Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Six practices to help dispel the myths and challenges of practicing allyship.
The word Allyship has been brought to the forefront in recent years as a social spotlight has shined on the impact of injustice and inequity felt by people of color, women, the LGBTQIA+ communities and other subordinated groups in our workplaces. Allyship is the bringing together of two people or groups, one privileged and one marginalized, to become one strategic, powerful force. There is a process of unlearning and re-evaluating past beliefs and behaviors so that they can work in solidarity to bring about greater interdependencies to increase the outcomes of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not everyone is comfortable with being an ally because they are unsure of how to approach it and may be afraid of making missteps. To help dispel the myths and challenges of practicing allyship, we wanted to explore how to begin your journey to be an ally today.
Your instinct may be transactional as in walking up to the first person of color or woman or LGBTQIA+ member of your team and asking them to talk about their lived experiences. Don’t do that. Your chances of bungling the attempt are fairly high so it’s better to arm yourself with knowledge first.
Here are some examples of reading lists that can help you get started:
Now that you’ve read up on allyship, you are ready to have a conversation but understand that not everyone might want to talk to you. Ask first if they would be willing to share with you their experiences. Don’t insert yourself or your experiences into their narrative. Your job is to be a listener.
Take feedback graciously
There may be things you will hear over the course of your allyship journey that make you uncomfortable about yourself. You might realize that you haven’t always been the best champion for others. Don’t be defensive. Own up to your past. Acknowledge that you have made mistakes but know you are ready to grow, learn from your past, and vow to do better.
Recognize your privilege
In the workplace the dominant form of privilege is straight, white and male but privilege comes in many forms. Gender, socioeconomic background, access to education, sexual orientation, and other factors all play into privilege. Your privilege has opened doors for you while others have struggled in similar contexts and situations that were effortless for those who have privilege . Recognize your privilege, own up to it and use it to your strategic advantage as an ally. It amplifies your message. People will take notice.
Lead by example
Once you’ve started down the path to allyship, one of the first things you begin to notice is your newfound alertness and awareness to your surroundings. Things that you were once blind to are now suddenly profoundly clearer. Notice how people interact around you. Make an effort to include everyone in the room in discussions. Let others have the “floor” to speak and don’t discount opinions that could be valuable. Your role as an ally is to lead by example and extend your power to empower others.
Insist on diversity and equity
Don’t let others be left behind. This doesn’t just mean those who are currently in your workplace. Your external and internal communications should reflect a diverse and inclusive atmosphere. For example, insist that employment candidates be considered from all backgrounds and that pay equity should be observed.
Be a mentor
Half the women in tech will leave their jobs before the age of 35 citing it’s a non-inclusive culture as their top reason for leaving. Mentorship allows you to use your privileged position to help others and build a culture of inclusivity. Introduce your mentee to colleagues and peers at other organizations. Sponsor their membership in a trade association for your industry or bring them to a conference with you to network. Open doors for others that were opened for you because of your privilege.
Build a network of allies
There is strength in numbers. Recruit other allies not just at your organization but within your network. Use your voice to spread the gospel of allyship. Exacting change comes when more people join in your mission and become part of the greater good.
We hope our Six Powers of Allyship have helped you to see that allyship is an attainable relationship for you. If you would like to learn more about Performance Principles diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and how we help corporations and organizations with their culture and change management issues contact us today!