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March 31, 2009

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Plenty of consulting and investment banking firms tout their diversity - saying that they have recruitment programs designed to reel in the best female and minority talent. But while women stream in steadily at the lower levels, very few make it to the upper tiers. Is the glass ceiling still in place? Perhaps, but women increasingly mention "unfriendly policies" - rather than discrimination or the male hierarchy - as the real source of their under-representation.

"There are always two or three 'token' female representatives," opines one woman at a management consultant firm. "Enough so that the company can point its finger when employees cite poor diversity in the executive suite." Adds Liz Zale, an MBA student with experience in management consulting: "Some firms are better than others when it comes to playing out issues of diversity. However, no matter what policies exist, you can't work only eight hours a day - the job doesn't allow for that." Indeed, many corporate clients lament that maintaining a role as both a working woman and a devoted mother is nearly impossible.

Admittedly, the mother/lawyer conundrum is difficult to solve, but it is not impossible. Many mothers point to part-time arrangements as a feasible way to parent and to succeed in their careers. With more women than ever in the workforce, industries are taking notice of the part-time trend - and accepting it.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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