October 11, 2023
Allyship is a journey, but it is never too late to get started.
Diversity, equity and inclusion — these three words have been at the forefront of many workplace strategies and conversations in recent years. But they are so much more than a trend.
Foundationally, inclusion in the workplace is about a sense of belonging that allows us to be our true selves and experience less stress and fear. For the marginalized, inclusion is long-standing struggle. But for many employees, managers and people leaders the simple question is: How can I help?
One challenge of inclusion is that most of us do not experience it through strategies, lunch-and-learns or roadmaps. It comes down to the daily interactions with our teammates — in meetings, in the break room or over lunch.
Allyship is the cornerstone of building an inclusive workplace. In fact, according to research by BetterUp, employees who experience inclusive cultures focused on allyship are:
- 50% less likely to leave their job
- 56% more likely to improve performance
- 75% less likely to take sick days
- 167% more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work.
Allyship creates work environments that are empowering, not exhausting. They are safe, not stressful. They support the voices of the marginalized instead of silencing them. But what is allyship?
Defining an ally
An ally is defined as a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle. In the context of DEI initiatives, ally specifically refers to a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but expresses or gives support to that group.
Marginalized communities can include people of color, women, LGBTQ+, low-income individuals, prisoners, the disabled, senior citizens and many more.
Allies spend their lives nurturing supportive relationships with marginalized individuals. The goal is progress, not perfection. Importantly, allyship is based on genuine, non-performative action.
Here are some action steps to begin your journey as an ally.
Listen and learn
It is ok to not understand. It is ok to not have the same experience as someone else. But we must stay curious and learn from others’ lived experiences.
Practice using active listening when learning from those who are a part of marginalized groups. Do not be afraid to ask questions and clarifications to ensure a better understanding.
Find opportunities within your work and community to branch out and engage in activities or workshops that teach you about a different group or culture. When selecting topics for education at work events suggest topics that stray from what you might normally choose.
Stay up to date on both local and national news related to issues that impact members of your community to ensure that you are aware of how to advocate as an Ally.
Advocate for equity
Equity is defined as fairness, not equality. The goal is not to make everyone experience the same. Instead, it is seeking to provide everyone with a fair shot. Practice awareness of who in your workplace or community gets chances to be heard — then take what steps you can do include those who are left out.
Who is getting left out of meetings? Are we using words that play favorites? At the end of the day, equity is a work in progress. But it starts with awareness.
How can you help? By being an ally. Allyship is a journey, but it is never too late to get started. It takes all of us to overcome the fears that keep people in the margins. Change happens as we listen and learn, educate ourselves and advocate for equity.