Seven alpha chess tips for higher visibility for women in consulting

Op-ed piece on the leading B2B portal with ~ 55.000 readers and ~ 95.000 page views monthly

Seven alpha chess tips for higher visibility for women in consulting

February 23, 2023

Chess is also about thinking several moves ahead. Here is a scene from the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”.
(Image: ©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection) .

Recently, Holger Geißler complained that he could not find enough female experts for his panel discussions.

He rejects ‘manels’ – all-male panels – out of inner conviction.

He wrote: “In addition, on average, women are less willing to venture onto the stage. I have experienced this for years, and not only in the consulting industry. The theme has to fit exactly for a woman to agree to it.”

At first I winced. I asked myself if my publisher wasn’t looking for top female speakers properly or in the wrong places.

Then I reviewed my more than 25 years in professional services Marketing. And I had to agree with Holger Geißler. Unfortunately!

The infamous ‘white/pale/male’ argument is not to blame for everything.

Manels do not only arise because men alone decide among themselves about expert rounds. Or there are still significantly more men in management positions.
It’s partly – and I’m not making friends with this statement – also due to the women themselves.

But why is that?

Many reasons why women still too often shy away from visibility

In my op-ed piece”If you demand visibility, put yourself in the spotlight: An appeal to female consultants” I had described the aspects

  • … too perfectionist incl. the self-demand to be 120% saddle-proof in everything
  • … overthinking
  • … impostor syndrome along with unnecessary modesty
  • … double and triple burden including care work
  • … the “Women don’t ask” phenomenon
    as well as
  • … the worry of being reduced to the exterior.

In our Female Empowerment workshops or the positioning of female #SocialCEOs, I continue to experience these inner barriers.

As Sascha Lobo did write on Instagram:
I am fully aware that there are a number of reasons for this behavior. Patriarchal reasons, first and foremost how women are perceived in public, for example on stages. Mistakes or even small inaccuracies or the mere public existence with a certain publicity are beaten around their ears with a radicalness and a personal venom, which are rarely found in mistakes of men.

The consequence of these outdated thought patterns?

There continues to be a lack of women at keynotes or panels!

This is also partly due to the proposal process – and by both genders.
In other words, there is a lack of men to proactively advocate for women when events, advisory boards or other bodies are not sufficiently diverse.

But it’s also up to the women themselves to get each other on board. The more role models there are, the better. Only together this vicious circle of the lower visibility of female can be broken.

Tier 1-media can make a decisive contribution to this as well. Why? Top female leaders in Germany still receive only a quarter of the total media coverage. Men, by contrast, receive three quarters.

Why visibility is critical for women’s careers

In my interview with ‘Business Insider’ “What a career in consulting has to do with chess, and how women make it to the top” I gave the example of chess player Beth Harmon in “The Queen’s Gambit. She knew the moves of all the grandmasters and became successful.

Why this chess analogy?
Similar to a chess game, women should plan three or four career moves ahead from Day 1. These include high-revenue, high-prestige projects and mentors who are strong in both domestic and foreign policy.

Consistent visibility strategies including the panel appearances described above are relevant moves as well.

Studies and white papers are another career booster for the annual appraisal.

What I still see too often in thought leadership projects:
Yes indeed, many female consultants are co-writing studies. But in the end, their names are missing. They end up in the blurb instead of earning a mention on the cover.
But that is fatal. The prize for the special mile on evenings and weekends is visibility for one’s work. Silently analyzing data sets behind the scenes accomplishes nothing.

The same goes for PR and digital visibility on LinkedIn!

In our corporate influencer programs or PR positioning projects, I still experience this too often:

  • Men are much more relaxed about their work. They think “better done than perfect“.
  • Especially in consulting or the Big 4, women tend to overthink. They are driven by concerns about appearing ‘too salesy’, too personal, too pushy, or too boring in their external communications.

My seven mindset shift tips for successful alpha chess

1. Instead of ‘My project work speaks sufficiently for itself’

please prefer to think
I am responsible for showing people the added value I create. This will increase team success and overall turnover.”

2. Instead of ‘building visibility and networks is an on-top-load’

please prefer to think
Visibility and networking are powerful multipliers for my influence and career.”

3. Instead of ‘This seems too intrusive, loud and therefore inauthentic’

please prefer to think
“I also receive salary and bonus for expressing a clear opinion to the outside world.”

4. Instead of ‘I refuse to play hardball. Men dislike it as bitchy’

please prefer to think
“I tailor my tactics and strategies to the situation.”

5. Instead of the fear of the accusation ‘women are so emotional’

please prefer to think:
I know the power of the empathy trump card.”
After all, the concept of emotional intelligence has long revolutionized how we think about leadership.

6. Instead of “I refrain from taking a clear stance in order not to cause any trouble within the company”.

please prefer to think:
I live the #daretolead appeal by Rene Brown: Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.
Not flying the flag does not help you achieve partner status or a C-level career outside of the consulting cosmos. This can only be achieved with the courage to be clear and truthful – even in the face of resistance.

and last but not least

7. Instead of the fear ‘my targeted visibility could bring disadvantages’

please prefer to think:
“I prioritize my professional and personal growth because I am worth it.”

Now it’s your lady’s turn – for business and personal success.

Learn and play “Alpha Chess”! #MBS makes you the grandmaster of your visibility!

Author: Susanne Mathony

Susanne Mathony
Susanne Mathony

The positioning of brands and people are my passion. For more than two decades, I have lived out my calling with CEO positioning, strategic marketing and communications consulting, PR and business storytelling.
Added in 2014 was the Social Media Consulting. Here, the focus is on #SocialCEO and personal branding and positioning of boards and teams on LinkedIn.My home is Professional Services. At GSA and EMEA level, I worked for AlixPartners, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Strategy& as well as Russell Reynolds Associates, among others.
As a political scientist and trained journalist, I started my career at a Washington, D.C., think tank.

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