News

Diversity and Inequality: The Unspoken Truth in the Bid and Proposal Profession

Having recently taken part in the APMP Diversity Interest Group discussions, it was apparent that there are real issues regarding equality within our profession. The main topic of conversation was around gender imbalance within the bid / proposal workforce and perceived differences in how male and female workers are treated. To shine a light on the topic, it seemed prudent to review some of the findings of the Bid Solutions 2015 Salary Survey. As the largest survey of its kind, with 1,200 respondents in a profession that employs an estimated 7,000 in the UK, it provided useful insight into trends and issues with real data to back it up.

Key Findings of the Survey

Firstly it should be mentioned that the profession as a whole is reasonably gender balanced, with male respondents accounting for 52% in 2015, compared to 58% in 2012. However, men held the majority of senior roles, with Head of Bid Management positions being dominated by men (71%). Even the second highest paid role of Bid Manager was male-heavy at 57%. The overall balance comes from women occupying more positions in Document Management (81%), Graphic Design (75%) and Knowledgebase Management (58%).

When we compared the differences in individual roles, there was a greater cause for concern. Men in Head of Proposal Management roles earned on average £21,250 (45%) more than their female equivalents and men in Head of Bid Management roles earned on average £11,808 (19%) more. The only positions where women outperformed men were Graphic Designers (earning 11% more) and Knowledgebase Managers (7% more).

Unfortunately the findings were similar across sectors. Only within the Public Sector and Healthcare did women earn more than men within a bid management role and only within Professional Services, Finance and Telecommunications for a proposal management role.

Interestingly, the average industry salary for women was £43,099, which represented a 4% increase from 2012, whereas the average male salary was £53,339, which was a 0.3% increase from 2012. So, while female salaries increased at a greater rate and kept track with inflation, men still earned 23% more than their female counterparts. This suggests that while salaries are moving towards a balance, they are doing so at a snail’s pace.

Job Satisfaction and Flexibility

One of the points raised in the initial APMP Diversity Group meeting was the need for flexibility in relation to working hours and remote working. There is typically a sense that it needs to be earned as a reward over time, rather than provided from day one. This is a factor that can heavily influence decision-making when offered a new position. A question for the organisation offering the role should be ‘if this is the right person for you, don’t you want to be the right organisation for them?’

Of course, the ability to offer flexible working can often depend on a number of variables: the culture of the organisation; how well established their bid team is; and the self-sufficiency of the individuals that make up the team. There will always be the need for collaboration in war rooms, a meeting of minds in strategy sessions and a need to get face time with subject matter experts. However, for large periods of the bid lifecycle, the role of a bid manager or writer can theoretically be completed from a remote location. Often, it is beneficial for a writer to have the flexibility to shut themselves away while they produce content for the response document. Indeed, many remote workers state that they actually get more work done (and often work longer hours) when they don’t have to travel into the office. Coupled with the ability to manage home and family life, it seems like a win-win situation. And yet, despite all this, flexible working is still very rarely offered from day one and is typically provided on an ad hoc basis.

The Salary Survey supported the view that salaries are not the sole factor for being happy in the workplace. Indeed, only 6% of respondents cited financial reward as the most important consideration, with 73% stating that a mixture of work-life balance and financial reward was key to job satisfaction. While statistics around job satisfaction can be viewed as somewhat subjective, they are useful for looking beyond the numbers and providing insight into the mind-set of participants.

Interestingly, it was found that while job satisfaction was balanced across gender, it advised that women typically exit the profession earlier than men. The balance of gender is approximately 50-50 up until the age of 40, at which point men outweigh women nearly 3:1. While there were no specific reasons provided to explain this trend, it does raise questions as to why women elect to leave the profession at this point. One can merely speculate whether this could be related to a lack of development opportunities, or a lack of perceived flexibility / support.

Next Steps

So what can the proposal profession do? Making people aware of the situation is a good start. To really facilitate change, there must first be an acknowledgement that something needs to change. These issues are deeply embedded not just in our profession, but in wider society. In the vast majority of instances, these discrepancies do not occur as a result of deliberate discrimination and as such the more people are aware of them, the greater chance there is of equality being achieved. The APMP Diversity Interest Group is a newly formed assembly of professionals looking to shine a light on diversity and equality issues within the bid and proposal profession, not limited to gender disparity.

With the first two meetings having already taken place, there are a number of ideas that have been brought to the table to help address these issues, including implementing a Code of Ethics, developing mentoring schemes and providing a forum where professionals can voice their concerns. This is an open group that is actively seeking more members that can provide insight, share experiences, or provide support to the bid / proposal community. If you would like to find out more about the APMP Diversity Interest Group and how you can help, please contact Chloe Dillon by emailing chloe.dillon@pwc.com

For more information on the Salary Survey, you can find the full report here: http://salarysurvey.bidsolutions.wpengine.com/dist/assets/2015_salary_survey.pdf

You can also utilise our salary calculator to see how you personally fit in with the statistics here: http://salarysurvey.bidsolutions.wpengine.com/#!/

Author Ben Hannon, Bid Solutions – linkedin.com/in/benhannon