2020 was the year that gave minority groups more of a platform to be heard. The drive for change dramatically sped up due to the coverage surrounding Black Lives Matter, and conversations began concerning how to tackle racial discrimination within society. Something that has been bubbling away below the surface for some time.

Many self-proclaimed allies began to speak out about the importance of what it meant to don the term ally – as posting a black square on a social feed just wouldn’t cut it. “Being an ally is an ongoing process — and it involves self-education as well as thoughtful, effective action. “ It is important for allies to stand in solidarity with underrepresented groups, and support the fight against racial injustice.

“Sometimes Being Carefree And Black Is An Act Of Revolution” – Joelle Brooks, Dear White People 

According to the Harvard Business Review, “The Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements have forced people in positions of power—namely, the white men who dominate institutional leadership roles—to realize they must personally step up to make organizations more fair and inclusive. That means playing a truly active role in helping marginalized colleagues advance (instead of just delegating diversity efforts to human resources).” So how do we create an allyship at work that can thrive and be a driver for change? Below are a few pointers you and your colleagues can do:

  1. Do your homework. Its the simplest way to learn. The easy option is to ask a person of colour about their experiences with inequality, but this isn’t always fair on the participant as those memories can be painful. Go online, read a book or listen to a podcast to deepen your understanding. 
  2. Be prepared to learn and accept feedback. For some, the idea of learning something new feels a lot like being challenged. This is not the case. When we feel we are being challenged, we are actually learning and challenging our own fixed mindset. Listen, absorb, and ask questions (with permission!) and pay attention to what is being said.
  3. Own your privilege and use it. The worst thing anyone can do is deny their privilege. By using opportunities and advances that have been presented, you can use your voice and statue for good. Privilege comes from never being exposed to a system that exploits your basic rights. An ally will never understand the oppression marginalised groups have been exposed to. This is why education is important – especially, in the workplace.

Resources to share in your teams & discuss further:

Articles 📚
Allyship – The Key To Unlocking The Power Of Diversity – Forbes
Allyship – The Anti-Oppression Network
If You Want To Be Anti-Racist, This Non-Optical Allyship Guide Is Required Reading – Vogue

Videos & shows 📹
Dear White People – Netflix
An interview with the Black Lives Matter founders – Ted Talk
A Conversation With Black Women on RaceThe New York Times’s
Turning performative wokeness into genuine ally-ship – Jezebel

Podcasts 🎧
Sip on This With Ashley Nicole Black
The Groundings – Devyn Springer
Intersectionality Matters – Kimberlé Crenshaw

Activities to try with your team

  • In your next team meeting or all hands.  Ask members of your team to share experiences linked with speak up and the conclusion of that situation. This can be related to challenging senior management, complaining to HR about an inappropriate coworker – anything! this should encourage team members to speak up if they feel necessary and demonstrate that feedback is positively received.
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. How aware are you of your team and their journeys? Do you feel that you are challenging yourself enough in terms of learning? Or do you rely on a fixed mindset to feel assertive?
  • Think about your last 1:1. If you were to go to your line manager with a complaint, do you think you would get the support you needed? Do you feel encouraged to speak up at work? And if so, have you in the past and how was it received?

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