Women MBAs: The Management Consulting Industry Needs You
Alina Osipava (LBS MBA 2013) and Clarice Borges (AT Kearney Associate)
This week I joined 30 or so female MBAs and management consultants for an informal brunch overlooking the manicured gardens of London Business School (LBS).
The hosts, AT Kearney, were on a gentle recruitment mission - this event is part of a series of female-focused meetings and workshops to attract more capable women in to consulting. The guests, a selection of smart, international ladies, from one of the world's top MBA programmes, were eager to ask questions and impress.
Organised by a dynamic high-school friend, Amy Dullage (an Associate at AT Kearney and 2009 graduate of LBS), this was one of a flurry of "Women In Business" (WIB) events I've been invited to in the last few years. Every business school is keen to push their WIB clubs and societies - a justified effort given that women only account for 25% of most MBA cohorts and that men still occupy the majority of senior management jobs around the world. Just 3% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs - a startlingly low percentage. In crass terms, women are less senior, get paid less and have less job security than men.
Personally I've never felt particularly disadvantaged as a woman. A British child of the Thatcher generation and an undergraduate in the late 1990s when girls had just tipped the balance of boys at university in the UK, I've always felt on a pretty even footing. But I haven't yet had the responsibility of a family to juggle with my career, nor have I worked in the management consulting sector, an industry with a bad reputation for male-dominance. A quick look at the top strategy houses reveals that the six most senior partners at McKinsey are all men, only three of BCG's 17 Executive Committee members are women and Bain & Company is stuffed with male partners despite having a powerful female at the helm: Orit Gadiesh, an HBS grad, has been chairwoman of Bain since 1993.
AT Kearney is an 80-year old management consulting firm (2,700 staff, 38 countries) that aims to deliver "creative, meaningful.. and sustainable results". The spiel aside, I was genuinely engaged by the representatives at brunch, including Robyn Wright, a down-to-earth Principal and mother of two and Clarice Borges, a straight-talking Brazilian with a crisp English accent who had a ten-year career at Unilever before switching to consulting.
Robyn described AT Kearney's flexible working arrangements - which really do sound flexible - saying that the firm "wants to be a home base" for their consultants to come back to after career breaks or maternity leave. Interestingly Robyn pointed out that it's easier to take time off as a consultant than in a corporate line management role - you can finish one project, go traveling in South America for three months and come back to start another project - your colleagues might not realise you've been away!
Clarice reinforced the positive working environment at AT Kearney, saying that everyone is approachable, the partners don't separate themselves in offices and that quite often you can hear "little bursts of laughter" ripple across the floor. Clarice, who joined AT Kearney just three months ago, also intimated that she enjoyed the interview process, during which she decided her future colleagues were people she'd actually like to work with.
And what about the MBAs? I sat between Belarusian-American business founder Alina Osipava and Kenyan-British auditor Palvi Shah, prime examples of LBS women: confident; chatty and worldly. The VP of the LBS Consulting club, Morgan Botha, a South African who looks like Kate Middleton (but with more oomph!), told me that "it's easier to talk openly at all-women events like this - you wouldn't necessarily want to ask certain questions amongst a group of guys".
Overall it was a thoroughly nice affair: sensible, smart, female role models, a management consulting firm with a no-nonsense approach and a group of MBAs who'll hopefully beat the odds and break the glass ceiling for women in business.
More photos from the event:
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