Bright women at Bain & Company

We sat down with Lili Chahbazi, Partner at Bain & Company, to discuss gender diversity at the firm.

Why are consulting firms failing to promote and retain women in senior positions and how is Bain & Company different?

Promoting and retaining women at seniors levels requires a thoughtful approach, starting with a clear strategic intent and follow through in execution of that intent. At Bain & Company, promoting and retaining women is at the top of our strategic agenda. We then put our research in practice via a multi-faceted global programme to ensure we are addressing the drivers of aspiration and confidence for our women – namely feeling supported, having role models and feeling able to envision success. This requires not only formal programmes and policies but, more importantly, the right culture and day-to-day behaviours.

How can companies help women transition back into the workplace?  

There are times in a woman’s career in which it is even more critical to ensure the culture and the initiatives are in place to guarantee that she feels supported, has role models and can herself see being successful. Transitioning back into the workplace is one of those times – we guide our women through this process by providing them with choices and flexibility on how they want to manage their rerturn to work.

How can companies begin to approach reducing systemic inequalities within their organisations?  

It starts with ensuring you have leadership support that is willing to take a hard and honest look at processes and programmes, and also at the culture that defines the day-to-day experience of your women. Within working culture, there are unintentional but conscious behaviours and practices; and there is also unconscious bias which is much harder to diagnose and change, but still critical.

What are some of the successful programmes and initiatives that Bain & Company is using to attract and retain top female business talent?  

We have a multi-faceted programme that includes: 

  • making sure our women have sponsorship & coaching, especially at critical points in their career
  • increasing access and awareness of the multiple models of success at the firm
  • ensuring our culture is supportive and enables all people to envision success
  • staying on the cutting edge of research so that we can continue to refine our programmes

Bain & Company’s work-life integration initiatives concentrate on how reforms affect women, but how do men benefit from these programmes as well?  

We focus as a global firm on work-life integration for all of our employees, male and female. We understand that all of our employees thrive when they feel as though their professional & personal lives are not only in sync, but actually build on each other. Many of our initiatives, particularly those related to culture or to flexible models benefit everyone. However, we are also very focused on ensuring we do address what the research suggests impacts women particularly.

How is Bain & Company advising clients on attracting and retaining top business talent?  

Our clients are wrestling with the same issues that we are – everyone recognises the competitive advantage of having the best talent in the market. We have done quite a bit of research; including most recently on the gender parity topic. We share our research with our clients and also our own experiences, exchanging best practices in this area.

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