We asked some of our friends to tell us their experiences of being Allies in the workplace. Here’s what they said.
Jonathan Day-Miller – Enterprise Consulting Director
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role
Hi, my name is Jonathan Day-Miller. I’m a 47 year old cis-gender gay man. Married, no kids or pets, lots of plants. I work for an HR technology business, Darwin, within the Commercial/Innovation function. I provide technical support and guidance to large multinational organisations and develop new propositions to meet ever-changing market needs. As part of this role, I partner regularly with bid teams in the sales pursuit stage of complex deals. I rely heavily on the bid team’s extensive knowledge of our business to shape my own consultancy experience. I also try to learn from the seemingly unlimited ability of bid writers to absorb information within intense working periods and often timescales that are too tight! Outside of my day-to-day role, I also have the immense privilege to support and be a part of our company’s Inclusion and Diversity initiatives.
Why is gender equality important to you?
I am a feminist. And as a gay man it’s my responsibility to support gender equality as I cannot ask or expect equality for myself at the expense of any other group. As a white gay man I understand that my privilege far outweighs most other demographics (including women and most in the LGBTQ+ community) but I have been lucky to be supported by role models and Allies throughout my life – most of whom have been women. It is therefore my responsibility to do all that I can to support, champion and amplify others as well as use any position and opportunity that I have to push for change.
What can Allies do to support and encourage gender equality in the workplace?
As an Ally in training, I would suggest people start with listening and learning. I have had to suspend my disbelief sometimes when listening to stories from female colleagues – and I have also had to accept that at times in my career, I have probably been part of the problem.
The more you learn, the more you will notice and see for yourself without someone pointing it out. Have conversations with people, ask opinions, promote ideas, give credit to those that did the work, celebrate them, and put them forward for roles and opportunities – all the things we should be doing anyway, but which we may need to actively think about and do. It may even be that we act in a way which seems (to us) biased towards under-represented or marginalised groups, if only to counter the unconscious bias we all have.
When you are ready to step in and be an Ally, you might find yourself taking action without needing to be prompted by those you want to support. I am not sure I am fully there yet, but I try to be a consistent voice. In areas where I’m more confident I just get on with it. Also if you can find opportunities to place yourself in an environment as ‘the only one’ in the room, it’s a really powerful learning experience. As a middle-aged white male in a professional situation, it can often be hard to achieve this, but it will completely change your perspective and behaviour. This goes for gender, race, ethnicity, faith, neurodiversity – challenge yourself to be in situations that make you uncomfortable. And remember we all need Allies, no matter who we are, so be the Ally that you may have wanted or needed.
Scott Baker – Operations Director
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Scott, an Operations Director at Mace Group. I’m currently part of the Senior Leadership Team working on the regeneration project for Battersea Power Station Phase 2. I’ve been working in the construction industry for more than 20 years, and have had a number of roles across design, business development and operations. I’ve worked closely with bid teams in all of those roles, on both sides of the fence!
What’s your experience working with bid teams?
I’ve been in many bidding war rooms over the years, and I love getting a team together working towards a deadline to produce a winning bid. I get inspired by the creativity of bidding, especially the more off-the-wall executive summaries!
In my current role, I’m on the other side of the procurement process, and have reviewed lots of bid submissions. I enjoy engaging with suppliers throughout the process and seeing the eventual delivery of the work the winning bidder has produced, knowing how important the bid team’s role was in the creation of that solution.
As someone who evaluates bids, have you got any tips for bid teams?
I’ve been on a bidding journey throughout my career. In the early days, I thought it was just a ‘tick box’ exercise, a necessary evil of the procurement process. But I’ve learned to understand the professionalism and expertise of the bid teams I’ve worked with, and how it truly can set you apart from your competitors. As a buyer, I can tell when a bid team has put the effort in – it really does make a difference! I am sometimes still shocked at the low quality of some of the bids I receive. It’s hard for bid teams as you don’t always get to see the bids your competitors produce, so the best advice I can give is to know your audience, always put your best foot forward and take pride in your work. Be the people that raise the bar for your competitors, something I know my bid team did in my previous company.
Why is gender equality important to you?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing female bid professionals over the years. I have to say, early in my career I didn’t realise just how much gender equality mattered to my female colleagues and friends. Part of my growth and maturity as an Ally has seen me listen and learn more about the challenges women face at all levels of business.
I want to continue learning so that I can use my position to change the working world my young daughters will enter – but not just for them. I don’t want anyone – regardless of their race, gender, religious beliefs or ability – to feel as uncomfortable as I know some of my female colleagues have at times. That’s why I got involved in WIBAP and was proud to be the compere at the first two WIBAP conferences.
I continue to have those conversations, and I now work in a more diverse and inclusive company. Mace isn’t just saying the right things, they’re taking action. Project teams are more diverse across nationalities, gender, race, etc. Unfortunately, I also talk to suppliers and other trades where they’re not as diverse or inclusive. The language sometimes used tells me we still have a long way to go, so I’m trying to make a difference where I can.
I’m also working with several female graduates, having conversations about what’s important to them and what we can do better. But I also understand that everyone is different. For example, while involved in our mentoring programme and trying to get more of our senior women to be mentors, I learnt that our female graduates don’t always want a female mentor. So long as they have someone who understands them, and understands why gender equality is important, then they feel supported.
What advice would you give to those wanting to become Allies?
Ask questions, encourage open conversation and support organisations that are fighting for gender equality. Listen to people so you can understand how they feel. If you are a line manager, you have to understand what makes people tick, whatever their gender. Ensure people feel part of the team and that they’re not excluded because of characteristics that are out of their control. Educate yourself and acknowledge that we all continue to learn. Allies play a massive role because they can sometimes bridge the gap between those people who feel excluded and the places that are excluding them. I feel a lot more educated and passionate about trying to do the right thing and making a difference. Being an Ally shouldn’t be performative – don’t do it to make yourself look good, do it to affect real change.
This article was written by WIBAP.