The End of the “Old Boys’ Club”: Why Women are Positioned to Usher in a New Age of Consulting

For decades, consulting has largely relied on building high-quality referral networks that can fuel business growth. It’s not surprising that this has been the preferred method of client acquisition for most entrepreneurial consultants because it does overcome two major obstacles: brand awareness and establishing trust. However, for many women, especially women of color, access to lucrative inner circles has been limited.

A growing body of literature has investigated what causes women to lag behind men in the corporate world. One factor that arises in the research is the “old boys’ club”, whereby men have a leg up in promotions because they can schmooze, network, and interact with more powerful men in ways that are less accessible to women. The “Old Boys’ Club” doesn’t have to offer a new membership.

Cullen, Zoë B., and Ricardo Perez-Truglia. “The Old Boys’ Club: Schmoozing and the Gender Gap.” Working Paper, June 2021.

For far too long, entrepreneurial consulting has also been an “old boys’ club.” The biggest and best deals and major contracts were discussed in exclusive country clubs and the best golf courses throughout the world. This shut many of us out of consideration for numerous highly lucrative opportunities, much of which we were unaware existed, because we were not privileged to be part of these inner circles.

Then came the fast-paced evolution of the digital space. This opened the door for greater diversity in the consulting industry. The gatekeeper had been removed. It became much easier to reach key decision-makers without getting stuck in the red tape of the traditional corporate hierarchy. We were finally able to do more to effectively compete.

The case for using a digital strategy as a consultant.

In recent years, we have seen many top consulting firms (i.e. Bain and Company, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company) build a notable presence in the Digital Strategy space. They are busy helping companies figure out how to use technology to their advantage to provide more significant value to the consumer and outperform the competition. After the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses began to lean heavily into a new and innovative way to do business, placing digital marketing and online service delivery front and center as more mainstream options.

Before this time, such opportunities were only accessible to 7- and 8-figure entrepreneurs. It required international travel, massive marketing campaigns, and other costly tactics to land business globally. Most benefited from the inequitable structure that existed in the consulting space. But now, all of these things can change if we seize the moment.

It’s time to think bigger and bolder about the future of your consulting business.

The market is much larger than you likely imagined. The need is far greater than you first believed. Opportunities are abundant. But are you positioning yourself to capitalize on the opportunity?

It can feel more comfortable to rely heavily on referrals and professional networks for business. But comfort is rarely what will take you to the next level in your business. Solely relying on traditional methods will significantly limit your potential and even decrease your chance at long-term success. Instead, consider the following:

How can you uniquely meet the needs of a more diverse pool of potential clients by embracing regional or cultural differences and influences?

What services can you productize and offer on a global scale?

How can you build an expert brand that changes the face of thought leadership in your industry so that it relates to new, innovative entrepreneurs?

And on a more immediate level, how can you expand your prospect pool to generate more significant revenue?

These are just some of the questions that we must answer. It will allow us to expand the consulting industry in a new and more inclusive direction and build more successful consulting businesses led by women, especially women of color. It’s time to find out how.

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