Hannah: Tell us about your career path?
Colleen: I started out in consulting at Bain and Partners in Performance, before deciding to do an MBA. I left to join the corporate world, to understand what it's like on the other side. I have always been very curious, wanting to experience all the world has to offer, and have been fortunate to work in America, Africa, Europe and Australia. Ultimately, I wanted to understand what consulting looks like at a more senior level, which is where you find me at the moment.
Hannah: So, a really diverse career. Why do you think inclusion and diversity are important for organisations?
Colleen: I think the world is changing very fast, so companies cannot just ‘do what they have always done’. Some form of technology disruption is impacting every industry, requiring a lot of problem-solving in change. I think the key to problem-solving is having many different options to consider. Having diversity of people, who have different ways of doing or thinking about things, is critical to coming up with the right solutions and answers to stay ahead.
Hannah: And having more minds on a problem is better than one type of mind.
Colleen: Exactly, and there are individual unique perspectives. Every person will have a different perspective, because they’ve grown up with a different background, different family environment, different levels of affluence or educational background.
Hannah: When it comes to gender diversity in the workplace, what would you like to see change for women in the consulting industry?
Colleen: Many changes I would like for women, I would like for everybody. I would love to see more focus on efficiency and effectiveness during a reasonable number of hours, rather than thinking working more hours is how to display your value. Enabling people to have balance in their personal lives and the ability to interact with their families and their children. We need to keep challenging ourselves on how we support people in different ways to enable them to take on new challenges.
Hannah: How can women today support and empower the next generation of female leaders?
Colleen: One is just turning up and being there; being very visible and accessible so if people want to talk to you, you are available. I think giving good quality feedback is important, which is the way you learn and grow. Offering feedback around style and presentation, not at a technical level, but in how you present yourself. This is something I think about often, what else I could be doing to help.
Hannah: What advice would you give to women who are just starting out in their consulting career?
Colleen: The reality is we all will run into a few bumps and hurdles throughout our career. Remember you are not alone. You have a huge support network of other women who will understand and support you – you just need to reach out.
Hannah: What do you think we should all be doing to challenge gender bias and inequality?
Colleen: Try to challenge stereotypes and generalisations. Individuals within each ‘group’ are diverse as well. It can be simple things like challenging language and how people use it – for example if they talk about ‘the sales guy’ or ‘the next CEO, he will be great’. I think it’s just raising those topics and trying to challenge inequality when you see it.