During my two years in the L.E.K. Boston office, I have attended numerous events and discussions hosted by the Women's Network, which is led by a committee of women in both the consulting and non-consulting areas. Women of all tenures and seniority levels participate in both formal and informal Women's Network gatherings, leading to both fascinating dialog and practical advice-sharing.
The approach that the Women's Network takes to developing rapport among women in the office and fostering personal development is comprised of three main parts: formal workshops with speakers, article discussions around current women's issues, and informal mentoring through small group coffee chats. These approaches allow women to interact in productive ways that I've found encourage my personal and professional development at L.E.K.
Our formal workshops, often with outside speakers, focus on teaching specific skills or addressing behaviors that women exhibit in the workplace. Topics such as emotional intelligence, "power stances," and tactics for speaking up more frequently in team meetings have been the focus of past sessions I have attended. The invited presenters are dynamic speakers who have been around the block. They understand what women face in traditionally male-dominated industries, and seek to teach us practical tips about how to combat some of the issues this environment can present. For me, learning to "interrupt" in a way that both feels comfortable and allows you to get your ideas heard was one of the most applicable takeaways from our last workshop.
Article discussions, typically led by a Women's Network Committee member, are a fantastic way to engage with issues around women in the workplace that are being discussed more broadly in the media. After a short overview of the article, the floor is opened to a discussion -- which can sometimes get heated. There is certainly not a consensus around many of these articles, leading to lively debates. The New York Times series authored by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant was of particular interest to many L.E.K. women. While there were many differing opinions about the applicability of the advice to our jobs, it certainly encouraged us to think about the role we want in the workplace, and how we can get closer to each of our own ideals.
Lastly, and likely most importantly, is the informal mentoring I've experienced at L.E.K. The women here are so willing to go out of their way to lend a hand or spare an hour to chat about a bad day, an unpleasant meeting, or what really makes you tick. Though some of my "mentor" relationships began through Women's Network-organized coffee chats, I more often find myself putting an hour on the calendar to go grab a mid-afternoon snack with one of the many women I admire at L.E.K. These conversations have proven invaluable for discovering what I like (and don't like) in a workplace, what I want (and don't want) out of my career, and the winding path that the next ten years of my life is likely to be.
Though the consulting industry overall is challenged in developing long-term careers for women, L.E.K.'s Women's Network is a step towards encouraging women to become leaders in the field. As the Network continues to adapt over time -- for example, it was recently announced that the Women's Network Advisory Committee is seeking to add male members as well -- I look forward to seeing how this impacts the growth and success of women at L.E.K.