Sam Wilson – ‘Start with listening’

In this #YesSheCan blog, we speak to Sam Wilson, Co-Founder of Virtalent. He talks to us about the importance of male advocacy and allyship, inclusion and diversity for the future and his advice to other men to become better allies.

 

Personal Background and Importance of Diversity:

Diversity has been a consistent thread in my life. Being raised in the UK I’ve been lucky enough to grow with a range of diversity throughout my life. I truly believe that different viewpoints contribute significantly to a richer understanding of our society. For me diversity isn’t just an exercise; it’s about genuinely valuing and hearing their perspectives.
A key turning point for me was attending Aston University. With its incredibly diverse cohort, it helped me to really develop and build upon an inclusive mindset that I’ve been able to bring into a business environment. Whereas many companies create a culture that they expect individuals, and even their customers to a degree, to adhere to, my experience has meant that our view of workplace culture has grown organically and is people-focused rather than fully profit-focused.

 

Benefits of Diversity:

As a fully remote team, culture may seem hard to cultivate but is incredibly important to business success, and has been a massive success for us.
We have been able to bring a wide range of people, many from completely different backgrounds and walks of life, together. This has meant not only do our team have a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints but our customers can tap into this diversity as well.
People who need specialist help, or nuanced support, have access to expertise, but equally, there’s also experience from people who have a fresh set of eyes that can be removed and unbiased from a particular situation or industry. 

 

Challenges in Promoting Diversity:

Promoting diversity has its challenges, particularly in environments resistant to change. It’s also often misunderstood as being a “one-and-done” thing. Ultimately, promoting diversity is an ongoing process that doesn’t just happen organically. Sometimes old viewpoints need to be questioned and challenged, and it can be uncomfortable. However, it needs to be handled empathetically and with care as well.
I prefer a thoughtful and listening-led approach. The aim is to understand rather than to be understood. In these discussions, I hold back from expressing my views, instead choosing to try and be receptive to others’, fostering an environment where everyone feels their voice matters.
 

Female Role Models and Their Influence:

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with several remarkable women whose resilience, intelligence, and leadership have left a lasting impression on me. Women who have challenged and thrived in male-dominated fields have been inspiring and instructive.
My business partner, and partner, Ellie in particular has shaped my perspectives on the importance of gender diversity and equality in professional settings.
To other men contemplating their role as advocates or allies, I’d say: start with listening. It’s quite easy to try and jump in on a conversation or discussion with your own viewpoint or lived experience, but this isn’t the time or place.
This also goes for grand gestures, quite often people will try and make grand gestures, but actually, it’s the quieter, consistent actions that foster a more inclusive environment. Advocate through your actions, be it in challenging biased remarks or actively supporting policies that promote equality.

 

Importance of Inclusion and Diversity for the Future:

I think that inclusion and diversity are key for our future. As the world changes rapidly, and world events and the world of work evolve, the ability to draw from a diverse pool of thoughts, experiences, and skills will be crucial. The world is also becoming more about working remotely, and this opens up so many doors.
We need to ensure that we are having conversations with people about what works for them, what makes them happy and what makes them more productive. People want to work but they also want to live. I believe that work will become increasingly flexible, diverse and more inclusive as we shift the definition of the workplace. 

 

Personal View on Male Advocacy and Allyship:

For me, male advocacy and allyship are less about being in the spotlight and more about consistent, meaningful support. It’s recognising that we have a role to play in fostering gender equality, not as saviours but as supporters and partners.
It involves understanding our own privileges and using them to elevate and empower others, all the while respecting and learning from their experiences.
If you would like to read more from brilliant male advocates, click here!

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