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Allyship At Capital One

By Lee Winder.

Lee is a Senior Engineering Manager for the Data Tribe at Capital One UK.  He is also the UK lead for the Equality Allies group, which is a group that spans the business across the UK, US and Canada focused on supporting Capital One’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) agenda and working towards an inclusive environment that is approachable and welcoming to all.

Most of my days are filled with supporting the development and delivery of our new data platforms and ensuring our architecture is sound and ready for whatever might come our way (as much as it ever can be).  But one of my most important roles at Capital One has nothing to do with software development and everything to do with helping to create an environment in which people are able to support the Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging program that is threaded throughout the business.

Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging is a key driver at Capital One, and that’s shown by the amount of focus our internal groups like Women In Tech, REACH (Race Equality and Cultural Heritage) and Outfront (LGBTQ+) get across the business. But it’s important that building an inclusive and diverse culture, where belonging is just as important as delivering our next milestone, is understood to be everyone’s responsibility and not just those from more diverse backgrounds.

But what can I, as a white, straight, cis, male do to support the work that Capital One is doing?  I don't have the experience of facing prejudice in my daily life due to the colour of my skin, I can't understand how it feels to suffer harassment when holding my partners hand in public and my career has not been disadvantaged due to having a young family.

I, and many others like me, should be using the privilege we have been given through birth to amplify, support and engage in building up the environment that we all want to see, both internally in Capital One and in the wider community.

The Equality Allies Business Resource Group (BRG), which has chapters across the US and Canada and one led by me in the UK, is there to bridge that gap, providing aspiring allies and those who want to support the work we do by enabling everyone who wants to be an ally, to be an ally, regardless of their position in the business and the background from which they come.

Over the last two years, we’ve had a real focus on highlighting how associates can be allies to the people around them. We’ve hosted events like Ally Skills workshops with various departments, focusing on real world examples of being an ally in the moment, and taken part in Fireside Chats with BRGs like REACH and Outfront where allyship is seen as an important and vital part of the conversation.

We also look to support wider events, such as Trans Awareness Week, by communicating  about how people can support their friends and colleagues in specific situations.  Posts such as “5 things you can do, to be an LGBTQ+ ally, right now” and “Add Your Pronouns to Pulse...  And anywhere else...” have allowed us to give real advice to enable all associates to make a big impact on those around us.

Having been as Capital One for the last four years, it’s been amazing to see how the business has truly embraced the opportunity to grow an inclusive and diverse organisation, and has allowed all associates to really engage with each other in building up the environment in which everyone is respected and everyone can feel as though they belong.

I know this is an area in which Capital One will only continue to grow, and allow us to create an environment in which everyone feels a sense of responsibility in ensuring Capital One is a place where anyone can come, be themselves, and succeed while doing it.