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How to become an ally

By Emma Tee on

Unlike many companies out there, you may have noticed that we haven’t transformed our logo into a rainbow to honour Pride Month. It’s not for a lack of caring and it’s not because we don’t support the movement, it’s because we have spent the past month learning and expanding our knowledge to better understand how we can make the workplace more supportive and welcoming. 

Throughout the years, we have seen improvements to diversity and inclusion but, it will come as no surprise, that more work needs to be done and bias needs to be binned! To build a welcoming, inclusive work environment, people need to be able to bring their true selves to work and feel comfortable in doing so. It’s why being an ally in the workplace is one of the most important roles you can play, either as an employee or an employer.

You may now be asking ‘What is an ally in the workplace?’ so let us tell you! An ally is defined as someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group but takes action to support that group. 

Now we’re sure you’re asking yourself ‘Can I be an ally in the workplace?’ and the answer is yes. The more allies out there the better and the more likely we are to building the inclusive workplaces we are all striving towards. 

The next question that we hope is on your lips is ‘How do I become an ally in the workplace?’, and it’s this one that requires a little bit more detail. 

To start, we first need to think about privilege and how it can be an advantage in the workplace, be it unconscious or not. Consider the rights you have that others don’t enjoy. Consider how confident you are in speaking up without fear of discrimination. Consider that over 25% of UK workers have faced prejudice based on their race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Once you start to dig a little deeper and understand privilege, you’ll be in a better position to take the next steps and support those that may need it. 

Once you’ve come to terms with privilege, you’ll next need to expand your knowledge and understanding and the only way to do that is by listening and learning. The experience and perspectives of others are vital to your understanding and growth as an ally. Reach out to colleagues who are happy to talk about their experiences and ask considered questions – we understand that these conversations can be sticky, many are scared that the conversation will be uncomfortable or are nervous about saying the wrong thing, but do speak openly and honestly, admit any mistakes that you may have made or any misunderstandings and listen to feedback. Also try to dig out podcasts and documentaries, ask your network to share resources, and hit up the TED website. It has an abundance of fantastic talks that will give you valuable insight into the experience of others, it’s worth checking out. And most importantly, never stop learning!

It’s then time to put your learnings into practice and be on hand to support those who need it. Support comes in many ways, sometimes it means keeping quiet during a meeting and letting others speak, being on hand to reiterate someone else’s ideas and mentioning their name, and believing others’ experience. 

Other times, it can be calling out a colleague for a joke that doesn’t sit well even if a member of an underrepresented group isn’t in earshot and being an active advocate for those of underrepresented groups, for example, do the same group of people always go to events, act as panellists, or always work on the best projects in the company – could this change and could you speak up? Always ask yourself – how can I help?

As much as we would like these changes to happen overnight, it’s likely they won’t, but together we can make a difference and build more inclusive workplaces that celebrate diversity. All of us have an innate need to belong and want to be able to be ourselves at work, and being an ally and advocate will promote the change that’s needed.