The Bain Women Accelerate (BWA) Journey (Bain & Company)

Category entered:
Best Innovation Award

Campaign name:
The Bain Women Accelerate (BWA) Journey (Bain & Company)

Company name:
Bain & Company

Short description of campaign:


Bain & Company South Africa (Bain) identified a key recruiting challenge in recent years: a limited pipeline of high potential (HiPo) female talent, particularly from historically disadvantaged backgrounds
– Many candidates are unfamiliar with the consulting industry as well as the value proposition offered by a career in consulting
– Female – particularly historically disadvantaged – candidates tend to have limited industry knowledge and often lack exposure to networking opportunities when seeking management consulting roles
– Traditional recruitment processes don’t consistently provide sufficient support to effectively guide these candidates through the intensive process from identification to full-time employment

With these challenges in mind, Bain setout to develop a new recruiting approach to effectively address these challenges – the Bain Women Accelerate (BWA) journey was born.

To ensure the BWA journey was fit-for-purpose, the vision was to design it by leveraging input and best-practice learnings from our existing Women at Bain (WAB) affinity group. This group’s vision is to enable the delivery of outstanding client results by making Bain the long-term employer of choice for the best female talent in South Africa.

Description of the innovation:

The Bain Women Accelerate (BWA) journey is a sought-after programme to identify and recruit high-potential, diverse female students across South Africa. Crucially, this journey is centred around offering a supportive process, aimed at developing candidates’ skills and confidence – effectively equipping them to be successful through the recruiting process and beyond. In cases where candidates are not successful with their applications to Bain, the programme still drives positive outcomes:
– Creating informal student ambassadors for Bain as these women share their positive interactions and experiences with others
– Equipping candidates with relevant skills for job applications elsewhere, through improved critical thinking, problem structuring and problem solving

Women from various backgrounds (all degrees and disciplines) are invited to apply from 2nd year onwards across all national universities. The journey aims to empower young women, particularly women of colour (targeting >70% employment equity participation), with an introduction to management consulting, business strategy and case interview skills – opening the journey to a prestigious consulting career at a top global firm.

As part of the journey, BWA participants have the opportunity to network with fellow students from various universities as well as connect and engage with strong female role-models (the “Bain Wonder Women“)

The BWA journey highlights Bain’s inclusive, diverse and supportive culture by sharing advice and insights on issues many young women are often concerned about:
– Navigating their future career path as women
– Choosing the career path that is right for them
– Potential exposure to sexism and other forms of discrimination when entering the world of work

The BWA journey includes a wide array of content:
– In-depth networking between candidates (‘Gen Z Wonder Women’) and ‘Bain Wonder Women’
– Introduction to Bain, our culture and our perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in South Africa
– Discussions on thriving in the new world of work, with guidance and experience-share from the ‘Bain Wonder Women’
– Masterclass sessions on Bain’s approach to strategy, aimed at developing the structured and critical thinking skills that are essential for success in our case-based interview process

All ‘Gen Z Wonder Women’ are invited to interview for an Associate Consultant Intern (ACI) position in our Johannesburg office. During this process, they continue to receive in-depth support (e.g. assigned a ‘Bain Buddy’ to support them with interview preparation). Successful candidates then participate in the 4-week ACI programme which was voted Best Work Experience by SAGEA in 2017. Ultimately, strong-performing ACI’s are extended a full-time Associate Consultant offer.

The BWA programme effectively addresses the identified challenges by:
– Providing a channel to identify and build relationships with HiPo talent, much earlier in their university careers – creating time and space to build familiarity with the consulting value proposition, while also allowing us to cultivate in-depth candidate relationships ahead of our competitors
– Developing candidate skills and supporting their recruitment processes to maximise our pipeline of target talent
– Empowering future female leaders with problem solving and business skills for the world of work, creating lifelong Bain ambassadors at the same time

Stakeholder engagement:

The development and rollout of the BWA programme was led by our talent management team, in close consultation with the existing Woman at Bain (WAB) affinity group, including senior female leaders in our South African business. During the programme candidates (‘Gen Z Wonder Women’) are engaged by and receive support from a wide array of Bain employees:

– In-depth engagement with the “Bain Wonder Women”, including networking with senior leaders who share perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as their personal experiences navigating the workplace as a woman
– Robust interview support from an assigned Bain Buddy – offering support via mock interviews and frequent networking
– World-class training at the outset of the Associate Consultant Internship programme, with sessions led by a wide range of employees – from Consultants to senior functional leaders and client-facing Partners
– A unique professional development team assigned to each ACI, including a direct supervisor, case manager, mentor and Bain buddy

Beyond these interactions, participants completed an in-depth survey about their experiences, ensuring their views inform a continuous improvement process aimed at making positive changes to the programme for 2022.

In addition, the programme has highlighted several best practices that will being actively shared (and adopted) in other Bain offices globally.


The BWA Journey proved to be an extraordinary success for Bain in achieving its vision to build a strong pipeline of female talent in South Africa:
– The BWA Journey received a 100% Net Promoter Score, i.e. all participants indicated that they would highly recommend the programme to a friend
– With 75% of our 2021 ACI class selected through the BWA journey, Bain hosted an all-female AC internship cohort in 2021, while achieving 75% employment equity! This highlights the impact the BWA journey has had in cultivating a pipeline of exceptional female talent
– The ACI programme ultimately resulted in full-time offers being extended to 75% of interns
– This talent innovation champions Bain’s commitment to attracting, supporting and recruiting high potential diverse female talent in a repeatable and scalable manner.

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