By Charlotte Rees
Welcome to this special edition of Bidding Quarterly, curated by Women in Bids and Proposals.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Women in Bids and Proposals (or WIBAP for short), we’re all about driving gender equality and fairness within the bids and proposals profession. For the past three years, we’ve grown our membership and followers, run a vast array of events, and connected people from across the globe. We share the experiences and challenges all bid professionals encounter and, more specifically, those that women within our industry face on a daily basis. The aim of this edition is to continue highlighting the inequality within our profession and offer advice and guidance – from the fantastic panel of BQ Experts, the WIBAP team and a few of our Allies too. We recognise things are changing for women in our profession, with positive momentum building over the past three years – but there’s still a way to go. Our aim for this edition is to keep gender equality in bids and proposals on everyone’s radar. The articles in this edition represent a range of opinions amongst our contributors, but with one purpose – achieving gender equality in our profession. While people have different views on how to achieve that equality, the main objective is that we get there.
In this issue
Women in Bids and Proposals (WIBAP) was founded in 2018 as a direct result of industry research highlighting gender inequality in our profession. WIBAP created a community of people – from a variety of roles and industries from all over the world – to support anyone working in the bidding profession to remove barriers preventing women from progressing in their careers.
Ally. Allies. Alliance.
In a way, these words sum up what WIBAP is. We are an Ally to women in bids and proposals, our members are united as Allies who support our objectives, and together, we are an Alliance – standing for gender equality in our profession.
As of June 2021, WIBAP has formally allied with another campaign, the REbuild project (more on this later). Before we committed, we asked ourselves what kind of Ally WIBAP should be. It made us reflect on the Allies we’ve had in our own careers, and those who have been an Ally to WIBAP. It also led us to ask, “What Allies do we need going forward?”
Official dictionary definitions of ‘Ally’ vary widely – this surprised me but shouldn’t have. These words have taken on new meanings in the last couple of years in response to movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter. One of the definitions offered by Collins Dictionary is, “An Ally is someone who supports people who are in a minority group or who are discriminated against, even though they do not belong to that group themselves”. The Oxford Languages dictionaries (Google result) state that to become an Ally is “to combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit”.
Red-blooded male seeks passionate, flexible, experienced and uniquely skilled professional for high intensity relationship. Must have stamina, a strong desire to please and a willingness to work nights. Female preferred…
We asked some of our friends to tell us their experiences of being Allies in the workplace. Here’s what they said.
Recent surveys and reports confirm the impact of gender inequality across a range of business sectors. The data doesn’t lie.
A phenomenally simple strategy. The gender pay gap is a reality – although it shouldn’t be. But like other antiquated social constructs – it exists. We all know it. Most of us are embarrassed by it, and sadly, we aren’t doing enough to end it.
#TeamPipster* is, quite by chance, an all-woman team. We are all at different stages in our lives, with various needs and demands on our time. Our success grows and our clients flourish, in spite of, or most likely because of, the way we work. Flexible working and a focus on wellbeing is encouraged through a caring and supporting culture. This allows us to get our work done in a way that suits us, our families and our lives. Here is a fairly typical day…
It feels as though gender equality has recently received a renewed focus from employers in the UK. This has possibly been driven by the UK government’s gender pay gap reporting, where organisations with 250 plus employees must report annually on their gender pay figures. This may be considered a cynical view, but no boardroom wants to be in the press for having inequality in the workplace – and as long as we are driving change, perhaps the stick is more effective than the carrot.
Working full-time in bids isn’t normally the direction young people are given by the school careers advisers. Being a Bid Coordinator isn’t normally part of the dream when graduates are considering their future. However, for Fiona Cooper and Isobel Clarke, starting and building a postgraduate career in bids/pitches has been extremely rewarding for themselves and for Crawford & Company – the NYSE-listed global insurance claims management specialist where they are making a fantastic impact. In this Q&A, Fiona and Isobel share their thoughts and explain why they would encourage young people and employers to invest in developing careers in this area.
After my business degree, I joined British Aerospace. Along with another new starter and an existing buyer, we totalled three women in a procurement team of approximately 45. It never really registered with me at the time that we were any different. But pretty early into the role, the buyer used words to the effect of “Don’t let the side down. I’ve worked hard to get us accepted.” to us newbies. To be honest, I thought nothing more of it at the time other than thinking that it was a strange thing to have to say. Maybe I had to flex into being more like ‘one of the lads’ to fit in, but surely that was the right thing to do, wasn’t it?
The truth behind inequality within the bidding world…
Earlier this year, I was asked to dig out any old photos relating to the early days of APMP UK as it celebrated its 20th birthday. There was the snap of the chapter chair’s “gavel of office” being presented to me at a conference in the States. There was the picture from the first conference, in Northamptonshire.
A long time ago in a nest far, far away… Whoops, that’s the storyteller in me getting carried away. But my sales and bid career did begin in the early 1980s, which is quite a long time ago. Throughout, I can honestly say I have been fortunate. Yes, there have been bumps in the road – a sprinkle of redundancies, flashes of frustration, splashes of tears, lashings of anxiety – but overall it’s been a positive journey, a proverbial rich tapestry. As I now happily type my way towards retirement, my mission is quite simply to earn a fair living and give back what I can. So, for this BQ edition, I’m sharing my top five lessons – my golden eggs – from five decades.
In-person events: It seems like forever since we were able to host an in- person event! We held our last annual conference back in March 2020 before lockdown. Over 70 bid and proposal professionals came together to talk about best practice, presenting, getting feedback from clients, tackling bid libraries and taking charge of their career development. On top of these great sessions, an incredible commitment to networking and sharing stories meant new connections (as well as new friends) were made. We’re really excited to be bringing back our usual annual conference in Spring 2022. We think it’s going to be the best one so far!
I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has been on this WIBAP journey with us over the past three years, in particular, Martin Smith and Jon Williams. We wouldn’t be where we are without all of your support and guidance.