Recently, I had the honour to speak to several girls within Erasmus Tech Consulting (ETCons for short): Nafsika and Rahma (student consultants), Eleni and Vittoria (operations coordinators), and Emelie (external relations officer). ETCons is the consulting branch of Erasmus Tech Community – the largest student-led tech association in the Benelux – and gives students the opportunity to work with tech start-ups/scale-ups and gain consulting experience. Those start-ups are often advised on business-related matters, so not really with improving technical solutions but more about how to bring those technical solutions to the market.
When asked what they like most about ETCons, the girls highlighted several aspects. One thing that was mentioned is the relevance of the work they are doing: Unlike theoretical problems you solve in class, you can actually see the implementation and results of your work, making it more rewarding. Relatedly, if consultancy is in your line of study, it is great to actually practice what you’re studying and gain some work experience, and, even if it’s a completely different field, it is still nice to discover something else and gain experience in that sector. Moreover, the girls mentioned that they value the work environment and community at ETCons. It is quite small, but it does consist of fun, motivated and hard-working people who really want to work/learn and collaborate with each other.
Even though the tech industry has seen improvements regarding diversity and inclusion, it is still a largely male-dominated industry. While ETCons’ board actually consists of more women than men, the girls mentioned that this gender gap can be seen within the team of student consultants. The team does not consist of that many female students, but this can be explained by the fact that they get less applications from women than from men, which makes it hard to reach an equal gender division. Some also highlighted that the technological aspect of ETCons may prevent girls from applying, due to the way tech is represented in general. However, as mentioned before, ETCons is more about business than technology, so there’s no need to be intimidated! Moreover, the team is still very diverse in other aspects, everyone collaborates well, and there is room for different ideas.
One thing that is sometimes implemented to decrease gender gaps is a quota, but does that really work? According to Emelie, that is hard to measure, and a quota would not be necessary for their small organisation. However, perhaps priorities should be set instead. For instance, finding more female student consultants when recruiting, or specifically reaching out to female-led companies when finding clients. As a quota is somewhat set in stone, you could miss out on opportunities that could be good for your organisation or company. In addition, Nafsika mentioned that a possible danger of a quota might be that women in the field are discredited because they have been hired ‘to reach a quota’ instead of actually focusing on their skills. Objectives, on the other hand, are not harsh guidelines that you have to meet, but do start the process of building up to more of a gender balance, which is why those may be better to implement than quotas.
Finally, the girls gave some great advice: Don’t be afraid to apply for something that you are not 100% qualified for. There will always be something that you can bring to the table, so you just have to be confident about the things you are already skilled in and you’ll learn the rest on the job. Additionally, regarding consulting in particular, you are not expected to be the expert in the industry you consult for. Clients often go to consulting companies just because they want an outsider perspective – otherwise they would just solve the problem themselves. So, don’t compare yourself to others but believe in yourself and your own competences.
If this blog post made you interested in gaining hands-on experience in consultancy for diverse clients, try applying for a position at Erasmus Tech Consulting! The board has already been recruited for the upcoming year, but applications for student consultants open in September, so keep an eye out and grab your chance 😉
Author: Marit van der Kwaak
Editor: Phoebe Elliott
Visuals by: Ira Lizenko