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The Importance of Allyship in Building Cross-Cultural Relationships

Being an ally doesn’t just mean you’re supporting someone; it means you’re offering support for a cause. Allyship involves anyone who actively advances and advocates for inclusion. A good ally is someone who champions diversity and consistently emphasizes social justice through conscious efforts.

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Allyship is an important cog in building long-lasting, cross-cultural relationships. It makes a workplace or any environment anti-oppressive for people of color as well as representatives of the LGBTQ+ community, functioning to benefit people of all backgrounds. Building bonds, empathy, and inclusive leadership are all part of what allows allyship to bridge the gap between different groups, forming progressive behaviours and initiatives that inspire everyone to do better.

What Does Allyship Mean?

Allyship, first and foremost, is never self-defined. It’s not an identity. It’s a process that lasts throughout one’s life, establishing solid, trusting relationships based on accountability with groups or individuals who have been marginalized. Being an ally means your work must be recognized by the people to whom you are an ally.

How Do I Practice Allyship?

Practicing allyship requires understanding and social consciousness.

Allyship is not an exact science. Even experienced allies aren’t sure what to do in certain situations with conflicting emotions. The biggest thing about allyship is that you must listen and be empathetic, asking how and where you can help others. And, not only do you listen to the person or groups you’re engaging with, you speak up whenever you hear things like biased language or language that is offensive to any minority group.

You should never expect credit for being an ally; nor should you broadcast your qualifications. Good allyship requires you to thoughtfully accept criticism and acknowledge intersectionality. It’s not something to boast about and requires genuine effort, aligning your actions with your words at every turn.

How to Be an Active Ally?

Being an active ally means you’re consistently actionable. Words without actions are hollow and work against transforming any culture, including work culture.

To be an active ally, you must uplift others through advocacy, share opportunities with other people to foster growth and recognize any inequalities within society. Additionally, being an ally requires that you understand the experience of people or groups misrepresented within society. That occasionally means you’re on the wrong side of some venting. However, that venting should never be viewed as an attack on you personally but as an expression of frustration with the biases and oppression within society.

How Can I Be a Good Ally in the Workplace?

A good workplace ally hears all voices.

Being an ally in the workplace means you understand your privilege. If you’re someone who has been a beneficiary of privilege — whether racial, educational or economic — you should use it to help others around you to grow. Black folk, Latinx folk, and LGBTQ+ people experience discrimination daily. By understanding how you benefit from privilege, you can take those lessons and influence change, so discriminatory incidents against marginalized groups don’t happen as often.

All voices need to be heard, so a good ally is never selective. Studies have shown, for example, that 36% of women have seen their colleagues question their capabilities within their area of expertise. Some of this is fuelled by microaggressions during work meetings. These microaggressions include:

  • Microassaults: When someone deliberately behaves in a discriminatory way towards others while denying intent,

  • Microinsults: When a colleague says something insulting or offensive without realizing the context of what they’re saying.

  • Microinvalidations: Undermining the struggles faced by marginalized groups.

Additionally, interruptions and the dismissal of ideas can easily be seen as undermining marginalized people or groups. As someone who practices allyship in the workplace, you should establish a level of respect among your colleagues, ensuring they understand that the thoughts and emotions expressed by people from oppressed groups carry significant weight.

By ensuring this, you and your colleagues will have greater appreciation for the points they try to make. You can also defer to a fellow employee from a marginalized diversity group, especially when they are experts on specific topics.

What is an Ally in Diversity?

An ally in diversity, within the workplace or otherwise, takes action in support of marginalized people. That is done to eliminate external and internal barriers that prevent oppressed people from contributing their skills and maximizing them to attract the same opportunities as their privileged counterparts.

There are three things in particular that you can do to become a prominent ally in diversity at your workplace. One thing you can do is talk to a senior manager about a microaggression you’ve witnessed. This means speaking out when someone makes any comments or jokes that permeate anti-Black racism or Black stereotypes, are sexist, or are homophobic. It could even mean reporting the person who perpetuated those stereotypes to upper management to ensure the situation is handled correctly.

You can also choose an employee to sponsor or mentor when trying to encourage allyship in diversity. Or, you can engage with a community group, supporting or volunteering in the group to understand their challenges and concerns.

How Allyship Improves Relationships

The foundation of allyship centres around building bonds, understanding others, and relating to their daily struggles. Doing so has a profound impact in the workplace, with studies showing that 35% of an employee’s investment in work and 20% of their willingness to continue at their workplaces depend on inclusion.

Inclusive leadership makes all the difference, cutting out biases and anti-diversity beliefs from the top so they don’t trickle down to lower layers of the work enterprise. It’s time to use your influence for the greater good.

Let’s have a tough conversation about allyship and how you can use it to champion positive change in your organization to make it a more inclusive environment for everyone.


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