What clients want: more women

 

Cards on the table time: 75% of the people who work at Source are women (72% of us have a sweet tooth, 44% of us have had a hamster as a pet at some times in our lives and 39% of us have more contacts on LinkedIn than Facebook – but enough of all that).  We boast plenty of first-hand experience of what it feels like to be a woman in the consulting industry – and, when we did some research recently which showed that one in five clients hadn’t worked with a female consultant in the last two years (despite buying substantial volumes of consulting work), it chimed with our experience.

We’re very familiar with all the reasons which make it hard for consulting firms to keep women in their workforce: the peer pressure to work long hours, the need to travel, demanding clients, etc.  We know that firms have made huge efforts to help women work around these issues and that consulting performs better in this respect than many other professional services, but the fact remains that women remain a tiny minority of consultants, especially among the most experienced team members.

The report we’ve just published (which can be downloaded here) wasn’t an attempt to address this issue broadly.  In fact we were interested in just one thing: what clients think.

Nine out of ten clients would like to see more women on consulting teams.  Why?  Because they think they get a better quality of solution when there are more women on a team – a point that is reinforced by research at Harvard which suggests that the collective IQ of teams is higher when there are more women involved. This doesn’t mean all women teams – the point here is, as it was among the clients we interviewed, about diversity of perspectives and experience. ‘A cloned, all-white, male “A-type” personality team will not perform as well, from our perspective, as a broadly diverse team,’ a client in the banking sector told us.  Moreover, clients say that projects led by a woman are more likely to complete on time and within budget and women demonstrate more effective skills in stakeholder management and collaboration.

All things being equal, seven out of ten clients would always or often select one firm over another if it fielded more women on its team.

Even if you want to argue that things never are, in practice, equal, that’s still a whopping number of clients who might look more favourably on you if you had more women on your team.  And that’s something everyone in a consulting firm should bear in mind.