Management consulting— we've all heard of it, it seems to have taken future graduate job prospects by storm, but what is it really like to work within the field, more specifically as a woman?
We asked Jessica Finn, a senior manager at PwC, to talk about her experiences in diving into the realm of management consulting, from her beginnings as a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Management student at the University of Melbourne to her recent experiences in PwC as a management consultant.
You actually completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. The Big 4 or even more broadly speaking, consulting, is a career not typically pursued by Arts students. How did you end up in consulting?
I was never one of those students who knew exactly what they wanted in a career and for most of my academic years I found myself in search of that dream job that was right for me. It’s no surprise that I didn’t find it, but what I did find was that trying out new things helped me define what I did like and equally what I didn’t. After I finished school I wanted to widen my thinking before committing my life to a discipline, so I began with a generalist Arts degree. During my degree I was exposed to breadth subjects and started to take a real shine to Commerce. After finishing my Arts degree I continued to pursue this and completed my Masters of Management, which I absolutely loved. But even then, I still didn’t have a clear path forward. So… I spent the next year doing a number of internships, continuing to understand more about myself and what different career paths were available to me. During this time I met a number of corporate professionals to learn more about their experiences and one encounter led me to an interview with PwC for an internal role. I got the job and spent the next few years moving teams within PwC until I found Operations Consulting and I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be. If you had told me in uni that’s where I was headed, I probably would have asked you what that even meant! My path to Consulting was by no means linear, however that is exactly the reason why I got here – following my passion, putting myself out there and seizing any opportunities that came my way.
According to 2018 data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 31.8% of managers in the management and related consulting services industry were women. Going higher up the ranks, women made up only 24.5% of key management personnel, and a measly 9.4% of CEOs. What do you see as the biggest barriers to women entering the C-suite, and would say there has been any significant progress in terms of achieving gender equality in the workplace?
The lack of women in executive leadership is a systemic issue, with many barriers impacting the opportunity for women to lead in C-suite roles. One of the biggest barriers in my view is the unconscious and implicit bias we hold in society. Treating women and men equally in hiring decisions, job evaluations, and leadership positions is more of an ideal than a reality. I read this once and it hit home for me: “Women are often socially and culturally expected to be nurturing and likeable, which in turn restricts their consideration for a leadership position, while on the other hand, if they are assertive and forthright, they are deemed to be unlikable, and too bossy to be good leaders.” And unfortunately for those women who are in C-suite roles, there is increased scrutiny on their performance. To remove these unconscious or implicit biases, organisations have made progress through implementing training, setting gender equality quotas and shining a light on the issue. However, there is still a long way to go and I believe we all have a role to play. Personally, I am excited and driven by the opportunity to model what it means to be a woman in an executive leadership role and I hope to support others on that path.
Is there a particular female role model that has inspired you throughout your career?
My mum has always been such an inspiration. She left her home in the UK with my dad and three kids when she was young and moved to the other side of the world to create a better life for us. She is the most caring, selfless person I have ever met and has always backed me in anything I wanted to pursue (regardless of how far fetched). Having this positive influence in my life has been a large driver of my successes and has made me realise the power of a female role model.
Belated congratulations on your promotion to Senior Manager! Based on your journey, what’s one piece of advice you would give to young females who aspire to one day be where you are today?
Do not discredit yourself or self-deprecate. You will work hard, you will make mistakes and you will grow from them to be better than before. I spent the first few years of my career feeling like I was going to be caught out, like I shouldn’t have been there and didn’t deserve the praise. I realise it was a function of always trying to be perfect, and never feeling good enough. Now I realise how blinded I was – I was not lucky, my successes were not by accident, I worked hard and was rewarded for my efforts. So no goal is out of reach, no dream too ambitious, and no opportunity too big. You deserve every success that comes your way and you are more than enough.
If you have any questions for Jessica, please:
1. leave a comment under our Woman of the Week FB post, or
2. email us at exec@WCPunimelb.com