About being the single lady (and consulting business)

Having joined the company over a month ago it is about time to introduce myself to a larger audience – a.k.a the hopefully vast number of eager 3XO blog readers.

Who am I?

  • Experience in management consulting, business communications and sales
  • Passionate about people, problem-solving and continuous learning (copy pasted from my LinkedIn yet still very accurate)
  • During my free time I enjoy running, dancing, wining and dining in restaurants way too often and shoe shopping

When discussing joining 3XO with my nearest and dearest the question of me being the only lady repeatedly rose up (“and why does the website represent an all-male panel?”). The similar issue is probably speculated among the leaders and HR professionals in the largest management consulting companies – why don’t they have more female applicants, why is the consulting lifestyle not attractive enough for women?

I guess the key reasons why women are not attracted to management consulting are:

  • Fear of not fulfilling all the requirements in job postings
  • Concerns related to work and life balance
  • Unwillingness to be in gender minority

Women are often described as less career focused and less likely to invest time and effort in building their careers than men. Not to even mention maternity leaves and sick children. Yet a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group found that a woman’s ambition to advance her career is not affected by motherhood, but by corporate cultures that fail to embrace diversity. This resonates with the third point of the list – if a company has zero women or explicit minority of female employees, an illusion of not embracing diversity can arise and turn away potential female applicants.

Consulting companies tend to have a dazing list of superhuman qualities required in their job postings. Women generally underestimate their capabilities while men have the tendency to be more confident about their skills or lack of some capabilities. Impostor syndrome, i.e. feeling like a fraud and underestimating your experience or expertise, could also explain this phenomenon - experts have found that women are more likely to suffer from it more intensely. For consultancies eager to get more female applicants, I warmly suggest reconsidering job postings and cutting the overwhelming lists of requirements and needed achievements (like the guys at 3XO successfully did).

So, what lead me to choose such a male-dominated industry? My personal path has unintentionally turned out quite male dominated. By making decisions based on genuine interests and trying to find tasks challenging enough, I have often found myself surrounded by males. I do not value diversity as such or embrace forcing it through quotas, yet find the benefits of having diversity within the team rather obvious from both customers’ and the consultants’ viewpoints. Joining an all-male team requires the same qualities as being a consultant itself: the tendency to view something difficult or scary as a challenge instead of an unsolvable problem, and the curiosity for trying something new.

My tips for women considering consulting as a career: be bravely yourself and do not mask your gender. Stop worrying about combining work and family; the amount of flexibility in a consultant’s workday (at least at 3XO) is high. Since we have no dress code at the office, there are no suits nor female equivalents unless we are meeting clients (unfortunately, this also means no high heels inside for me). An article I came across states: “It seems that the tech industry has not only a glass ceiling, but also a shoe ceiling”, meaning that a woman should only wear high heels after reaching the CXO level – hopefully this rule does not apply to our company…

Some perks of having a male-dominated team: there is always someone who opens the door for you, holds an umbrella above your head when it is raining, or pours the drinks (unfortunately meaning mostly water at lunch). Being afraid of way too many “only male jokes” and never-ending discussions around football, beer and so on has turned out to be totally useless.

Like money attracts money, I am hopeful that women (or in this case a single lady) will likewise attract women. If this convinced you, feel free to contact me!