The Importance of Male Allies

It’s no secret that some sectors are largely male or female orientated, and whilst great strides have taken place over recent years, it’s clear that work still needs to be done to create inclusive, gender balanced workplaces.

This week saw The Importance of Male Allies event take place, hosted by the MoD’s Defence Women’s Network. A virtual panel event, the session played host to four male speakers within the defence sector, including our very own Associate Director, Nick Snelling, alongside professionals from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The session consisted of a Q&A surrounding male roles in advocating gender equality within the defence sector, and how to be a proactive ally.

We caught up with Nick to capture some of the talking points from the event:

Why are Male Allies important and how can they be utilised to influence others?

“It’s an unfortunate truth that most senior roles in the sector are still held by men. As a result, it’s crucial that these men are allies to women in their organisations and potential hiring pools. To do so I would recommend asking each time a new opportunity opens: “Do we have a gender equal candidate pool to pull from?” And if the answer is no, then working to fix that for the next opportunity.”

What made you become a male ally to a women’s network?

“I am proud to have grown up with strong female leaders in my family. My mum raised 4 children whilst doing a Politics & Sociology degree, but her options were limited by her gender. However, my sister, who is a single parent, has received fantastic support as a PM in Defence, both in terms of career progression and childcare. All too often gender inclusivity initiatives are set up and run by leadership teams that are predominantly male. The Defence Women’s Network is led by women and encourages everyone to be true to themselves to make a real change, rather than “fit the mould”, and that’s why I joined.”

What do you think is the biggest barrier to men becoming an ally to a women’s network?

“In all honesty, it’s my experience that men are reluctant to put themselves out there for fear that they might do or say the wrong thing. I would challenge these men to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. To progress the agenda, we have to be ready to challenge ourselves, and not shy away, but put our hands up and say we don’t have all the answers but we would like to try.”

What are we missing out on by not maximising the talents of both genders?

“If we take into consideration the current talent shortage, then we’re missing out on a great deal.

Take the current HGV driver crisis for example – only 1% of HGV drivers in the UK are women. The barriers to entry for women into these roles tend to be more about facilities and safety on the road, rather than the job itself. Fix some of these issues and the market might look quite different.

If we look at leadership roles, then one of the largest untapped talent pools is women aged 50 to 64. Which coincidently is the fastest-growing, economically active group in the UK, due to issues including the rise in the state pension age for women, increased life expectancy and the impact of COVID.

Of the 70% of women in employment in the UK, almost 4.5 million are in this age bracket and it’s in employers’ interests to retain these women: many older women are at the peak of their careers.”

What one thing do we need to do to inspire male advocates?

“I’d love to be able to say we don’t need to do anything to inspire them as many are already on this journey. Sadly that’s not the case, however I am hopeful that when we look to the next generation of male advocates many are further along than I was when I entered the workplace.

However, it does remain the case that we must tie it back to a business case. And that’s not hard to do. It’s been widely documented that the best and most successful teams are the most diverse, men need to advocate for this diversity as they know it will benefit themselves and their organisations in the long-run.”

At People Source Consulting, we work closely with our contractors and clients not just in defence but across the technology sector and we’re committed to attracting talented female professionals. Our clients play a part in this, but we believe we need to start at ground level and ensure we practice what we preach. We’re proud that a number of our most senior and highest earning contractors are female, not to mention having a diverse in-house team, but we acknowledge that there’s still work to be done to level the playing field.

If you’d like to get involved, either by utilising our consultancy services to hire talented individuals or if you’re looking for work, please take a look at our current vacancies or get in touch here.

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