Making workplace inclusive with allyship

3 min read

Allyship is using one’s power or position to support or advocate for coworkers with less power or status. Being an ally is hard work but required for an inclusive society. At work, women of minority groups can thrive at all stages when allies amplify their voices.

Let’s take a look at the status of women in corporate America. In the last 5 years, women in entry-level positions have increased from 45% to 48% and those in C-suite from 17% to 21%. Even though the numbers have increased, women remain underrepresented at every level.

According to a study by Lean In org, the issues for underrepresentation are as follows –

      • Broken Rung, the reason why women are not able to climb up the corporate ladder. According to the data, women get hired and promoted as managers much less. This results in women staying stuck in entry-level positions.
      • Access to equal opportunities. Finding new or growth opportunities, women from minority groups have far less equity.
      • An experience by identity. The study says that black and/or disabled women get less support than other women. LGBTQ+ and disabled employees are not evaluated on their skills.
      • Bias in day-to-day work. Women face a range of bias, like maternal bias, likeability bias, affinity bias, etc.

Most of this can change by advocating for underrepresented women with allyship. Every person can implement allyship in different ways. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities.


Allyship as leaders

Creating spaces where people can have different conversations and present their opinions. Leaders can create an environment of trust and openness. This could mean giving people a chance to speak in 1-on-1 meetings. Then they can together as a team and talk through challenging topics.

Managers can build relationships with employees by checking in with them. Ask what’s important for them and what can change. This allows them to have easy conversations when a crisis occurs.

Every company collects data about its employees. It could be hiring, employee satisfaction, rating their leaders, career progress, etc.

Being transparent about the findings with employees is necessary. It will let them know the state of the company and how the team is doing.

Take a look at the system at large and see if you need to make any amends to make it more inclusive. Is the hiring process designed to ensure underrepresented people get considered? What percentage of your staff identifies as women? How many women are in leadership roles? When the company scales, what will change?

It is important to recognize that ‘culture’ is not an add on! We have to be intentional about implementing every policy, process, and product. Embedding the company values in all processes from hiring to project delivery is a must.

At a recent event, the head of diversity and inclusion at Asana spoke about recognizing people. At Asana, the recognized employee gets a stuffed animal. Which then traveled around the office as others get recognized.

It’s a simple way of saying how much you appreciate each employee. Employees appreciate a sense of inclusion and recognition over incentives.


Allyship as employees

Whatever stage you are in your career, know that you have far more power than you think. Never assume your voice will not make a difference to the employer. Speak up, let them know your thoughts, voice your concerns. Provide ideas to make your workplace inclusive for you and others.

Engage your leaders and colleagues to drive change. It can be you asking for a monthly 1-on-1 to discuss career progress. It can be setting up cultural events to learn and celebrate different cultures. It can be asked to present at a client meeting. You have the ability to empower yourself and any underrepresented person.

Challenge ideas when you think it will not work for everyone. A company is inclusive not by diversifying hiring alone. It becomes truly diverse by making processes and policies work for everyone.


Beyond your team

It’s great if you can make your positive intentions flow beyond your team. Have meaningful conversations with clients to ensure your company values are clear. Communicate to your clients about making opportunities for underrepresented people on the team. When plans are clear, client teams will oblige and work with intention.

While making a decision, ask what voices are missing? Who else should be part of this conversation? And make space for different people at the table. It will only make the decisions better and inclusive.