Allyship is critical for fostering an inclusive culture in all contexts, including workplaces.
The usage of the word “allyship,” despite being present in English language since 19th century, has become especially popular in political activism since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Elected the word of the year for 2021 by dictionary.com, allyship describes the actions of a privileged in-group to actively use their position, voice, and influence to address the challenges and advance the interests of marginalized groups. It is critical for fostering an inclusive culture in all contexts, including workplaces.
The Change Catalyst study “State of Allyship Report” found that more than 50% of people learn about the need for allyship through someone else’s negative experience. If we can create spaces and opportunities for employees to learn from one another, we can build an allyship culture from the bottom up.
Some say that “ally is a verb” - it demands action. Many employees think of themselves as allies but few engage in specific allyship actions.
Lack of knowledge tops the list of challenges to being an ally. Reflecting on how we might have been privileged by systems that disadvantage others is uncomfortable, but necessary to equalize opportunity.
The key to becoming a true ally is to building listening skills in work relationships to gain a real understanding of challenges we, ourselves, do not experience.
Dedicate time to understand your own existing beliefs, feelings and attitudes with an open mind and critical lens.
Do your research - become informed about the workplace challenges underrepresented groups face; learn about the histories, cultures and other concerns of these groups. Ask what you can do to support them and do it.
Learn how to foster psychological safety as a leader to inspire greater engagement.
Learn how to minimize the effect of unconscious bias in your performance management process.
Courageous conversations are essential to understand each other’s experiences and perspectives.