By: Alexandra Botescu
Consulting is traditionally a male dominant profession. However, in the last few years we have seen a shift the industry. More and more women are applying to consulting firms and consulting firms are trying to recruit more women and, in addition, try to help them stay longer within the company. With these aspects in mind I would like to go through the main issues I have experiences whilst working in consulting.
Personality to succeed
In order succeed as a woman in consulting you need to have a certain type of personality. It is very important to first of all consider yourself equally intelligent and capable of delivering high quality results as all of your male colleagues. Second, you should be inquisitive, enjoy solving challenging problems and willing to work hard even when you are unsure what the solution is. Moreover, you have to be very friendly and sociable because at the end of the day we are dealing with clients all the time and they are at the centre of everything we do. Therefore, when I started working as a consultant, I made efforts to identify what skills I should improve and worked hard on these traits to make sure that I was fully aligned with this career path.
Working in a male dominated environment
Although consulting firms recognise the need to have a balanced gender distribution, the working environment clearly remains male dominant. I have worked in teams where I was the only female, but I have never felt separated from my colleagues and I have never been treated differently because I was a girl. I have always received the same amount of attention for my manager and the same types of tasks as my peers. Therefore, from my personal point of view, working in a male dominated team is not a problem for the consulting industry.
It is true that as a woman you will have more pressure on your work-life balance than your male colleagues. Often times these pressures become more present once you become a mother. Personally I have not faced these challenges yet, but I do know that consultants tend to work more than average hours which does have an impact on your social life. Being well organised and having your priorities straight is key in resolving this. Previously, it was customary for women to stay in consulting only for 4-5 years until they reached manager level which tended to coincide with the start of their own family. They would then exit the consulting sector for less demanding jobs. Now, however, consulting firms are making more of an effort to retain their female staff and are supporting them to have a better work-life balance by helping them work less or part time. I know several women that have taken this opportunity and they have all said that it works and allows them to spend more time with their families.
Clients being advised by women
Depending on the region where you work, you may encounter difficulties with clients that do not want to be advised by women. Personally, as I have been mainly working in Europe, I have not encountered this issue. However, some of my female colleagues working in the Middle East have mentioned that they have encountered resistance with their clients. However, I believe that the climate in these countries is also slowly changing for the better. It is definitely an aspect to take into consideration if considering to join the consulting industry.
When it comes to networking, I have always considered myself lucky to be a girl. It is often that within consulting firms various Women’s Communities exist. Usually these are very strong and active communities that organise many networking events for women. When working in consulting, you are very much encouraged to attend these events and it is here where you find other women with similar experiences and that can give you the advice that you need or women that can help you find your next consulting role.
In conclusion, I believe that as a girl, I have had a very positive experience with working in consulting and provided that you are truly passionate about the industry I believe that any female can succeed in this sector.
Biography (Alexandra Botescu)
Born in Romania, I have always aimed to work and study abroad in order to gain the best possible experience and perfect myself. In this sense I decided to study Business Administration in Bucharest and Saint Petersburg and the CEMS / International Management master program in Vienna and Prague. When it came time to choose a career path I wanted a profession that allowed me flexibility, both in terms of location, industry and tasks. Therefore, I chose consulting and I have been very lucky to have worked for some of the most prestigious consulting firms (Accenture, A.T. Kearney, BCG) in Bucharest, Prague, Vienna and London.