How would one define allyship? The organisation Lean In defines allyship as “using one’s power or position to support or advocate for coworkers with less power or status.” In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey, 80 per cent of white folks identify as allies to colleagues of the LGBTQIA+ and BAME community. Sounds positive right? We thought so too. But is this number a true representation? Or has the term ally become more of a trend in today’s climate.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the case. According to the study, as little as 26% of black women feel they have strong allies within their workplace. The lack of diversity within senior teams adds to the lack of allyship, in terms of representation, understanding and solidarity. “Since white employees, particularly white men, are more likely to be in positions of power, this disadvantages women of color—and points to the importance of white employees stepping up as allies for their Black and Latinx coworkers.” The importance of white colleagues challenging workplace racism is more prominent than ever before. It has been reported that as little as four in ten white folks say they have spoken out against racial discrimination at work – because most feel they may face retaliation if they do so.
According to One Woman Project, the most important thing for an ally to do is research, research, research! Ask questions, be receptive to feedback, be willing to feel uncomfortable and recognise one’s privilege. “Allyship is about acknowledging unjust privileges that you have and working to end the structures that give you that privilege over others. Although privilege is intersectional, allies may have greater privileges (and can recognise these privileges), so their voices are powerful alongside marginalised voices.”
With so many useful tools out there which focus on educating and tackling this issue – there really is no excuse for any type of office discrimination. It’s time for workplaces to step up their game and work towards creating a sense of equality within their workplace.
Activities to try with your team.
- In your next team meeting or all hands. Create a safe space where your team can ask questions, discover colleagues journeys and listen to what is being said. Encouraging these types of conversations will create more of a level playing field in terms of understanding and educating.
- Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. Think about a time where you may have been dismissive of a situation where a team member could have used an ally. How receptive were you to their concern? Could you have done more and did you learn anything?
- Think about your last 1:1. How aware are you of your team members’ journey? What can you do to make the workplace more inclusive? Are you educating yourself enough and are you willing to be challenged in the process?
New habits to make a difference
- Expand your perspectives so you can increase your cultural awareness and be more mindful of the types of bias folks may face by virtue of being different to the default identity.
- How often do you step out of your lived experience and imagine what life is like for folks on your team? Folks with different lifestyles and past times to you? How can you be a better ally through this activity by building empathy?
- Where are there opportunities for you to use the privilege you have where you fall in the dominant group to raise awareness about bias, double standards and microaggressions?