A Changing World For Women In Consulting

Consulting firms advising their clients on gender parity are now trying to provide gender-balanced project teams and undertaking measures to increase gender parity across levels


Talent is a scarce resource in today’s professional environment. With the increasing participation from women in the workplace, organisations are now innovating to attract and retain them. Increasing the number of women in the workplace not only improves outcomes for the society but also enhances corporate performance. Industry research indicates that women leaders frequently exhibit leadership traits, such as decision-making on rational persuasion (factual evidence) and consultation, i.e., engaging others in joint actions. These traits, along with efficient communication, contribute to better corporate performance, positively affecting the organisation’s financial performance.

Traditionally male-dominated industries, such as consulting, have, over the last few years, been trying to attract skilled women, as organisations with gender-balanced workforces and leadership teams tend to be more creative, innovative, and resilient. Consulting firms advising their clients on gender parity are now trying to provide gender-balanced project teams and undertaking measures to increase gender parity across levels, such as:

· Focussed hiring: Organisations are focussing on diversity when hiring laterally and from campuses. Many consulting firms have consciously strategised to hire an equal percentage of men and women at entry levels and mentor them into the mid- and senior-management levels. Lateral hiring at the mid- and senior-management levels have also witnessed diversity-based hiring strategies.

· Return-to-work programmes: Globally, women tend to leave or take sabbaticals from the workforce post getting married or having a child, to take care of the elderly at home, or other personal events. Organisations today are creating policies and programmes to bring these women back to work by coaching and supporting them through alternative working models and enabling them to manage both, their family and professional commitments.

· Mid-career support: Supporting working women at the mid-career stage, when their personal commitments are on the rise, empowers them to continue to participate in the workforce. Organisations have created policies around creches within office premises or in the vicinity, along with flexi working hours for their women professionals.

· Leadership pipeline creation: While many organisations have made significant progress in ensuring gender parity at the entry and junior levels, the numbers generally dwindle as we move up the professional ladder with few women in leadership roles. Currently, consulting majors are focussed on creating gender-diverse leadership pipelines, where candidates are identified and mentored by senior professionals. Leadership paths for women are now an integral part of business strategy.

· Addressing unconscious bias at the workplace: Senior management often unconsciously apply gender stereotypes to leadership—women “take care,” while men “take charge”. Organisations are addressing these unconscious biases across levels and promoting a performance-driven culture that upholds the objective assessment of demonstrated competence. Many organisations are witnessing a cultural change with an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, driven by awareness sessions on individual biases and how they affect decisions and work modalities.

· Networking, mentorship, sponsorship, and learning opportunities: The availability of mentoring, sponsorship, networking, and leadership are viewed as incentives. Organisations today, are providing leadership interaction and mentoring support to women employees, investing in learning opportunities, and reskilling and upskilling their women employees, propelling their careers.

COVID-19 has immensely affected women professionals who identify the pandemic’s impact as a threat to their careers. A global survey conducted by Deloitte identified that 70 percent women who experienced disruptions in their lives due to the pandemic are concerned about progressing in their careers. The pandemic has resulted in a large section of women dropping out of the workforce. Now, more so than ever, organisations need to invest in flexible and bold strategies to engage and retain skilled women resources.

(The article has been penned down solely for BW People publication by Sanghamitra Sanyal, Director, Consulting, Deloitte India)

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