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Women in Consulting-Germany (MBB, 2nd Tier)

Anonymous A asked on Sep 18, 2018 - 2 answers

Hallo, my question is specific to Germany/DACH region but I'd be curious about the rest of the world too in terms of promoting equality/diversity amongst staff.

A friend told me a lot of management consulting firms are hiring a lot of people this year (DACH region, she works in Austria, her consulting friends in Germany and they are all male). When I went to a Jobmesse recently in Berlin the MBB, Roland Berger, AT Kearney, etc. were all there, and there was probably 1 woman working at those booths for every 15 men (that's generous). Some booths had 8 people working and zero were women.

Obviously consulting is still a more male-dominated business-I'm wondering if in Germany/DACH this will help/hurt/not impact my chances of getting an interview/being hired, particularly if I'm seeking a full career in consulting (Partner track), not the two year up and out. Do they have certain quotas they are filling? My friend didn't know but said she's usually the only female on a team.

According to every MBB/other website they are doing a lot to improve equality of the sexes in their employees in terms of numbers/ranks, etc. but I'm wondering how much of that is talk and how much is real? It's very 'trendy' for firms to promote diversity/equality at the moment, which is a good thing of course, but only if they actually follow through.

Even on this site I'm guessing it's only 20% women, so I'm just curious. Vielen Dank!

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Elias
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updated his answer on Sep 18, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

first of all a disclaimer: I am a 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 is still male-dominated, 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 bias or gender 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 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 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 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)

Thank you so much for your detailed and well-thought out message Elias! I hope it gets upvoted a lot so other women on here can see it. From everything I've learned so far about this business (including the difficult parts/sacrifices), I want to start from the beginning with an aim for a senior role as I think I'm well-suited for it. Thank you for the encouragement and kind words! — Anonymous on Sep 20, 2018

Thanks for your feedback. I wish you the very best of luck in pursuing your dream and being a trailblazer. — Elias on Sep 21, 2018 (edited)

Guennael
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replied on Sep 23, 2018
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I think Elias is right: consulting is hard to women (hard for everyone, but even more so for young mothers). Here are 3 data points to support this:

1. BCG's top leadership is 35% female: https://www.bcg.com/about/people/leadership.aspx

2. SP500's CEOs, 25% female:https://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-ceos-sp-500

3. SP500's board members, 22% female:https://www.briefinggovernance.com/2017/12/as-spencer-stuart-releases-its-latest-sp-500-board-index-how-does-your-board-compare/

Consultancies want the best people, regardless of gender, origin, sexual preference... If you are good, they'll do their best to (a) hire you, and (b) keep you. One of my BCG principals had special travel arrangements for example, allowing her to come home mid-week every time. Tough on her due to extra travel, but important as a young mom. She stayed at BCG as a result, and was recently elected Partner.

Viel Glueck!

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