Leading with Allyship: A Male CIO’s Journey to Foster Inclusion in the Technology, Data & Innovation Team at Miller.

In my role as a male Chief Information Officer (CIO), I've realised that fostering allyship within our technology, data, and innovation teams at Miller is not just about implementing policies, but also about leading by example. From my perspective, being an ally in the context of gender diversity and inclusion means sharing opportunities, celebrating accomplishments, sponsoring women, being visible, and embracing fear of the unknown. It's about actively supporting and advocating for women and other marginalised groups in ways that contribute to their growth and success.

My journey towards allyship was catalysed by an unexpected invitation to the Women in Insurance Awards while working at Beazley several years ago. Initially, I thought I had been invited in error, but attending the awards and listening to the speakers sparked a significant change in my perspective. This coincided with my personal experience as a father of two young daughters and truly highlighted the importance of promoting gender diversity and inclusion.

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture

To promote a diverse and inclusive culture, I have worked with our teams to promote the following:

  1. Foster an Inclusive Culture: Recognising the value of diversity in driving innovation, we created a 'Women in Technology' group to nurture and support our female colleagues. This was complemented by the establishment of a special task force to enhance overall inclusion and diversity within our team.

  2. Educate Yourself and Others: My learning journey involved reading insightful books like "How Women Rise", participating in a Tech Talent Charter hackathon about allyship and unconscious bias, and partnering with Code First Girls. We also recently organised a 'Equity vs Equality' lunch and learn sessions to cultivate a deeper understanding of these issues among our team members.

  3. Use Respectful and inclusive Language: I firmly believe that respect begins with the language we use. We have made it a priority to adopt respectful and inclusive language, contributing to a more considerate and inclusive work environment. There was one time when my younger daughter corrected me for saying 'policeman'. 'It's police officer, daddy', she said, reminding me that even everyday language can reinforce gender stereotypes. Now, in our team, we're conscious about using inclusive language.

  4. Advocate for Diversity in Hiring and Promotions: Our commitment to diversity extends to our hiring and promotion processes. We have adopted diverse interview panels and leveraged internships, apprenticeships and partnerships with companies such as Code First Girls to attract a wide range of talent. We also regularly review our diversity data to measure progress and identify areas for improvement.

  5. Amplify Marginalised Voices: As a member of the Miller Gender Alliance Group, I work to amplify the voices of those who are often overlooked. This commitment extends to ensuring all contributions are acknowledged and valued within our team.

  6. Model Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: As a leader, I role model flexibility in working hours and prioritise work-life balance. This not only allows me to fulfil my personal commitments but also signals to my team that it's okay to adjust work schedules for personal reasons, which can be particularly beneficial for those with caregiving responsibilities.

unnamed (1)I've witnessed tangible changes within the team at Miller. One colleague mentioned feeling more included than before, with her opinions being valued as much as her male peers. A recent new joiner also appreciated being part of a team where she is not the only woman and felt that she was listened to as much as her male counterparts.

As a leader, I aim to cultivate a work environment where everyone feels valued and included. This is not only the ethical course of action, but it also significantly fuels innovation and productivity. We recently created an initiative within our team called 'Dress to Express'. This encouraged all employees to wear clothes that allowed them to truly express their individuality. It's a small step, but it's been powerful in making our team members feel more comfortable and authentic in the workplace.

The importance of diversity of thought

Moreover, I've learnt the importance of diversity of thought through an interesting anecdote. In the past, a recruitment agency would often recommend candidates who were like me. The recruiter would say, "Brad, you will love this person, he reminds me of you 10 years ago." This made me realise how easy it is to unconsciously favour those who mirror our own experiences and perspectives. It underscored the need to consciously seek out diverse perspectives to foster a truly inclusive environment.

The path towards becoming an ally is a continuous one. It requires a courageous commitment to examine and challenge our own biases. Throughout my own journey towards allyship, I've realised the significance of conducting personal research and actively participating. It's acceptable to make mistakes, provided we learn from them and consistently aim for improvement. Allyship isn't a destination but an ongoing process of learning and development. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to keep nurturing a truly inclusive and diverse workplace.

Connect with Bradley O'Connor on Linkedin, or learn more about Miller Insurance.

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