Ms. Anne Bioulac: Principal, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
Ms. Pascale Guasp: Partner, CVA Consulting
Ms Sophie Comoy: Senior Manager, Bearing Point
Ms. Mandy Schreuder: Project Manager, Mercer Consulting
MODERATOR Ms. Nathalie Dupuis-Hepner: Former Knowledge Officer, Ernst & Young
Ms. Nathalie Dupuis-Hepner, who acted as moderator of the panel, welcomed all participants celebrated the diversity of background, age, experience and career path of the different speakers and invited them to share briefly their personal story and initial ideas on the topic “Diversity as a lever for growth and innovation in consulting”
Ms Pascale Guasp explained how she joined CVA when it was still HEC undergraduate. At this time was barely a start-up but with a true diversity drive, opening offices in London, Paris in Boston. Her career bloomed within CVA where she progressively took new responsibilities in her way to partner. CVA celebrates diversity, however in terms of gender diversity CVA is struggling to promote and retain women, only 3 women partners.
Ms Mandy Schreuder completed her studies in the Netherlands, where she started her career as consultant, to later move to Mercer where she specialized in M&A. Mercer is a international HR consulting firm embracing diversity, it is member of the European Women Professional Network which holds a mentoring programme for women.
Ms. Anne Bioulac is a principal at Rolan Berger, she works in the Paris office which has around 50% female employees, however the percentage is not maintained throughout the hierarchy; it is a genuine concern how to retain women in responsibility positions.
Ms Sophie Comoy started her career in the commodities business to later move to KPMG Consulting before arriving to Bearing Point where she has specialized in Finance function efficiency. When she started her career her belief was that the diversity at workplace was an issue of the past, a constraint of past generation and she was shock to see that it is still present in many work environments.
The first question that the moderator put on the table was how the gender diversity affects the engagement and clients relation in the Consulting industry.
The participants explained that gender predominance at team level or with the customer has not been an issue in their experience. Teams are measured by their performance, which are determined by the teams´ skills diversity rather than gender diversity. At corporate level there is a responsibility to ensure that teams include the right mix of skills and not setting gender quotas.
It was also noted that for customer relations, gender might be important, in the sense that customers renew contracts with people rather than with firms. Consultants must develop durable relationships with their customers,connecting at more personal level through common interest, and the way this relationships are formed and sustained might bedifferent depending on gender.
The second topic of the workshop was about the role of the Consulting Firms in organizing and facilitating women´s careers, as unfortunately diversity indicators for consulting industry are alarmingly low.
It was agreed among the panelist that most firms tailor a career management plan according to each individual´s needs. In many cases the firms have developed women-promotion programs that was later extended to all employees to develop flexibility, mentoring, and coaching, which are essential for developing woman role model. In many cases sponsoring is a requirement to access the higher levels of management, gender can be an extra burden to find a sponsor, as there are only few women and men, while would do it naturally for other men, might have some doubts when sponsoring a woman.
To the question of barriers for women who want to climb in the corporate hierarchy, the panel agreed that a global policy at firm level would indeed help but is ultimately to the relation of each individual with her manager. The main problem is the expectations, in most cases true, about the job requirements: long hours, frequent travelling, lack of private life, that will refrain many women from pursuing a career in consulting.
The third topic of the conference was about the particularities of women´s leadership, and what are the main traits that can be expected from a female leader. The discussion revolved around values, and the importance of being aligned with the company´s as well as customer´s values for an effective leadership, but this is not gender-specific. While it was agreed that some men are uncomfortable being managed by women, this is, luckily, not that common and the skills required to be a manager are more or less universal and widely accepted, so being a woman or not should not play a role.
To close the workshop, the panelists were asked for their recommendations to the MBA participants considering a career in consulting. One of the main recommendations included setting priorities and organize your life around them ensuring proper balance among them. It is possible to have a family and a career in consulting, but one needs to be firm in her priorities and self-disciplined with time management. Consulting is a dynamic industry, staffed with very intelligent, engaged professionals, were flexibility is required to continue learning throughout your career. One must be flexible and willing to adapt, fitting with this spirit is the most essential part to succeed in consulting.
Special Thanks to the organizers for puttting this event together
Ankita SAYAL, President
Sonali JAIN, Director, Events
Kirti SHARMA, Director, Alumni Relations
Yulia TURKOVA, Director, Communications