When you mention “inclusion and diversity” in the context of the workplace, a lot of people immediately think of gender and race. Therefore, we see a lot of companies spin up new programs to engage and retain certain groups of individuals. West Monroe Partners does not view inclusion and diversity as an issue focused on a specific group or groups. Inclusion and diversity is about building a workplace with the best representation of ideas and experiences necessary to create great solutions for our clients. And to accomplish that, we must have an inclusive environment – for everyone.
That said, for the purposes of framing a productive discussion around how we can break down barriers to inclusion, it is helpful to hone in on a particular example. The professional services industry has long been a challenging place for women to build careers. Firms in our profession often see more attrition among women as they reach management levels – when an environment that requires people to spend nights away from home and continually go above and beyond to deliver begins to clash with family or other interests. Left with a higher percentage of men in director and leadership levels, we sometimes hear that it can feel like a “boys’ club” – a feeling that will lead to greater disparity over time if the consulting space can’t find a way to grow and retain female leaders.
This isn’t an easy challenge to address. Most consulting firms, from the smallest to the largest, grapple with this and have grappled with this for years. But it is an important one for us, and one that is central to our commitment to building an inclusive environment.
There are a number of things we can and should be doing to foster an environment where all people feel they can thrive and fulfill both personal and professional aspirations, regardless of what group they fall into. This paper, the third in our inclusion and diversity series, looks at four ideas to further inclusion. These are not new concepts, and they don’t just apply to women. In fact, they are ways that we can respond better to changing expectations and needs across our entire team. But for the purposes of this particular discussion, they provide a way to think about some of the concrete actions we can take to break down barriers that can make a workplace feel less inclusive for women.