Alex Clutterbuck was deeply suspicious of our sector. She takes us through the reasons she decided to give consulting a chance, and it’s all about equality.
“Let’s avoid those stands – that kind of career is clearly not for me. Why would anyone what to be a management consultant anyway?”
This is a typical example of my thinking at one of the many career fairs I attended in 2015. I was a soon to be graduate, desperately trying to sculpt out a future career, and was struggling. Rather unhelpfully, all I seemed to know for certain was what I didn’t want to do. And I was certain that I didn’t want to be a management consultant.
Not because I was intimidated by the profession or because the role didn’t excite me, but because I believed that the management consulting industry would be incompatible with my values, and most importantly my aspirations as a young woman at the start of her career.
This is down to two assumptions:
With these arguments in mind, I felt I was right to avoid the management consulting stands at the careers fair. I was never going to “sell my soul”.
It was quite a turnaround, therefore, when I found myself starting work in 2018 as a junior management consultant.
For the sake of narrative, it would be helpful if I could say that my opinions from 2015 were misconceptions, and that once I had realised this, management consultancy suddenly appeared like the right career for me. However, this wasn’t the case. My opinions from 2015 were not quite misconceptions and my journey to management consultancy was not quite so simple.
After leaving university in 2015, I spent two years working as a primary school teacher through the Teach First Graduate Scheme. Following this, I spent a year working at a social mobility charity where I supported the delivery of several education projects. Despite the endless marking and planning, I thoroughly enjoyed these jobs and was especially passionate about the way they directly correlated with my aforementioned values and aspirations. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t being challenged and that it would be exciting to build on the skills I had developed and apply them to the corporate world.
It was with this mindset that I became interested in a job opening at Baxendale. They were looking for a junior consultant who, amongst other services, would assist them to create:
“Positive social impact through helping social businesses to survive and thrive, and assisting employers and employees to maintain fair and equal workplaces”
This role perfectly aligned with my values and aspirations. I immediately applied. The fact Baxendale was a management consultancy was insignificant.
From my own viewpoint, as someone who has now been at Baxendale for 6 months, my previous opinions about management consultancy seem entirely misguided.
However, despite my own personal experiences, I am still reluctant to describe my opinions from 2015 as misconceptions.
Unfortunately, data confirms the gender inequality rhetoric and some key consulting firms have been criticised for endorsing the gender pay gap, with one revealing they pay women 42% less than men and another, that there was a 30% gap in terms of bonus.
This indicates that beneath their well-publicised gender diversity strategies and “empowering women” campaigns, these companies are still deeply entrenched in gender inequality.
I started this blog with the question “Why would you ever want to be a management consultant anyway?”
The truth is that I’m still not entirely sure. For the reasons above, I remain unconvinced that I would want to be a management consultant at your typical consultancy if something significant doesn’t change around equality in the workplace.
However, I do know that I want to be one at Baxendale.
By Alex Clutterbuck, for International Women’s Day.