Updated: Dec 9, 2021
As a male-dominated industry, less than 30% of senior leadership at leading
consulting firms are women. With such a prominent divide, women find it difficult to
advance in their careers and often feel discouraged from pursuing consulting as a
profession entirely. In contrast, the merit of improving gender equality is widely
recognized, with 87% of firms reporting that gender diversity is a top priority and
commitment. In fact, IBM’s Institute for Business Value states that “gender-inclusive
companies that prioritize the advancement of women report as much as a 61%
higher rate of revenue growth compared to other organizations”.
With such a conflict between the current statistics and the intentions laid out by
firms, what can be done in order to promote actionable commitments towards the
inclusion of women in the workplace?
SCC sat down with Jungmin Lee, a Senior Consultant at IBM, to gain an insider’s
perspective of this divide, and to learn what firms are doing to improve gender
Jungmin Lee is an iBBA Schulich alumni who specialized in Operations Management Information Systems and International Business. Jungmin started her career at Aecon, where she gained her first year of experience in SAP. This opened up her opportunities in SAP when she joined IBM. Currently, she is continuing her professional growth through IBM’s rotational leadership program to expand her skills in various roles and specializations. Every 6 months, she undergoes a rotation into a new area to obtain a breadth of knowledge and experience.
Jungmin’s career is quite unique as she is not only a woman in consulting, but also in technology; two areas in which women are typically underrepresented. When asked if she has ever felt discriminated against or disadvantaged as a woman in the workplace, the answer was surprisingly no. Although there is a prominent divide, in her experience, she has not felt that it has hindered her ability to advance in her career. Through her diligent work to continually grow her knowledge and skills, and by focusing on creating a strong personal brand and eminence, she has continuously overcome the challenges presented to her as a woman in consulting. Her optimistic perspective is also attributed to the fact that these challenges and the gender gap have always been directly acknowledged by the firm and are viewed as areas under active improvement.
IBM’s current strategies include investing resources into mentorship groups and diversity task forces, along with unconscious bias training for employees. As an innovative company focused on the role of technology in our developing world, IBM’s Artificial Intelligence flags gender, age, and ethnicity-biased language in job postings, and encourages greater diversity in applicants through re-wording postings. Change is ultimately a long process requiring a targeted approach in all aspects of the workplace; starting from recruitment practices, and extending to every level of an organization, from its employees to its systems. With continual efforts to implement strategies to challenge perpetuating inequalities, IBM's initiatives display commitment to improving the inclusion of women in the workforce.
One of the most significant initiatives that Jungmin feels has provided a positive experience in her journey are the senior leadership-organized calls for women at IBM. A sense of community and support is established through discussions surrounding the experience of being a woman in the workforce and provides opportunities to grow and learn from others.
“Impostor syndrome” is the pervasive phenomenon impacting women across all industries, and particularly in consulting. It is attributed as a contributing factor of lower participation in the industry, and often goes unidentified in many women. In order to combat this, female mentorship plays a crucial role in encouraging and supporting other women through their career development. In addition to mentorship and women’s leadership groups, IBM also hosts events and workshops featuring female leaders as speakers who share their journeys to empower the professional development of other women.
When asked for some words of wisdom to a younger woman looking to pursue a career in consulting or technology, Jungmin recommends taking your time. She emphasizes the importance of understanding your personal values and focusing on developing your own strengths and interests instead of rushing to be where others are. Most importantly, she would advise one to focus on their self-growth by understanding how to build a personal brand and eminence in order to evolve as a confident and knowledgeable leader.
Despite the long way for firms to go to enable gender equality, this should not deter women from pursuing consulting as a profession. Increasing participation in the industry and examples set by female leaders display an improving professional landscape, which can ultimately be catalyzed by empowering women. Over the past 15 years, women in senior leadership have increased by 10%; signalling gradual, but optimistic change. With the continual commitment of firms, the present momentum created by addressing the gender divide and implementing development initiatives can advance to better support the inclusion of women in consulting.
SCC will continue to use its platform to amplify the voices that often go unheard through our upcoming Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. Stay tuned for our blog posts this summer and future events in support of our mission to strive for equal representation in the workforce!
To view IBM’s initiatives and strategies to improve gender diversity; visit: Women, leadership, and missed opportunities
To view the current landscape of women in the workplace; visit McKinsey’s report: Women in the Workplace