Allyship in the workplace is one of the most important steps to creating an inclusive, welcoming environment that unlocks the value of diversity. And allyship is not limited to cisgender white men either—we can all become better allies, learn more about the diversity dimensions of our colleagues, and discover new, important, and vital ways to support our peers. By the same token, we all stand to benefit from allies in the workplace.
Allyship stretches beyond social media sharing and pithy catchphrases. It asks for a commitment to inclusivity that demands equality, accountability, consistency, and trust. It requires forging relationships by openly stating your values and following this up with actions. This can be difficult—the individual must step back in favour of the group, something that we are not taught to always value in the workplace, but something that is a must when combatting systemic discrimination.
What are some positive first steps towards actionable, accountable, allyship? First is an accounting of your relationships in the workplace. Ask yourself in what way are you privileged in your environment? Second, you should listen to those around you and understand how their experiences may differ from yours. Empathy is a great place to begin this exercise—consider in what “invisible” ways is the world around you crafted to your benefit and how you choosing to speak up might help change this for someone else. For example, if you are able-bodied, it might be beneficial to consider the different ways the work environment is inaccessible to someone who requires extra mobility support. Is there a way you can proactively, positively speak up to address this? Rather than waiting for someone in the affected community to speak up and address a problem, demonstrate allyship by requesting accessible modifications to the work environment before it becomes an issue.
Positivity, respect, and a proactive approach to learning help create an inclusive work environment that demonstrates allyship. Respect means extending yourself to see the world through a different lens; small ways to show this is by learning and adhering to the gender pronouns your colleagues use, or making sure that you solicit opinions from underrepresented groups during team meetings. It is easy for learned behaviours to take over in group settings, such as brainstorming sessions, that force marginalized communities to the sidelines: make sure you carve out the time to ask for opinions during these opportunities.
Dedicated allyship requires a multipronged, sustained effort. The key to allyship is accountability, disrupting group patterns of thinking, and a commitment to empathy. Allyship is best understood as a series of observable behaviours: with practice, patience, and dedication, we can create an inclusive work environment that benefits all.