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How to Foster Allyship & Promote Inclusivity in Your Organization.

Now more than ever, organizations are focusing on efforts to advance DEI — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — in the workplace. And a key piece to the DEI puzzle is allyship. It’s all about capitalizing on the power of supporting others and paving the way for colleagues to be change agents in their companies.

While many employees want to be a good ally, it can be challenging to define what allyship looks like practically. When team members understand what steps to take to support colleagues from marginalized minorities, there’s no limit to empowerment.

What is allyship?

For many professionals, thinking of allies like a sponsor may clear up confusion around the DEI term. Allies actively use their power and privilege to promote, advocate for and advance people that do not have the same power and privilege. While professionals of minority groups can achieve their ambitions without the support of allies, allies are there to help dismantle systemic discrimination and offer a hand up — not a handout.

Allyship is not about simply being on the same side as minority employees or taking performative action to gain the moral high ground. Allyship requires building genuine relationships and working together to create a workplace of equity and fairness.

The impact of allyship.

Allyship isn’t just a checkmark for Human Resources (HR), it can have a substantial impact on a company’s success. The statistics tell a compelling story, from team member retention to recruitment:

  • Deloitte research in 2019 revealed that allies could be the “missing link” to create inclusive organizations. Allyship among colleagues led to increased employee satisfaction and performance.

  • Experiences of inclusion improve employee retention and inclusive leadership is key to create those experiences, according to a report from Catalyst.

  • Team members at organizations that foster strong allyship and inclusion cultures are up to 167% more likely to recommend their company as great places to work, HR Dive reports.

While the benefits of allyship are clear, there’s an unfortunate gap in its success in the real world. CNBC reported that more than 80% of white professionals see themselves as allies, only 45% of Black women and 55% of Latinas report having supportive allies in their organization.

Employers can begin to overcome this gap and encourage true allyship by utilizing the following practices.

Taking action on allyship.

  • Educate. Professionals should consider learning more about people with different backgrounds. Self-educating through books, podcasts and documentaries can help allies begin to better understand the experiences of minority colleagues. Instead of relying on and deferring to people of color for education, allies may take research into their own hands. And companies can get employees started on the education path by recommending exceptional resources.

  • Empathize. Allies can empathize by recognizing and owning their own privilege, while seeking to understand what it is like to go without that privilege. Awareness is crucial. Team members can seek to better perceive situations from minority perspectives and understand the impact of systemic barriers. Recognizing where privilege comes into play each day requires humility — and can make a big difference.

  • Amplify. Just like a sponsor, an ally seeks to provide opportunities for minority employees to be seen and heard. Allies see their colleagues’ strengths and help them share those with the organization as a whole. This may include sharing their expertise, recommending them to lead or participate in projects or sharing their goals with influential leaders. Allies actively look for opportunities to expand the spotlight.

  • Speak up. Rather than fall back on bystander habits, seek to be an upstander. Upstanders step into uncomfortable situations in order to speak out when they see discrimination, bias (whether conscious or unconscious), microaggressions, harassment or stereotyping.

  • Advocate. Many minority professionals have been left out of workplace opportunities. Allies can shift the tide and make a difference by advocating for their inclusion. When allies see a lack of diversity in panel participants, company events or project leadership, they can speak up and sometimes even step aside to ensure other voices are heard.

  • Listen. Allies can be there for colleagues of color by becoming trusted confidantes. This involves listening to and believing the experiences of these professionals. Instead of jumping in with your own experiences, take a step back and listen. Allies ask questions and seek to understand first. Become someone colleagues feel comfortable confiding in about workplace matters. Remember that professionals of color and other minority groups may have different experiences at work, and those experiences are equally valid.

By encouraging allyship in your organization, you can increase inclusivity and equity for employees who’ve felt underrepresented and invisible. Each action taken and colleague supported is an opportunity to improve the workplace for everyone.

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