Wouldn’t you want to feel included in the workplace? To have a well-rounded and inclusive tech industry, we must aim to increase diversity and one way to do this is to promote allyship in the workplace. An ally is someone who is not part of a marginalized group but wants to support, help, and promote those who are in one, helping to create a workplace where everyone feels appreciated and valued. In tech, women make up just 26% of the industry and BAME groups make up just 15.2%, therefore allyship is imperative to help these individuals feel heard and encouraged to join the field.
Creating a diverse team has many benefits, not only for the individuals but for the company as well. Research has shown that organisations that have above-average levels of diversity outperform those with lower levels between 46-58%. In addition, a study by McKinsey & Company showed that 39% of all respondents say they’ve turned down or decided not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion at an organisation. Furthermore, diversity has a great impact on employees’ mental health and well-being and makes them 20% more likely to stick around. Driving allyship in your workplace is an essential step in creating an inclusive environment. In this article, we cover 5 ways you can be an ally and drive inclusion at work.
Don’t rely on, or expect others to educate you, take it upon yourself to learn about allyship and how you can be a good ally. A good place to start might be learning about privilege and how this might apply to you. This is defined as the unearned advantage someone has due to factors such as their race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. For example, this might be being a white male in a white male-dominated tech industry. However, this isn’t saying that those in the majority groups haven’t ever had disadvantages, but it does mean these factors haven’t added to their disadvantages. By being able to better understand the struggles that others face and actively trying to make a change, you are making those steps to become an effective ally.
Learning about other cultures, disabilities and beliefs will also help you to understand under-represented groups on a deeper level and what things might be considered appropriate and inappropriate to them. Therefore, it will help you to recognise when you need to stand up for or against something on their behalf. Investing your time into learning will also show how committed you are to becoming a good ally and give you more confidence in standing up for other people.
It is also important to be aware of the unconscious biases we all hold. This is a type of bias where we are not usually aware that our behaviours are being influenced by it, so learning how to identify them in ourselves will help us learn to avoid acting on them. One way to achieve this might be for employers to hold training sessions which can be beneficial as it will help educate on what unconscious biases are and how to try to avoid them influencing our actions. However, it is ultimately up to the individual to make the effort to want to learn and make a difference.
Are you a good listener? Another important step is to listen. Don’t assume you know how someone feels because they are in an under-represented group because not every minority community, or individual, feels oppressed or unfairly treated. Instead, listen to individuals to find out what they need from you as an ally. If you are unsure of anything that you are hearing, pause to clarify, otherwise this could lead to miscommunication further down the line. There may also be times of silence when people are sharing their stories and experiences. Instead of feeling awkward, try to use the silence to your advantage as it provides time for both sides to reflect and consider what to say next. It will also show attentiveness, allowing stronger bonds to form.
Whilst it is important you listen to those in the underrepresented groups it isn’t enough to just listen. You also need to use your privilege call out behaviours that you think are or discriminatory, when the time is right. Being discriminated against in the workplace can have a huge impact on someone’s wellbeing, and mental state and can lead to many people quitting their jobs due to feeling lonely, sad, and isolated. Some of the types of discrimination to look out for are ageism, racism, ableism, and sexism. One way you might be able to help is to speak up if those with disabilities in the workplace aren’t given any additional help or work equipment they might need to do an effective job or if you hear someone mispronounce someone’s name (even if it was an honest accident) correct them, so the person feels respected and valued. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain because you are only trying to make the workplace a better place for all.
In addition, having these conversations with family and friends to educate them on being an effective ally and what they can do to help can have huge benefits to those in under-represented groups. The more people we can get on board with this way of thinking, the more we can do to amplify their voices and make a change.
Once you understand the fundamentals of allyship and how you can make a difference, aim to model these inclusive behaviours every day. Below is a list of some actions you can take as an ally:
You can find out more about the importance of inclusive language here.
It might not seem like this should be the case, but sometimes those that are willing to make mistakes end up being the best allies because they aren’t afraid to be corrected. It also shows you are constantly willing to learn and adapt, setting good grounds for being a good ally. For example, we may intend to speak out for someone who we think is being treated unfairly, and then later realise they found it offensive that we didn’t let them speak for themselves. If you’re choosing to not speak out through fear of getting it wrong, are you really being an ally? The answer is probably no. However, if you are worried about potentially offending someone and so are holding back, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Starting your journey to becoming an effective ally might seem uncomfortable to times, but that’s ok. Commit yourself to learning more every day and putting thoughts into action to help those that haven’t been as privileged as you. Capco is a great example of a company that is embracing allyship in the workplace, which you can read more about here.