Interview conducted by Harriet Minter
Here, we talk to Rebecca McEwan from Oliver Wyman about how they are Investing in Women.
What does your job involve and how did you come to do it?
I’m the UK recruitment manager, which makes me responsible for recruiting all the entry-level consultants and specialists into the firm.
When I first joined the firm four years ago I only focussed on entry-level recruiting for consultant roles, but now I also recruit specialists who have digital or analytical capabilities. As the majority of our competitors are London only, unusually for a strategy consultancy, we have offices in the North of England as well, so I recruit for the entire of the UK.
What are the main issues you face when trying to achieve gender equality within OW / the industry?
Historically, strategy consulting has been a male dominated field, in part because we recruit heavily from STEM backgrounds which haven’t yet reached gender balance. But Oliver Wyman is committed to improving our female representation and in the last several years we have recruited 50% women into the entry level consulting role in the UK and are making strides at all levels to recruit, develop, and retain women.
For example, we’ve partnered with the 30% Club and Mission INCLUDE and women from across the firm take part in their mentoring programmes. Very often in professional services, initiatives are only open to the client-billing staff, but Oliver Wyman has ensured everyone has access to the mentoring, including support professionals.
What are some of the gender initiatives that you’re most proud of at OW?
When we’re recruiting women, they often pick up on our Women in Financial Services report or newly published Women in Leadership report. In the Women in FS report, we track progress towards gender parity among companies working in the financial services sector and propose new solutions for tackling the unequal representation of women. Ultimately, Oliver Wyman is committed to improving gender equality not just in our own firm, but more broadly in the industries and societies we work in. We know that diversity and inclusion are increasingly priorities for many of our clients and pride ourselves on being able to support their growth in this area.
We focus on the development of women leaders right from the start, with different initiatives and programmes designed for the different stages of a woman’s career at Oliver Wyman. From the beginning, new consultants have support around them from their formal Career Advisor and Talent Manager to more informal support from managers and mentors they meet in the office and on project work. Our Employee Resource Groups offer community and professional development opportunities for colleagues at all levels, as well, including reverse mentoring to help build more inclusive leaders at the firm, workshops on self-advocacy or other topics, and connection to female role models across the globe who showcase the wide range of leaderships styles that are successful here and represent the faces of their sectors. These women are award winners in the corporate world, but also have fulfilling lives outside the office. They’re mothers, partners, carers, adventurers, and leaders, and that’s a great role model for graduates to have!
Sponsorship and mentorship are critical at all stages, but as women become more senior, the role of a sponsor changes with them. One programme we are proud of is our Inspiring Leaders sponsorship program, where emerging diverse leaders are paired with senior level sponsors to help them progress to the next stage of their career and to work together on a leadership project that benefits both of them and the firm more broadly. We’ve seen great success with these sponsorship pairs, including stronger retention and lasting sponsorship within the firm.
What is there still left to do around gender equaIity at OW?
While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, there is still further to go to reach the levels of female representation we strive for at all levels, and we are committed to continuing that work.
When we look at the challenges of consulting generally, it’s a demanding role in terms of work and travel. But we’ve been working remotely and independently for most of 2020 and are striving to embed these learnings into our work going forward to be more deliberate about where travel is critical and where more flexible working could offer equal or better results. It’s something Oliver Wyman is really committed to and the more it’s achieved and supported by men and women, the more it will help to address the gender balance and embed flexibility more into our culture.
I think what’s been comforting is that the topic of diversity hasn’t stopped during such an uncertain time. When COVID-19 hit, the work didn’t stop and we’re seeing some of the most revolutionary changes happening because of the issues being raised during the pandemic and have continued to dig deep on gender in the workplace, including publishing insights about how companies can re-think or spur their efforts around gender equality during a pandemic. A big question for me is how do we keep our momentum going, particularly in recruiting when we can’t meet candidates face-to-face or bring them into the office to experience the culture. We know that that isn’t going to happen right now, it’s all going to be virtual, so we have to ask how we do we showcase our culture virtually?
Is there anything else you think I should know about gender equality at OW?
The “D&I” function at Oliver Wyman is called Inclusion and Diversity. We reversed it because we believe you only achieve diversity in your firm and are able to bring out the full benefits of diverse teams when you have a culture of inclusion where all colleagues can be authentic and bring their full selves to work. It’s a simple concept, but it has an impact on what it’s like to work at Oliver Wyman. It’s a culture that we pride ourselves on and that we convey to candidates.
Efforts around inclusion support gender equality as well as strengthening diversity across dimensions and we are focused on building this culture of inclusion. Last year we rolled out a new I&D Academy featuring trainings on topics including intersectionality, inclusive feedback, unconscious bias, and allyship and advocacy, as well as a mandatory training for all managers and above at the firm on Leading With Inclusion to strengthen inclusive leadership skills firmwide. Beyond education, it’s a priority to ensure our internal processes are developed in ways that mitigate any potential for individual unconscious biases. To that end, we have unconscious bias training that is open to all, particularly recruiters and interviewers, and an inclusionator role for career reviews to listen for any potential bias and challenge as appropriate to ensure fair and unbiased results.
And candidates should know that it’s not just women calling for change and gender equality, but men as well. In 2019, we launched Men4Change, a network to leverage male allies and advocates for gender equality in the workplace and have long seen great male allies supporting these efforts, including Christian Edelmann, who is one of the executive sponsors of Women at Oliver Wyman (WOW) and an award winning ally who has published pieces on his own journey with allyship.
There is always more to do, I don’t think that subject is ever one that we’ll sit back and think “we’ve done that, let’s move on”. But I’m proud to be at a firm that prioritizes inclusion and diversity and to be a part of that culture every day.
Investing In Women
WeAreTheCity are proud to be working with Oliver Wyman as one of our Investing in Women corporate members. You can find out more about becoming a member here.