This isn’t your usual non-executive director announcement. On the surface, it may seem that way. We’ve appointed a white, heterosexual, cisgender and able-bodied male. So far, so business-as-standard, right? Except, Harry Bailey and I don’t necessarily see it that way.
In many ways, Harry’s appointment wasn’t a conscious choice on my part. (Hold that gasp). We met over 18 months ago on a side project both of us were involved in shaping and delivering. The Inclusion Coalition, somewhat ironically, was taking a sharp look at the needs and gaps around the tech industry’s willingness and ability to engage diverse people in its workforce.
Harry used his voice to connect dots between the underlying issues we were exploring and brought other, more marginalised people and perspectives to the fore of the work we were doing. It took a few months to realise he was transitioning out of his role as director of product evolution at Human, a progressive software company he had co-founded and helped successfully scale.
As a social enterprise which engineers social change – building communities, designing solutions and growing our income to grow our impact – his experience and network bring tremendous amounts of value to the movement’s we’re building out of Noisy Cricket. Yet, while we’re both conscious his background has been gifted in part because of his privilege in society, it’s not his business chops that recommended him to Noisy Cricket.
Instead, what spoke to me was his willingness to not speak, if that makes sense. As much as Harry is able to see the golden nugget of truth in any situation, and speak up for people who might not yet have a place at the table, mostly, he is just as happy to sit back and listen, learn and add value only when it’s needed.
If you come from a corporate background, like me, masculine behaviours like competition, assertiveness and decisiveness have a tendency to overwhelm proceedings. Our vision at Noisy Cricket is bringing diverse people together to co-create change, and when you’re dealing with vulnerable people, being able to listen and let other people own their voice and power is make or break.
I saw this in action in the year Harry volunteered on our flagship Noisy Cricket venture, HI Future. We have brought people who have experienced homelessness together with businesses, and it’s sensitive, challenging work. His ability to listen when its need and challenge me and the rest of the team in a constructive way is essential.
All this was contributed long before I was able to pay anyone for taking on an official role within the project. So, it took eighteen months, witnessing how Harry worked, to realise he was a perfect fit for Noisy Cricket, precisely because of his refusal to take advantage of his white, heterosexual, cisgender and able-bodied male identity.
So, it’s a strange thing to announce. We’re not ignorant of the message his appointment sends, but neither do we want to shy away from it. The experience he has been afforded is useful, but it’s the values of active listening, courageously caring and being ambitiously hopeful that makes him a great fit for Noisy Cricket, and how we both live and breathe that day-to-day.
And, that includes this conversation. We want to create open, nuanced and broad-sighted discussions about change.
Just as our work in building the HI Future community – where people who have previously rough slept work alongside business leaders and public sector officials to determine how we change recruitment practises and deeply held stigmas – creates space for everyone to hold power and have a voice, we must mirror that internally.
What’s brilliant about Harry’s appointment is that his willingness to face into that very imbalance is what makes him perfect for the role. And, it’s his gift in understanding teams, mentoring people and establishing open, inclusive and progressive cultures that will help Noisy Cricket do the great work it does, but at scale.
He’s likely to be the last white male we’ll employ for a while, but there’ll be many, many more people like him who come to work with Noisy Cricket.