María del Mar Martínez

This Women’s History Month, we’re chatting with McKinsey leaders about their role as women in the workplace and beyond. Today, we’ll hear from María del Mar Martínez, a senior partner in Madrid who co-leads McKinsey’s Risk & Resilience practice and advises financial institutions on growth strategies and organization, innovation, risk management, and control. She is also McKinsey’s global chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. For more Q&As throughout the month, bookmark this page.

Tell us about a career defining moment.

A very defining moment of my career was when I came back [to the office] after my second maternity leave. I had three kids under three at home. It was a very complex moment, because it was at the beginning of the financial crisis, and I was the first female with kids in the office. People didn’t know how to treat me, and sometimes it was not the most encouraging environment [to be in].

I had to think very deeply how much I liked this profession, how much I liked the trust I had with my clients, and how much I liked my teams. That gave me the strength to be bolder—to not have fear of failure. I found the confidence to go through those moments and build a career out of them.

You need to have that confidence, and you need to be in the right environment. One thing that I’ve done now that I lead diversity and inclusion for the firm is to change the parental leave reboarding program to one that I would have really liked to have had when I had my kids.

What are you most proud of?

I am very proud of the teams I work with, and the partners and the networks I connect with every day. That gives me a lot of joy. The second thing is the opportunity to renew. There’s such a breadth of things that you can do in this firm, and I am very proud of continuing to learn and develop myself every day.

What’s a big or surprising lesson you’ve learned as a woman in the workplace?

Resilience is one, and how you need to think very much what you like, what you enjoy, and go through the ups and downs of this profession. Confidence is the second one. Be confident in your capabilities, your strengths, who you are, and what you bring to the table. The third thing is don’t mind asking for help. Don’t think that you can do everything on your own. People are there to help.

How do you stay energized?

I think the first thing is having perspective. There will always be to-dos left not done. It’s important to prioritize and be happy with what you achieved in the day. It’s also very good when you can [delegate work to your teams]. But for me, it’s not a delegation. It’s an energizing moment to problem solve together, to figure out how we do things, and how we split things. So working with your teams is another source of energy.

I also find ways to refill my personal energy, and everybody will have their own ways [to do this]. For me, doing a bit of sports, or spending time with the family every day if I can, or planning my next trip. I really enjoy that. So finding ways to recharge your batteries is very important.

What advice do you have for women in their professional journeys?

We research a lot and we publish a lot in this space. I really enjoy talking to young professionals thinking about their careers. I think there’s some research [that indicates] it’s sometimes more important to be [more selective] about the company you choose than the job you aspire to, in that first or second job.

Pick the right company that will have the right learning environment, the right inclusive environment, and leadership. I believe that’s super important for women in this professional world. Also, make sure that all the moves you make bring you new skills. Think purposefully, “What are the skills I want to achieve in my next move?” And it can be a lateral move in that company or it can mean going outside of the company.


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