Senior Partner and Global Leader, Social Impact Practice
The Boston Consulting Group
There are many ways women find their way into the consulting profession. Typically, “as an experiment” is not one of them. But that just how BCG’s Wendy Woods, Senior Partner and Global Leader, Social Impact Practice, describes it.
Prior to business school, Woods worked in the public sector with a multi-lateral institution. After this experience, she knew she wanted to find a less bureaucratic and less hierarchical way of working in her next job. Given her very limited exposure to the private sector, she didn’t know which industry or function she’d find most satisfying, so consulting seemed like a great way to experiment in a variety of fields.
“It offered a chance to work across industries and functions until I found the area in which I wanted to specialize,” Woods says. “Thus, I joined BCG, and I discovered my passion is for consulting itself.”
Woods leads BCG’s Social Impact practice, which she helped create. Based in Boston, she spends much of her time leading the firm’s global public health efforts and has worked extensively across Europe, Asia, and Africa. As head of the Social Impact practice, Woods is responsible for BCG’s work addressing the environment, development, health, education, and social business.
“I love the impact we create for clients, the variety of the work, the teaming, the constant challenge, and the amazement of clients when together we achieve what they didn’t know was possible,” she says.
Ask Woods about her greatest achievement and she says the one she hasn’t achieved yet. “There is always more to do, more to achieve, and more to aspire to,” she says. “I find I’m much more energized looking forward to new opportunities than looking back and being satisfied.”
In leading BCG’s global health efforts, Woods helps clients develop strategies, form public-private partnerships, improve operational effectiveness, and enhance approaches to delivering health interventions. She is passionate about driving cooperation across organizations and sectors to help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.
As for winning the award, Woods says it is “recognition that some of the most important work we do as consultants is in the social sector, addressing global challenges and focusing on topics that impact some of the most underprivileged in our society,” she says.
“While social-impact work is obviously a smaller part of the consulting industry than private-sector work with commercial clients, this award acknowledges that consultants can also deliver tremendous value to the social sector across topics such as health, development, education, the environment and employment.”
What advice would you give to a female consultant just beginning her career?
Wendy Woods says: “Be flexible and be confident. First, sometimes the opportunities from which you learn the most aren’t the ones you’re looking or planning for, so be flexible enough to seize them. Second, be confident that you will deliver on those new, often challenging opportunities. Over the course of my career, I’ve leapt at some exciting opportunities—even when it wasn’t always clear how they’d fit into my career path, and even when it wasn’t clear that I’d know how to navigate them well. I always learned from these experiences, and they led me to the wonderful role I have now.”