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International Women’s Day: Why would anyone want to be a management consultant?

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve asked two team members at different stages of their careers to share something connected to their identity as women that has impacted on their working lives.

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.

As a young graduate

“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:

  1. Firstly, I was determined that my career would allow me to feel empowered and  offer me an unrestricted and fair opportunity to achieve my personal goals. At a management consultancy this seemed an impossibility to me. The general rhetoric I’d heard suggested management consultancy was a particularly male dominated world where women struggle to make their mark, receive equal pay and become managers.
  2. Secondly, I had spent much time volunteering whilst at university. From this, I developed a strong desire to make a positive impact and hoped to achieve this through my future work. I struggled to see a correlation between “positive social impact” and management consultancy. Although many management consultancies had established CSR departments, I suspected they still functioned as money-driven corporates and I imagined they often comprised their “values” in order to maximise profits, most often at their clients’ and indeed society’s expense.

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.

A surprise fit

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.

Misconceptions

From my own viewpoint, as someone who has now been at Baxendale for 6 months, my previous opinions about management consultancy seem entirely misguided.

  1. Firstly, management consultancy at Baxendale is far from a male dominated world. As an employee owned company, everyone is valued and given an equal platform to speak, as well as full access to management accounts and pay scales. This kind of fairness and equality is not just something that happens in theory, but it is instead actively encouraged.
    From day one I have, therefore, felt empowered as a woman fully involved in the business, and trusted and listened to by all my colleagues. What’s more, women make up 64% of the workforce and have roles right across the whole business, including senior management. This has been a huge source of inspiration for me and acts as a constant reminder that I will be able to reach my goals.
    When you are experiencing true equality, you probably don’t even have to think about it. That’s what it feels like to me as a woman at Baxendale.
  2. Secondly, I have spent my first 6 months working with a wide variety of social businesses, including charities, health care trusts and social enterprises. It is clear to me that Baxendale, which is both B Corp certified and a supporting member of Social Enterprise UK, passionately cares about lives and communities. Partners all want their impact to be positive and would clearly never let this be compromised.

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. 


Mia Vigar

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