Work/Life Balance is a Misnomer in Management Consulting

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Providing flexibility to deliver value while raising a family is a Win-Win proposition

I recently had the pleasure of attending a great one-day seminar at NYU sponsored by Stern Women in Business (SWiB). The keynote speaker, Terry Polley, President and CEO of the Financial Accounting Foundation, laid out some great advice to the room of 160 women (and me, the lone male there). Most companies strive for a 50/50 gender balance in the workplace and whenever this subject is broached, the discussion always seems to turn to work/life balance. In other words, how can employees devote equal time to both their career and their family life? There are some professions where that is more difficult to achieve, and Management Consulting is certainly one of them.

A more appropriate conversation would be around work/life flexibility. Succeeding in the consulting field requires concentration on client needs above all else. This is not a profession where you can clock-out at 5:00PM. For consultants who want to put time into building a family along with their career, there needs to be a flexible approach – with the full support of the firm’s leadership – that allows the employee to spend the needed time with their family while, at the same time, focusing on the client. This is certainly not an easy task for the consultant or the firm, but certainly a worthile one, as empirical evidence proves that female career advancement has a direct link to company profitability. Ms. Polley discussed a number of interesting statistics regarding women-led organizations and I tried to do a little research of my own. I found that women-led tech companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, and when backed by venture capital, deliver 12% more revenue than their male-led counterparts. These figures point to the fact that, in many cases, “most women… bring a high level of perceptiveness and emotional IQ that’s critical for leading teams and growing a business” (Fast Company, Gina O’Reily, July 2014).

There are many other statistics available and I don’t want to bore you with what seems to be pretty obvious. A diverse leadership team drives value and providing flexibility to increase that diversity is good business. UMT’s CEO, Gil Makleff, once told me that leadership is something that is taken, not given. This is very true and I am proud of the fact that our firm values that from all of its employees. But, as Ms. Polley also pointed out, there are many firms where male aggressiveness, forthrightness, and passion are viewed as bossiness and being over-emotional when exhibited in female employees. I can tell you from experience that the most effective way to deal with this stereotype and also manage a flexible lifestyle is to simply be productive. Nothing will put you in a greater position for leadership roles than bringing value to your client and to your company. Achieve that – and gender will never matter.