Let’s Be… Allies

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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”.

WIBAP simultaneously has, needs, and is, both of these types of Allies.

Without question, Allies have been instrumental in getting WIBAP to where we are today – a network of 2,000 in just three years. Our Allies have been individuals and organisations who recognised the need for WIBAP and wanted to support us by giving us a platform, an introduction, advice, their time (or an edition of BQ to edit!) to help us on our way – so they did just that.

The key word there is ‘did’. This means they took action. For me, an Ally that takes action beyond words can really make a difference.

In my experience, it is often the small actions of allyship that have the most impact on personal outcomes and long-term organisational cultural change. Like the male colleague who notices when I am being talked over in a meeting and returns the floor back to me. Or the board director who seeks my opinion publicly, using his influence to position me as the expert in the room. Modelling like this creates awareness and gives everyone more confidence to address issues around inequality. And damn, it feels good to know people are standing with you. In fact, allyship or solidarity is the key reason our members join WIBAP (it’s what they told us in our December 2020 membership survey).

What we really need is for everyone to be an Ally. Yes, everyone. Regardless of gender, sector, role, position or location. If we are to see the gender data gaps close, in our profession and all others, we need everyone to help us address the issues, top-down and bottom-up. We need to form alliances with organisations whose objectives align with our own, so that together we can make a difference – their success is ours.

That is why we became an Ally of the Rebuild project (https://www.therebuildproject.co.uk) . The REbuild project is led by Anne McNamara, who was featured in the ‘Spotlight’ article in the last BQ edition. REbuild has made a bold challenge to the construction sector, calling for all companies who generate 50% or more of their revenue from the public sector to increase the percentage of women in executive positions – to 50% in entry level roles by 2025 and to 50% overall by 2030, while achieving a zero gender pay gap by 2035.

Anne was inspired by the quote, “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realised that I am somebody.” The REbuild project was launched by a handful of people and now there is a groundswell of Allies joining. The initiative is built on the strength of Allies and is driven by the women and men who love the industry and what it achieves but know the way it operates needs to be improved. The project is gaining great traction and the impacts will filter to associated disciplines such as design and engineering, which will in turn demand the same of their supply chains. This will be good for all of us.

This sentiment echoes something Anne herself said in the above mentioned ‘Spotlight’ article. When asked what advice she would give to those new to the bid profession, Anne called on men to be a ‘good Ally’, explaining that this does not mean there will be less for men, only that “it means that the profession is being taken more seriously for you both”. Similarly, we hope that through this alliance both WIBAP and REbuild’s messages on gender equality are strengthened and amplified.

It now feels the right time for WIBAP to develop our own formal ‘Ally’ programme which we will launch later this year. We hope you will join us and be fantastic-ally and inspiration-ally allied.

This article was written by Louise Dentice.

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