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Multiple grey headed white men, including quite a few Bid Directors, were told time and time again about the need for greater diversity in rail infrastructure at a High Speed 2 conference I recently attended. (HS2 will be the largest infrastructure project in Europe, taking high speed rail to the north of England, increasing speed and capacity).

It was a common theme: we need to increase the proportion of women, ethnic minorities and young people involved in HS2. Apprenticeships are a key part of moving forward.

Most of the men I talked with agreed that diversity is needed. There is evidence that in teams it sparks greater creativity and innovation in business outcomes. These are all essentials.

My perception, however, is that most white men, whatever their age, do not bring all of who they are to work every day. They deny their own diversity, and leave it at home. Maybe particularly so in rail infrastructure and construction, they believe they must behave in a way which is more “male” – often more aggressive, hierarchical and adversarial – than they prefer to be.  It can be unattractive to them, and get in the way of how they achieve results.

Here are things that some of my male clients and colleagues have done in the last twelve months which I would like to celebrate with them:

  • Made their son’s wedding cake
  • Been the lead singer in a Bowie tribute band
  • Married and gained a husband
  • Told their senior team childcare has fallen over, so they now need to stay home today to look after their sick two year old daughter because their wife has a meeting with a Government Minister
  • Trained hard for a number of months to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for The Railways Children’s charity.

Some have been quite overt with their accomplishments, others regard them as ordinary and not something to mention or offer. To me, it’s a wasted opportunity when people hide their rich and diverse talents, tenacity and courageous qualities under a bushel.

Take a look at this wedding cake again – it is all cake – including the teapot and cups…


Which white, male colleagues are you proud of? What have they done? Please add to the post – I’d love to know.

My own belief is that only when we change the culture, when we can be at ease with all of who we are bringing our qualities and talents to work, that we can genuinely gain the benefits of diversity in superior business outcomes.

Without changing the rail infrastructure and construction culture, our only option is take part in a pantomime called “White Male” at work, whatever our gender, age or ethnicity.

Questions for you:

  • How can you call upon the diversity you already have present (if hidden) in your bid team?
  • How can you role model the diversity you wish for and give permission for it to grow?
  • How can you message that diverse talent and contribution is genuinely needed and wanted in your team?

How active are you in changing the dominant culture? Choices in your behaviour are critical in enabling you to call on the diversity in your team as a vibrant, under utilised force. Something which is also a resource in helping you gain creativity, zest and winning performance in your bid team.

If you believe diversity is untapped in your bid team and could help you win, why not invest in tailored coaching or an expert masterclass for your team. Book an appointment here.

Here is what one client said:

“The most stretching, thought provoking and useful coaching I have experienced, benefiting both me personally and the team I was leading, as a consequence of my greater effectiveness.”
Phil Heathcote, whilst Bid Director, Northern Rail Franchise / Arriva UK Trains Ltd


Gill How has over twenty years’ experience of working with bid, sales and other professionals to help them accelerate the leadership of their own team as a route to winning results and the effectiveness they desire. If you would like to meet for a cup of coffee to explore how she can help, contact her here.

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results


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