Since International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March 2020, The Student Room has been interviewing powerful women in our own business. An often-overlooked side of the fight for equality is the integral role that men and people of other genders can play by offering support. Today we interview Paul Cernicharo-Terol about the importance of male allies:
Hi Paul, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. You’re not a woman. Why did you want to do this?
Well noticed. I certainly don’t want to step on women’s toes by making a women’s day about men.
I’m here in a supportive capacity because this is such an important issue and deserves our attention. Whether we are male or female, we can do our part to promote equality in the workplace and in our lives.
I think it’s vital that men understand and appreciate some of the challenges that our female colleagues are facing everyday in the workplace.
Hopefully, having more male allies will help society to keep progressing and improving conditions for everyone.
What’s your role at The Student Room?
I’m Sales Director here at The Student Room, managing a team of eighteen staff.
Ultimately, the financial success of The Student Room is my responsibility.
How many women are there in your team?
The team is really well balanced with a 50:50 split of females and males. In the B2B management team, 60% of the staff are women.
It’s obvious you are a feminist. Can you expand on what it is like for male allies in 2020?
Actually, I’ve had a lot of learning to do.
As with most things, our backgrounds and formative experiences impact our world view. So for me, it’s important that I’m continually learning and challenging myself to tackle any ingrained or historical biases I may have picked up over time.
Thankfully, I’ve been surrounded by some truly amazing people and some very inspirational women.
This sent me on a personal learning journey, encouraging me to think more deeply about gender, power, biases and, most importantly, the need to clear a space to allow more diverse viewpoints to emerge.
We can’t grow and develop if we only see the world through one hugely skewed lens.
I’m happy to do what I can to even the playing field, both for women and for other groups that have not been given access to equal opportunities.
How do you collaborate with and boost female colleagues at work?
I collaborate with many women across the business, notably Lorna Greville, Aimee Parker-Johnson, Marissa Freeman and Amii Lanham.
However, could I say I have boosted them? Maybe not.
They have succeeded because they are excellent at what they do, add huge value to The Student Room, and are inspirational role models for their teams.
If I’ve played any part, it is only in knowing when to step back and trust the people we’ve hired and developed.
And of course, as with anyone who works here, I’m supportive of their needs whenever I can be.
Can you give us some examples of those positive contributions that women have made at The Student Room?
Two of the most impressive people I have had the joy of working with are Emily Bennet, our former Head of Education, and Amii Lanham, our Commercial Operations Director.
They have both made huge contributions to The Student Room: Emily in shaping the Education team into what it is now, and Amii in being the catalyst for The Student Room’s growth and development. Amii only joined the Senior Management Team in August, but already, she has been one of the greatest contributors to our strategic re-focus and recent commercial success.
Without the amazing contribution of both colleagues, The Student Room would be a vastly different place and all the poorer for lacking the dedication, diligence and, crucially, the way of thinking they have brought to the table.
I also have huge admiration for Aimee Parker Johnson, who was recently promoted to Account Director. She is possibly the calmest, most competent and professional person I have ever worked with. She tackles all challenges in a firm, fair and inclusive way, achieving a level of harmony few are capable of.
How does The Student Room work to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements?
As an organisation we try to celebrate the achievements of all of our employees, but we need to be aware of the inherent challenges and societal biases that have and continue to hold women back.
We try to ensure that we hear all voices, provide the space for all to speak and foster an environment of inclusivity.
A homogenous way of thinking does not push us forward; it’s our diversity of thought and experience which allows us to bring out the best in individuals and the company.
Can you describe your personal contribution towards advancing women in leadership and business?
I judge people on their individual merits and how they contribute to the team, irrespective of gender.
However, to be effective male allies in business it’s important for men to understand the different challenges that people might have experienced as a result of historical gender bias.
This could mean some female colleagues feel that their opinions are not perceived as valid, or are valued less than other team members. If this happens, the whole business loses out because we don’t benefit from their input.
It is so important we address differences in personality types and people’s self-expression, to ensure that the whole team is given space to contribute. I want everyone to feel listened to, valued, and included in our success as a business.
What are your hopes for women in the future?
Let’s not shit ourselves, we still have a long way to go. But although this could get us down, I think we also have to recognise how far we have all come.
My hopes for the future are that one day soon, gender, sexuality, disability will simply be words, triggering no inherent bias.
I hope that we all learn to view people on their merits and how they contribute to society.
I hope that as an individual, I can challenge the unfortunate upward trend in toxic masculinity and continue to support my team in feeling empowered to be their best selves.
And, eventually, I aim to help the next generation to be better than me.
Who are your female role models?
Role models are a relatively fluid concept for me. They can change with the zeitgeist and whatever the challenge of the time is.
Right now, I hugely admire Kelly-Dawn Kelso from the band Camp Cope. As an artist, she promotes body positivity and sexual and gender equality, while also writing, producing and performing in a pretty damn awesome punk band!
Thanks Paul. It’s great to get a male perspective on this. I also want to acknowledge your bravery for speaking up, as undoubtedly some see International Women’s Day and feminism as a women-only club. At The Student Room, inclusiveness, teamwork and a sense of community are hard-wired into our value-system. We’re very proud of male allies and the way our whole team supports each other.
B2B Marketing Executive
The Student Room