In seeking to support friends, colleagues, and community members from underrepresented or marginalized groups, many of us want to identify as an “ally”. But the word has been thrown around in so many different ways over the last few years, it has almost lost meaning.
Tactically, what does it look like to be an “ally” to underrepresented groups in the workplace? If you consider yourself to be an ally to any individual or group, remember that this title isn’t one you can bestow upon yourself and call it a done deal. To be an authentic ally, one has to continually show up, every day, and never stop listening to the stories and lived experiences of your colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds.
Whether or not one is acting like an ally can change from moment to moment. Contrary to what many self proclaimed allies would like, it is not a static identity. At Atipica, we believe that authentic allyship requires listening, learning, a propensity to provide support, and a tendency towards action.
Here are three key components of allyship that we encourage you and your teams to explore:
- Listen first
Often, those of us who hold identities over-represented at our company have learned to speak – a lot. In particular, men, and white folks, have been conditioned that their opinions are the most valued. If you find yourself speaking over your colleagues, diminishing or dismissing the stories of their lived experiences, take a moment and pause.
Stop talking. Listen up – this is an opportunity for learning and to demonstrate true support.
- Take initiative to learn
We hope that supporting your colleagues who are underrepresented at your company – whether that means they identify as Black, Latinx, womxn, LGBTQ+, disabled, or nonbinary – is important to you.
Here’s some good news for you – there are tools available to you to learn about their lived experiences, the history of exclusion of people with certain identities, and the path toward inclusion. But it is not the responsibility of your colleagues to educate you.
Do something about it.
At Atipica, we want to help you. So, to get you started, we’ve shared a list of resources (articles, books, podcasts, and blogs) below and on our website that can get you started on your learning.
- Speak up in support
You’ve listened to the lived experiences of your colleagues. You’ve done the work of learning history and context around racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequity. You’ve done some “unlearning” of the biases and assumptions we are all conditioned to believe as we grow up in our society. Now, it’s time to take action, and speak out when you see injustice, microaggressions, or inequity in your company or organization.
This could look like:
- Naming it in a meeting when a male-identified colleague takes credit for an idea that their female-identified or nonbinary colleague had previously stated, and giving credit where it’s due.
- Asking your company leadership about their Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) strategy, and voicing the importance it holds for you to have representation of those with varied backgrounds.
- If you witness a micro aggression, or an aggressive interaction or comment that might have made an underrepresented colleague feel unsafe or targeted, let your colleague know that you are there to support them. Validate that you, too, saw what happened and are here to either help them take action to report, or simply feel supported.
- Advocate for inclusive company policies, including:
- Paid parental leave, childcare support, bereavement leave for miscarriage, inclusive healthcare options for folks of all genders, etc.
- Volunteer and civic engagement policies.
- Audit for biases in recruiting and assessment tools.
- For more ideas, check out Project Include’s Recommendations for the Employee Handbook.
- Share your pronouns proactively.
- If something is happening in the news that impacts an underrepresented group – for example, a violent police interaction targeting a Black person, or a political decision impacting immigrant lives or women’s bodies – express your emotions if it impacts you so that your colleagues don’t feel alone in their grief or anger.
- Learn more from this write up by Michelle Kim of Awaken on “Managing teams in times of political trauma ”.
Our team at Atipica believes that instead of using “ally” as a title or identity we hold, we should instead think of ourselves as proving every day with our actions that we are anti-racist advocates, we are equity advocates, and we are fighting for inclusion.
I have worked in social justice movements, advocacy environments, and now in corporate equity work. I know that I have made many mistakes in my effort to show up for underrepresented groups. But I am so thankful to have had colleagues and friends beside me to point those mistakes out, recommend me resources where I could learn, and remind me that being an advocate takes constant effort, continued learning, and the ability to show up again the next day and do better.
I am lucky to now support Atipica’s customers in their equity and inclusion efforts. Does this resonate with you and your work? Want to strategize about how to incorporate a culture of true “allyship” into your company culture? Reach out to me, Sara Orton, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our team at email@example.com.
- Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace, Transgender and Gender Diverse Discrimination by Lily Zheng
- Video: Lily Zheng on gender ambiguity and transgender identity at work
- Resources on LGBTQ+ Allyship, Library of Congress
- Ally Tips for the Workplace, Out and Equals
- Recommended Reading for Aspiring White allies, Robin DiAngelo
- Resources from Rachel Cargle, Anti-Racism Academic and Activist
- Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces
- Five Keys to Transgender Inclusion, Aaron Rose