Women continue to be under-represented in consultancy

It has been said that the shape of UK self-employment is increasingly female, professional and experienced. So it’s surprising to see that women are still very much a minority of consultancy contractors, where men out-number women by almost 2:1.

According to an article on the Procorre website, the number of women working as contractors has almost reached one million, but this is still far behind the figure set by their male counterparts which totals more than 2.5 million. The numbers are worse still when it comes to the financial services industry, where less than one fifth of those working as consultants in the UK are female, one of the lowest proportions in Europe. That’s one industry that definitely needs more female advisers and decision makers.

Basing their figures on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), global consultancy Procorre find that less than one in ten (8%) of working women are self-employed contractors compared to 15.5% of men.

Getting into consultancy contracting

The consulting industry reflects the gender power gaps in the industries it operates in. But at the same time consultancy firms say they want to recruit more women. So if you do want to build a career in consultancy start by scoping out the main consulting firms operating in your industry and put yourself forward. If they decide not to take you on, ask for feedback and act on it.

The advice from other women in consultancy is to get out and network. Talk to other women working in those industries and learn from their experience. Seize any chance to hone your networking skills. The ability to make connections quickly is core to any consultancy contract and like anything else, it gets so much easier with practice.

A good network is also a great help for those times when you need a sounding board. Consultancy can be a lonely career and having a group of other consultants that you can share challenges and also opportunities with is an essential foundation for many people working as consulting contractors. For women making the transition from corporate life or the public sector, finding a supportive network of others in the same position can make all the difference. Most industries and professional associations have women’s business networks and you can find women’s business networks across the UK in the Prowess listings.

Consultancy can be a great choice for women. It is inherently flexibly and can be very well paid. The extension of childcare vouchers to self-employed people in 2015 may increase the attractiveness of consulting compared to employment for many mothers.

If you are able to find a solid mix of clients, consulting can provide a career which female professionals can ramp up and down in line with other demands and priorities.

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