mentor is vital to the consultant’s career growth; as life happens, a mentor can help guide the mentee through life changes, especially those changes revolving around balancing family and career. Quarterly touchpoints increase the success rate of one’s achievement of personal and professional goals.
Managing a consulting career will always be a challenge, but consulting firms have an opportunity to increase their retention and engagement of top women leaders by being proactive. Identifying those with the most potential, creating an inclusive environment and giving women access to other women leaders within the organization are all key best-practices firms can activate. Data driven consulting assessments coupled with proactive planning will allow firms to identify and retain the best women leaders and position them for long term success.