To mark the start of Pride month we have a very special interview on allyship from the incredible Professor Funke Abimbola (she/her)- CEO, The Austen Bronte Consultancy, Corporate Lawyer, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Leader, C-suite & healthcare executive, BBC commentator, Non-Executive Director, Public Speaker and Podcast host!
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed Professor Abimbola.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
My first career was as a corporate lawyer for 12 years followed by my second career was in healthcare where I worked as a C-suite healthcare executive for 2 global pharmaceutical organisations for almost a decade.
Alongside this, my consistent goal throughout my career was to promote, encourage and campaign for more equality, diversity and inclusion across the corporate world and society as a whole.
After my 20-year corporate career, I founded The Austen Bronte Consultancy in September 2020.
The consultancy’s main goal is to drive positive cultural change by empowering corporates and firms to improve leadership. We do this by leveraging the impact of diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity. My clients include Levi Strauss & Co, Sky, Macquarie Group, Hiscox, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Covington & Burling amongst others.
I am also the proud mother of a 19-year-old son who is a future software engineer studying Computer Science at university. Together, we co-host a popular podcast series called The Power of Privilege and Allyship podcast, showcasing exceptional role models who have used their privilege to maximise the impact of their allyship to transform lives.
2. What does allyship mean to you?
To me, allyship is all about taking positive action on behalf of those from a minoritised, oppressed group.
It is definitely a word of action, a verb, and involves embracing an ongoing lifestyle of channelling whatever privilege you have into improving the lot of those who are less fortunate.
3. What do you think makes a good ally?
Being a good ally involves many elements including taking on the struggle of others as your own, transferring the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it and amplifying the voices of the oppressed before your own.
Acknowledging that the conversation is not about you is also critical. We have all felt pain and the tendency can be to get involved in ‘oppression Olympics’ which serves no purpose whatsoever.
Effective allyship is about acknowledging that, even though you have felt pain, for the purposes of allyship, the conversation is not about you.
A good ally will have the courage to stand up for others, own their mistakes and de-centre themselves. It is also key to understand that your education is up to you and no-one else. The last thing you should do is burden your friends or colleagues from minoritised groups with the burden and responsibility of educating you as an ally.
4. Do you have any LGBTQ+ role models or allies you want to point out to our readers?
I am blessed with a number of good role models from within the LGBTQ+ community including Lieutenant Commander Chris Wood and Commander Sam Kinsey-Briggs MBE (both in the Royal Navy), Joanne Moncke OBE (Director of Global Education and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at BelieveGlobalCIC/ Head of EDI at Believe Foundation), Jacqui Gavin BEM (Chief of Culture, British Volt), Simon Fanshawe (Partner at Diversity by Design) and Shani Newbold (Founder and Managing Partner at Cadence Partners, a leading executive search firm).
In terms of fellow LGBTQ+ allies, a standout example is Cynthia Davis, CEO & Founder of BAME Recruitment and Consulting. Cynthia does a tremendous amount of work in supporting the community as a whole, consistently demonstrating strong effective allyship.
5. If you had one message for LGBTQ+ people what would it be?
To have a strong sense of your identity and who you are. The world will do its best to force you into a box or stereotype so it’s important to be you, to be courageous and to embrace all aspects of your uniqueness.
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