Women in Consulting- an eye opening experience
Written by Philippa Smith
How 180DC and BOW’s event Women in Consulting opened my eyes to the world of consulting and the countless possibilities for women in business
In the past decade, the number of women in business has seen significant increases, resulting in a boost in the supply of talent and entrepreneurial human capital in the Australian workforce. Despite this, The Australian Office for Women estimated in 2015 that women make up only a third of all Australian business operations. There are clear opportunities for women in business, though many face barriers to entry such as fear of failure/bias, lack of network/mentors or lack of institutional support.
As a woman with career aspirations in the field of consulting, I attended 180 Degrees Consulting and Banking on Women’s online event Women in Consulting to overcome my lack of understanding of potential pathways in the industry. From learning about the daily lives of consultants from industry professionals, being provided insight on specific opportunities available for women and hands-on workshop scenarios, the event was extremely successful in providing me with valuable exposure to the consulting industry that I will bring with me into my future career.
Event coordinators Adon Ewing and Natasha Kennedy-Read from 180DC and Cathy Wu from BOW had a clear vision for the event which was aimed at female-identifying students who are interested in pathways and opportunities available to them in management and strategy consulting. Natasha mentioned that the team “focused on opportunities available for female-identifying students, as historically the industry has been very male-dominated and while many players are making solid ground towards gender parity there is still a way to go and [they] wanted to assist alleviate this.”
The event began with an overview of the field of consulting for women and highlighted the need for diversity in the currently male-dominated field. A major focus of the event, as highlighted by the creators, was to empower women and give them timely advice to shape their future, highlighted below in a snapshot of the event.
Representatives from major consulting firms, such as McKinsey & Company, Strategy& (part of the PwC network), Bain & Company and AlphaBeta, shared their stories in the consulting field and covered opportunities for current students and graduates. A major benefit of Women in Consulting I found was the highlighting of the breadth of the industry, as the event shone light on both generalist strategy houses, but also specialty organisations from varying fields including economic strategy, private equity and IT space.
There were many takeaways from the firms about recruitment, including useful advice on what characteristics the firms look for in someone entering the field. Key traits mentioned by the industry professionals that I took away include:
- Strong problem-solving ability: Ability to structure a logical approach with sound business judgement and a sense of initiative
- Interpersonal skills: Strong ability to connect with others, down-to-earth and a natural leader
- Passionate and driven: Strong career ambitions and dedicated to personal values
- Interest in consulting firms: Public policy, economics and social impact knowledge
The major highlight of the event was the consulting case walk-through which involved putting the audience into breakout rooms with a professional to learn key technical skills required for a consulting interview and the job. This allowed for a more personal interactive experience, showing viewers how to approach a case logically and how consulting firms want you to respond to case interview questions. This was particularly useful for students entering the competitive graduate role market, giving them a leg up on how to perfect the interview process.
The importance of soft skills was emphasised after breakout rooms, as an essential skill in consulting is an ability to interact with others efficiently and harmoniously. A major takeaway from this that I believe was very relevant for me as an undergraduate student was how to improve soft skills at university, including attending networking events, participating in case competitions, reaching out to contacts, and joining clubs are opportunities for personal improvement.
Events Director at 180, Adon Ewing highlighted that a major goal of the event was to be a “fun and interactive session that is unique compared with other careers-related events,” while still preparing students for their next steps if they were to pursue a career in consulting. Cathy Wu from BOW explained that the leveraging of breakout rooms had the purpose of providing a platform for more intimate conversations. This activity aimed to facilitate open discussions between the students and the representative which mimics how a team would work together in the consulting industry.
The breakout room interview case workshop was what set Women in Consulting aside from other online events I have attended this year, due to the interactive and personalised nature of the event which helped me to understand what consulting entails.
The event ended with an insightful Q&A which allowed attendees to ask questions relating to the consulting industry and allowed for further clarification of points made previously. Through the interactive nature of the later sections of the event, engagement between consulting firms and female university students was improved and skills were built upon as students took part in hands on learning.
I found Women in Consulting to be an empowering event, providing solutions to the barriers of entry that women face in the field of business and inspiring female consultants to seize opportunities to improve their employability. Through this unique exposure to real-life consulting case interview problems and insight into graduate employability I feel more comfortable going into the management and strategy consulting field and now know how I can leverage opportunities to build a skill set suited to the industry.