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Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!

#1 Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 00:07

Dave McConsultant

I worked in industry before I joined you sharks, in industry I had the joy of working with some sharp female managers and directors.

Since joining the consultancy ranks I have met very few female management conultants who cut the mustard - most seem to err towards the comms/consultation side of change management and use the usual business bullsh*t to mask a lack of real interest.

Carefully I have avoided the obvious lines of 'women are not good enough' or 'women do not know enough' but the overall theme is clear - are women good enough, and if so, why is this such a male dominated sport?

Let the games begin...

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#2 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 06:44

just a woman to Dave McConsultant (#1)

If that is indeed so, maybe there is something flawed in the recruiting process ...

Why were the recruiters unable to discover that "lack of real interest" before hiring such women consultants?

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#3 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 08:55

Tony Restell ( to Dave McConsultant (#1)

Dave - I think you're trying to start a serious discussion, rather than just be provocative (which is what I initially thought when I saw the subject line).

I would make 2 points:

1. When I worked in strategy consulting fresh from university, about 1/3 of the intake in my firm and competitor firms was female. The ladies were amongst the highest performers - and I know some project managers that insisted on having females on every project team they ran, since female colleagues were able to diffuse heated situations at the client site and negotiate with difficult managers more effectively than any male consultant. So nothing in my experience would suggest that there's anything that makes men "more suited" to consulting than women, from a competency point of view.

2. Having said this, consulting was then - and still remains - an industry that is unforgiving to those that wish to have a great work/life balance. Firms are trying to make strides in the direction of improving the balance for those returning from maternity leave, but in practice consulting still requires a lot of sacrifice. As a consequence, many female colleagues left the industry in their early thirties - a trend that is still prevalent today I would argue. So at the higher ranks, you are likely to find fewer female colleagues.

Would love to hear the views of our female readers on this. What are your experiences and how does the balance at your firm compare with this?

Tony Restell

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#4 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 09:38

KR to Tony Restell ( (#3)

Lets face it, work-life balance aside, consultancy has several aspects that are not very female oriented.

It can be competitive, technology oriented, analytical, process driven, male dominated, and dependent on an old boys club.

Not very surprising that many women have no interest in joining consultancy in the first place. I suspect that those that do either feel out of place or adapt to the male culture....and one thing women are not very good at is being men.

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#5 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 10:10

cynthia to KR (#4)

You've really got to be kidding, right? There is a reason it's called "Little Britain." Take a look outside of this small, rather insignificant island (where 3 years of education, instead of 4-8, like the rest of the world qualifies you as a "graduate!") and you'll see that gender is irrelevant where brains are concerned. Since you sound rather young, I imagine there will be many female bosses in your future. It might be better to try and understand that individual success is up to you. It's the small person and probably the "not quite that bright" one who looks to blame and find excuses for their own lack of success.

And Tony!! I'm ashamed of you for giving this discussion even a remote bit of credence.

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#6 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 14:33

@ to cynthia (#5) for 8 years like those oh-so-clever-and-productive students in Germany. Not.

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#7 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 14:37

george to @ (#6)

sorry lady

you telling me my 3 year degree in physics in Oxford does not qualify me as a graduate?!

Ive worked in Europe - and I have seen the wonderful university systems of France, Italy, Spain etc.

Youre not even worthy of a reply! How many bschools do you have in the international top 50? 1. enough said.

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#8 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
02/11/2006 17:43

dl to cynthia (#5)

Cynthia, I fail to see what the quality (or otherwise) of the British education system has to do with the topic at hand. Not to mention "failure". Chill out.

I just did a quick reckoning - in my office, out of 47 consultants, there's 18 women. At all levels of the career scale. I work with them the same way I do with men, and I do not notice any difference (on average) in their skills and ability to deal with the client.

PS: I have studied (and have degrees) from both a "continental" university and a British one, I regularly recruit in France, Spain, Italy and the UK, and I can't say the quality of continental education is significantly higher than the British one. The student makes the difference.

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#9 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
03/11/2006 09:52

New recruit to dl (#8)

I've just joined a large consultancy I have felt that although the intellectual capacity of the guys/girls is about the same, on interpersonal/communication skills the girls are streets ahead...

On another point though I know that in 7ish years time (i'm 23 now) i'll be giving in all up to have a family so when/if I return to consultancy the guys will have had a significant number of years more experience than me. There's nothing I can do about it and I'm not complaining as I really want to bring up my own family.

I guess my question is from those older consultants is it clear that at say 40yrs, women have less experience/knowledge than the men because of their years out bringing up their families?

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#10 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
03/11/2006 10:35

Dave McConsultant to New recruit (#9)

Original poster here!

Thank you for moving the debate on from my humble mysoginistic bear bating to one that now covers gender, consulting ability in general, maternity leave and global educational systems!

Some of the threads in recent days have shown that within our ranks we all put up with the good, the bad and the ugly. It's refreshing to know that we all share the same frustrations. No wonder that the very latest thread today discusses addiction to this wondrous world of sharp witted competitive cynicism!!!

Well done all.

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#11 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
03/11/2006 13:13

dl to New recruit (#9)

New recruit: though it may be true that some women take a career break to care for a family, by no means all do (and even for those that do, the length of the break may be a few months, not many years). Also, there's some valuable lessons in patience, understanding others and commitment that you learn while bringing up children. Nothing is ever quite so black-or-white as it seems.

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#12 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
07/11/2006 22:44

confusedlady! to dl (#11)

Dave - I don't know what to say - I'm actually ashamed of your apparent lack of empathy with the female standpoint (surely you have sisters / a mum who could help shed light?). Here are some thoughts which might help you understand why it's so male-dominated....

I'm 32 years old, I've just got married (for the first time), and having moved to a dead-end job in industry, I am desperately looking to go back to the dynamic world of consultancy, but am faced with a dilemma. On the one hand all I want to do it jack in my current job and have my first kid. Sod the job - but on the other, I want to get back into the consulting world, make my mark, and then maybe think about it....but then, do I really want to give up my evenings to work late into the night, missing seeing friends and family? And if I do go back into consulting and then decide to start a family, there's the people who ask me if I'd feel guilty about doing that (no as it happens!), my worry and guilt that I couldn't possibly put myself through that amount of stress during pregnancy, and then of course the practicalities of working on a client site, and getting home to the kids if something's up (cos face it, it's mostly the woman who agrees to compromise time in the office if the kids go sick or something...) - given these kinds of massive decisions, I think it's totally understandable that when you get to your early 30s that there are so few women in consulting....I am simply not willing to give up one of the amazing joys (so I've heard) of this world which is bringing up your own children - for a life of constant stress away from those who I yes, women are good enough, they just have some very tough decisions to contend making those, support from their men would be appreciated.

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#13 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
08/11/2006 13:15

A to confusedlady! (#12)

I am female, 4 years in consulting and the case is exactly as Tony and confusedlady have described. Female consultants, over 35, 95% end up in industry, etsablish their own business, or public sector.

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#14 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
08/11/2006 13:36

VI to A (#13)

right. or work from home selling pottery.

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#15 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
09/11/2006 14:39

C to VI (#14)

You know, it is bloody tough being a woman who also wants a career.

I'm 26, which i still do consider to be young, and ALL of my female mates are having these discussions. Continuously in their heads, and constantly with each other!

Trials and tribulations.

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#16 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
10/11/2006 12:57

Geoff to C (#15)

To set the background - 23, white, male consultant. The idea that women don't make good consultants is utter BS in my 18mths or so experience.

I've really hated working for some women, they were wet, didn't really grab the situation by the horns and wouldn't really talk directly about team performance, perferring to go softly softly at things and feedback after a project on paper. This is a bloody terrible approach and it shocks me that some consultancies allow it. BUT ITS NOT JUST WOMEN.... i've had men do this too, its not a gender thing (although personality types, may, statistically lean towards one gender... but i don't know)

Opening up the whole can of worms regarding maternity leave etc is a tough one, as women want to take on a more 'traditional masculine' role of bread winner etc and work more, this requires men to make on a more 'traditionally feminine' role in society and also take time off work to raise the kids.... its not controversial, its just fact. but as i said... can of worms etc

we are not all the same and we should love that (as how dull would life be any other way). As long as all employees are hired on ability and personality and not to tick some demographic diversity box (and this is meant so neutrally) we should all be fine

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#17 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
19/11/2006 08:27

bri500 to Geoff (#16)

I’ve been a consultant over 7 years now and this is ridiculous. Indeed, I’d even go as far as to say the best 2 consultants I’ve worked with in my time have been female. Yes, I’ve seen some terrible female consultants over the years (including very stereotypical behaviour like crying when being told to do their analysis again and sitting in meetings touching up their make up) but the very worst – without exception – have been men.

You may not have noticed, but this is a people business and despite some big consultancies bombarding the media with (usually uninsightful) insights to make themselves look like content leaders, it’s all about relationships and in that respect women are much better at men. The school tie networks are dying off and consequently many relationships are being badly managed by men who simply have no clue about basic social skills!

Many women leave the industry for very good personal reasons (not the male view that they “can’t hack it”) and consultancies are poorer for it.

However, I will take one person to task on education systems. Yes, on the continent you can do 5-8 years at university….and then these people join graduate schemes at the same level as UK graduates did! Ask yourself what gives you greater experience, 3 years at university plus 5 years working or 8 years in a classroom? Having also lived and worked in various European countries, there seems to be an overriding theme as to why education is so long in many other countries – there are simply no jobs for young, bright 21-22 year olds so they keep them in education until they are deemed “ready” enough by society. Not my “Little Britain” attitudes by the way, my continental colleagues also view it this way, and you may wish to take a look at youth unemployment rates before you riposte. Oh, and business school rankings have nothing to do with that argument (the argument is about undergraduate learning), with logic like that how on earth did you ever get recruited? If our education is so bad, why has the UK economy flourished whilst continental Europe has, in many respects, floundered? Could it be that our learned friends don’t know how to make money??? (Cue rant from someone about Anglo-Saxon capitalism not being everything…)

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#18 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
19/11/2006 09:58

P to bri500 (#17)

Here a response from an overseas student. I will finish my studies after 7 years. I have the impression that English students are much more driven from the start, because your whole culture encourages students to work hard and be ambitious. Much more than for example Holland.

Here though, students work next to their course and they get experience in committees, organising events and other extra-curricular activities.

I went to Aston university for five months and did research and from there my ambition to actually push myself originated. Now I am about to finish two masters in one and I work and I lectured younger year's students.

At the same time, the system here is changing and becoming more and more competitive, so I believe in the next years at least Dutch students will be studying shorter.

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#19 RE: Women make rubbish consultants...seriously!
19/11/2006 10:12

P to bri500 (#17)

Oh, and please realise how lucky you are with all those career events and things that are organised by universities, because those should not be taken for granted!

Oh and who is genuinly (not sure about the spelling) interested in gender differences; there is lots of scientific research about that available. Concluding e.g. that differences are minor, but not to a degree that they are worthy of stereotyping in work efficiency.

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