Elias
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Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business
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Racial / sexist discrimination in Consulting in Europe

Someone asked on Sep 19, 2018 - 4 answers

Bear with my controversial question.

Just want to know, when it comes to hiring, is there any racial / gender discrimination or preference when it comes to hiring?

After all, consulting is a client-facing job, consultants are expected to build a long-time relationship with clients, and it´s always easier between nationals of the same country.

Not all European countries are so diverse and tolerate. I´ve been told stories that sometimes clients (not necessarily in Consulting) walks in the room and said:¨what is this ***(insert any colored people) person doing here?¨

I saw some Indian guys actually use Anglo-Saxon names on their LinkedIn / Resume such as Kevin or John, wondering if they take it as a smart trick to avoid this discrimination (at least at CV screening stage), again sorry if I offend anyone and those are actually their birth names.

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Elias
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updated his answer on Sep 20, 2018
Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business

Hi Anonymous,

first of all a disclaimer: I am a white man, so I definitely have blind spots here and there and maybe see things for better than they really are. But I'll do my best to give an objective answer.

I believe that Vlad and Guennael have already made some good points. I am including below an answer to a similar question from some days ago, with some minor edits.​

Just one additional point:

I do fear that racism may be a tougher nut to crack than sexism (especially the blatant kind) . After all, women make up half of the population, so all of us have had quite a bit exposure to smart, ambitious, admirable women. So we've kinda gotten used to that.

But in many societies in W. Europe, you get A LOT less exposure to smart, ambitious, admirable people of different races. First of all because they don't make up half of the population, secondly because many of "these groups" are under-proportionally represented in higher education and the traditional circles where consultants come from. There's a million reasons for that, which I don't want to get into, but the fact remains. Also, sadly, in the current political climate in Europe, many groups are overgeneralized ("the Muslims", "the Africans") and wholesale associated with trouble. And counter-examples of well-integrated, successful people of different races are viewed as the exception to the rule, rather than vice versa. Obviously this does not happen to women, at least not to that extent.

An anecdote to that:
A good friend and former colleague has Vietnamese roots. A few years ago, he moved to the US. He said it was such a relief for him to not see the surprise on clients faces when he walked into a room that he had seen so many times in Germany. So even today, people are surprised to see an Asian-looking guy walk into a meeting. Nobody would be surprise to see a woman enter the same meeting.

So if I would have to guess who has a harder time, for example in Germany: Probably someone whose name is Ali, Mohammed, Kofi or Minh, rather than someone whose name is Theresa, Sarah or Melanie.

Hope this helps,
Elias

Here's my answer from a few days back:​

Hi Anonymous,

first of all a disclaimer: I am a [white] man, so I definitely have blind spots here and there and maybe see things for better than they really are. But I'll do my best to give an objective answer.

All your questions are justified and the observations are 100% correct.

Consulting [in Europe] is still male-dominated [and predominately white], and the more senior it gets the more so. Tons of reasons for that, many of them related to compatibility of consultant lifestyle with family.

The good news is that I believe that the industry has relatively little gender [/racial] bias or gender [/racial] discrimination, especially when it comes to recruiting. The firms in Germany that I have worked for and with or that I know well from close friends (Horváth & Partners, goetzpartners, BCG, Bain, McKinsey, SMP, EY, to name a few) are very conscious of this imbalance and actively try to work against that.

So I believe that being a woman [/non-white] definitely doesn't hurt your chances during the recruiting process. It may even help just a little bit (but really only a little bit).

During work, you'll obviously encounter the everyday sexism [and racism] both from clients and colleagues. Consulting is not a safe haven from that, although you'll mostly be working with young, highly educated and relatively progressive, open-minded individuals (as colleagues), so there are definitely worse places. I hope this sexism [/racism] doesn't manifest itself too much in your formal evaluations and feedback on your work, but it will definitely happen in everyday situations. Sorry about that!

Regarding the long-term: That is up to you. I believe the way to senior roles is wide open for women. But, consulting is a really tough job to align with family, even under the best of circumstances and even for men in more traditional family settings (man as the sole / main breadwinner). So I am aware that the sacrifices that are demanded from women to get there and the conflicts regarding expectations are infinitesimally higher for women than for men.

I can only encourage you to try to be a trailblazer because our industry needs more of them. But I am aware that it's asking a lot.

Hope this helps,

Elias

(edited)

Guennael replied on Sep 20, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I want to believe that phenomenon does not exist, for the same reasons that Vlad mentions; remember consultancies also look for the best people for the job, whatever the skin color, sexual gender and orientation, or nationality / native language.

At the same time, we must also acknowledge that every single human being has biases - consultants hopefully less than others, but still. Studies after studies have shown that the same resume will be treated differently based on the name and presumed gender of the applicant. I therefore cannot guarantee you there wont be any discrimination. What I can pretty much promise however is there'll be less of that than in just about any other industry.

PS: I am a minority in my chosen country of residence, and have therefore also suffered from discrimination, including being refused job opportunities for one fallacious reason or another. So it is - you move on, and focus on what you can control.

Vlad replied on Sep 19, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

There is no Racial / sexist discrimination on the CV screening stage at least with MBB companies since the companies care a lot about these issues. On the opposite, since the companies want to improve the gender ratio - chances are actually higher in many countries.

On the client side, you may face the discrimination (maybe not in Europe, but very often in the Middle East). But you can always choose the projects to work on

Best

Ethan replied on Sep 20, 2018

An act of utter shame and disgrace.