Despite women making up almost half of the US workforce, a new report has found they are massively underrepresented in consultancy firms – and this could be hampering new business development and consulting projects – as the vast majority (90 per cent) of clients want more women on their consulting teams.
The report from leading global consulting market analysts, Source Information Services (Source) is based on interviews with over 100 major organisations in the US. It found that the two main reasons why clients want to see more women on consulting teams were the quality of solutions (38 per cent), and that women develop stronger relationships more quickly (18 per cent).
However, the report found that one in five clients had not even worked with a female consultant in the past two years, and the majority of clients said women made up less than a third of the consultant teams they had worked with.
Eight out of ten clients also said that projects run by women are more likely to run on time and to budget. A client from a leading organisation from the IT sector, who was interviewed for the report, said: “I have found that women are much more concerned about how they can enable our organisation to be successful against our own criteria.” The report found that this viewpoint was largely mirrored across other sectors, but the majority of clients are not in favour of all female teams.
The winning formula…
The report also found that 70 per cent of clients would ‘often’ or ‘always’ select one consulting firm over another if it fielded more women on its team, and this figure rises to 86 per cent among female client respondents. So, in short, more women almost certainly means more business for consulting firms.
Margaret Cameron-Waller, Senior Analyst at Source Information Services, and author of the Women in Consulting report, said: “Our research shows clients believe having a higher proportion of women on a consultancy team leads to better quality solutions and more reasoned thinking. Although the major consulting firms place significant importance on team diversity and are investing in high profile initiatives, for various reasons women are still underrepresented.”
Clients are also looking to become more diversified themselves and therefore want to see these changes in consulting firms. However, these changes cannot be token gestures, as one female client said: “Sometimes you will have situations where you know the consultancy is thinking if all else fails, it may be a woman can make a connection that a man cannot, that a woman will choose a woman. It is quite transparent.”
Margaret Cameron-Waller, Senior Analyst at Source concluded:
“A significant opportunity for differentiation exists at a time when consulting firms struggle to explain the difference between themselves and their competitors to their clients. Despite clients not prioritising gender diversity when selecting a consultancy, all things being equal, an overwhelming number of clients would choose the consulting firm that had more women on its staff.”