As businesses continue to grapple with issues of diversity and inclusion, allyship has emerged as a critical tool for creating a more equitable workplace. But what exactly is allyship, and why is it so important?
In this article, we'll explore the key concepts of allyship, what makes a strong ally, and why allyship is good for business.
At its core, allyship is about using your power, privilege, and influence to support and advocate for specific people who are being discriminated against or marginalized groups receiving unjust treatment. We all have some form of privilege, it may be race, socio-economics, education, intelligence, drive or network. Whatever it is, it's about recognizing that we're all connected and have a responsibility to help each other with whatever influential tools we possess.
Being a Black ally means actively working to dismantle systemic racism and fighting for racial equality in a big or little way. As a 2020 BK Connection article succinctly put it, it's not about saving the Black community — it's about ending white supremacy. Yup, the power structure rooted in the idea that white folks are better, and the harmful stereotypes that keep these unjust laws and structures in place. Allyship is an effective tool in this process, but it's not just a one-time action or a box to be checked on your DEI strategy. It's a lifelong commitment to learning, growing, and taking action.
Key concepts of allyship
Allyship is about having tough conversations. It's about listening to the experiences of others. It's about acknowledging and learning from your own biases and taking meaningful, proactive steps to address them. It's also about taking responsibility for your growth and holding yourself accountable.
Allyship involves educating yourself on the issues facing marginalized communities and actively working to dismantle systemic oppression.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, allyship requires action. An ally uses their power and privilege to advocate for change. And when they do, they have a tangible impact on real people's lives. A historical example of allyship in action is the influence Marilyn Monroe had on Ella Fitzgerald's singing career.
When one is supported by people who are influential, especially ones that represent the group that is typically oppressive towards them, it is incredibly effective at shedding light on one's bias and often changing minds. That is why 92 percent of people in the workplace believe allies have positively contributed to their careers. Individuals with an ally are almost twice as likely to feel they belong in their job role.
What makes a strong ally?
Being a strong ally requires a combination of skills and attributes. One of the most essential qualities of a strong ally is empathy. You must understand and relate to the experiences of others to effectively advocate for them. But you must do this in a way that doesn't burden those you're advocating for. It's your responsibility — not theirs — to educate yourself.
Additionally, a strong ally must be committed to continuous learning and growth. This process doesn't happen overnight and won't always be comfortable. You should be willing to confront your biases and actively seek new information and perspectives.
Finally, a strong ally must be ready to act. Words only get us so far. Being an ally calls you to back up your values with action.
Allyship as a diversity and inclusion tool in the workplace
Allyship is not just a moral imperative but a business imperative.
Why is allyship good for business? Because a culture of allyship can lead to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, which in turn can lead to increased agility, creativity, and productivity.
A diverse and inclusive workplace is more attractive to job candidates and can improve a company's reputation and bottom line. Organizations that create inclusive workplace cultures are twice as likely to exceed financial targets, three times as likely to perform highly, six times as likely to innovate, and eight times as likely to secure better business outcomes.
Being an ally in the workplace
If you want to be a strong ally in the workplace, there are several things you can do:
Take your education into your own hands. Explore and engage with issues facing marginalized communities. Seek out ideas, news, stories, and other media from a variety of sources.
Next, actively listen to the experiences of others and work to understand their perspectives.
Finally, use your voice. Sometimes that might mean speaking up in meetings or disagreeing with your superior.
Allyship is a win-win
Allyship is not just a buzzword but a critical tool for creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace. By understanding the fundamentals of allyship, what makes a strong ally, why allyship is good for business, and how you can put your privileges to work for good, you can take meaningful steps to become a better ally and create positive change in your workplace and beyond.
Let's work together to nurture allyship in your team members and employees, so they too can capitalize on their own resources and skills and build the type of workplace cultures where you can all thrive.