Allyship in action: How to expand your role as an ally in the workplace


You may have heard the term “ally” thrown around in conversations about social justice or in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But what does it actually mean? Simply put, an ally is someone who supports and advocates for the rights and well-being of groups other than their own. In the context of the workplace, allyship refers to the active, ongoing process of using one’s power and privilege to support colleagues who may be marginalized or underrepresented.

Alliance is not just about understanding and empathy; it’s about action. It’s about taking tangible steps to tackle prejudice, discrimination and inequality in the workplace. As an ally, you have the opportunity to promote a culture of inclusivity, equality and diversity. But how do you do this effectively?

1. Develop yourself

This should be step one. Educating yourself about the issues and challenges that marginalized groups face, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc., is the only way to build a solid foundation of allyship. Learn about the history and context of these issues, and how they affect people’s lives and opportunities. You can read books, articles, podcasts or watch videos on these topics, or participate in workshops and trainings that promote diversity and inclusion. DEI expert and SocialTalent author, Salma El Wardany, is a big believer in choosing a learning medium that suits your style. Not a big reader? Maybe watching some documentaries is more your speed. Prefer bite-sized content? Follow DEI leaders and enthusiasts on social media. Consumable, repeatable learning will increase awareness.

SocialTalent delivers with dedication DEI training for workplaces. Please contact us for more information.

2. Listen to and amplify the voices of your marginalized colleagues

Seek to understand their perspectives and experiences and create a safe space for them to share their stories and opinions. Respect their boundaries and preferences, and don’t speak about or for them. Instead, use your privilege to amplify their voices and advocate for their needs and interests. For example, you can invite them to speak at meetings, recognize their contributions or support their ideas and initiatives.

Making space is a big part of allyship. By sharing the spotlight, you not only give credit where it’s due, but you also inspire others to do the same. This cascading effect of allyship creates a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone in the workplace. Remember, according to a report from Bentley UniversityEmployees in organizations with a culture of inclusivity and allyship report feeling more happy and more likely to go above and beyond for their employers.

3. Combat prejudice, discrimination and injustice in the workplace

Always remember that allyship should be considered a verb and not a noun. It’s about action. Call out and confront any behavior or practice that is harmful or unfair to your marginalized colleagues, such as microaggressions, stereotypes, harassment or exclusion. Do not remain silent or complicit when witnessing or hearing about such incidents. Instead, you need to speak up and take action to address these issues, and hold yourself and others accountable. You can also report any violations to the appropriate authorities, or seek support from allies and ally groups.

Learn more: How to deal with microaggressions in the workplace.

4. Be humble and open to feedback

Recognize that allyship is a continuous learning process and that you may make mistakes or encounter blind spots along the way. Be willing to admit your mistakes and apologize sincerely, and learn from your mistakes and feedback. Don’t take criticism personally or defensively, but rather as an opportunity to grow and improve. Seek feedback from your marginalized colleagues and ask them how you can be a better ally to them.

There can be so much fear and shame associated with allyship, but it’s important to move forward with the best intentions. Walk into the room gently – you don’t have to be the loudest voice or have all the answers, you just need to show respect and a willingness to do better.

5. Understand that we all have privileges

Privilege plays an important role in allyship and influences the dynamics of support, understanding, and advocacy. Privilege refers to unearned benefits or advantages granted to certain groups based on aspects such as race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or other social characteristics. Recognizing and understanding one’s own privilege is crucial to an effective alliance.

In her SocialTalent course on being an ally, Salma El-Wardany breaks down the privileges for us. Look:

6. Celebrate and appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of your colleagues

To create psychologically safe, inclusive work environments, you must be very intentional and visual in your support for diversity. Nothing happens in a vacuum and part of being an active ally requires celebrating and encouraging people from underrepresented backgrounds. Recognize and appreciate their strengths, skills and contributions, and express your gratitude and admiration for their work. Highlight their achievements and successes and give them credit and recognition when they deserve it. While certain acts, like rainbows during Pride month, can often feel performative, you can gain strength by offering support beforehand.

Learn more: 7 ways organizations can create safe spaces for everyone.

The last word

Being a better ally in the workplace is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing commitment to growth and inclusivity. Allies help create a workplace where individuals are celebrated for their unique qualities and contributions. By educating themselves, actively listening, and advocating for change, allies play a critical role in building bridges and fostering an environment where all can thrive. The impact of being a better ally extends beyond individual relationships; it transforms the entire workplace, making it a more vibrant, innovative and equitable space for everyone.

Being a better ally starts with education. Take a look at SocialTalent DEI training and see how it can help create more inclusive and safe workplaces for all.



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