In the workplace, being able to work with people who respect you and treat you with dignity is crucial. Allyship is about recognizing our own privileges and using them to create space for marginalized people. It’s also about understanding the systems that oppress others and working to dismantle those systems.
Being an ally can help create a more inclusive culture at work, ultimately leading to better outcomes — and happier employees.
Allyship is the active commitment to dismantling oppression by listening, sharing power and being accountable.
This can occur in the workplace when co-workers are aware of the issues affecting their colleagues and take action to help them. For example, if a co-worker is struggling with a problem like sexism or racism, an ally can listen and show support for their experience.
They can also share power by inviting the person experiencing discrimination to decide how to handle it. Finally, allies are accountable for their actions by not making assumptions about what others need or want when supporting them.
Types of Allyship
There are two types of allyship — active and passive.
Active allyship means being an advocate for your colleagues. It means you speak up when you hear something that’s not okay and stand up for people targeted at work.
Passive allyship means doing your part to ensure your workplace is friendly, safe and inclusive. It’s about making people feel like they belong there — no matter what makes them different.
The Importance of Allyship in the Workplace
In the workplace, allyship is just as important as in any other context because it helps create a culture of inclusion that benefits everyone. For example, suppose you’re an ally to women in your company. You’ll help them feel more comfortable by speaking up at meetings and asking questions when they need clarification, which makes everyone better off.
In short, allyship is not just about doing nice things for marginalized people — it’s about being present and supportive of those who need it most.
What Are the Characteristics of Company Allyship?
Three major characteristics make up company allyship.
First, active listening and empathy are key. Company allyship requires that you listen to the concerns of marginalized individuals and groups. Then, you’ll apply that knowledge to your work. It also means being willing to learn more about your own privilege and how it influences your behavior at work.
Second, allyship requires a willingness to learn and self-reflect. This means learning from your own experiences and being open to hearing feedback from others, including people who don’t share your identity or background. When someone tells you something about yourself that makes you uncomfortable, remember — discomfort is an opportunity for growth.
Finally, allyship means taking action in support of equity and justice. If you’re an ally, you are committed to working toward a better workplace environment for everyone.
It won’t matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, religion or culture of origin, ability level or age group. You must speak up when someone makes an offensive joke about “those people” in the meeting room — or when someone tries to silence someone else’s voice.
Examples of Allyship in the Workplace
Anyone can use allyship as a tool, and you can apply it to all aspects of your work life. Here are a few examples of what that looks like within the workplace:
Recruitment and Hiring
Allies have a responsibility to make sure that the workplace is not just diverse but inclusive. This means recruiting and hiring qualified people from all communities — including those who identify as LGBTQIA+ or have disabilities — to create a more diverse environment.
Allies are also responsible for ensuring that employees are paid fairly for their work regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This means checking job descriptions for any gendered language and ensuring that salaries are equitable across the board.
Allies should ensure that employees can access support services if needed. For example, suppose you know someone who has trouble getting around due to a disability or mental illness. It’s important to offer them resources like on-site counselors or transportation services. That way, they can safely get to work each day without worry.
Fostering Allyship in Your Company
The first thing you have to do is ensure that you have a robust internal education program. This means ensuring that your employees know what it means to be an ally, why it’s important, and how they can become one. You should also have clear policies on reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment so your employees know where to go when they need help.
Next, provide opportunities for your employees to interact with people who are different from them. For example, if you have a diverse workforce, you could hold an event where everyone talks about their experiences with discrimination or harassment. If you don’t have a diverse workforce but would like one, this is a great way to start building those relationships now.
Finally, ensure that your company has a clear vision of what allyship looks like in practice. How do they act? What do they say? These are things that will become more clear over time as the culture of your business changes. Yet, having some basic guidance in place will make things easier for everyone involved.
Make Allyship Part of Your Company’s Culture
Companies need to be allyship leaders in the workplace.
Allyship is a commitment to being an ally for your employees, customers and fellow humans. It means you are willing to listen, learn and grow from other people’s experiences. It also forces you to take action in ways that help people feel safe and supported.
Allyship is hard work, but it can make a real difference in the lives of your colleagues and customers.