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We’re better together: 5 ways to build allyship in the workplace

Mar 22, 2022

A company could have all the policies to create an inclusive workplace to shift the culture, but that alone is often not enough. Moving the dial on women’s inclusion in the workplace means actively having your team play a critical role in this shift.

This is where allyship comes into play, where both men and women can engage in meaningful actions to make a positive and inclusive impact. For example, evidence from Harvard Business Review shows that when allies – especially men – are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress, compared to only 30% of organizations where allies are not involved.

At our 2022 International Women’s Week event, Better Together, we had the privilege to virtually sit down with a diverse panel of leaders and allies committed to advancing inclusion in the workplace. Actionable insights for allyship and incorporating it into the workplace to create a diverse and equitable business were emphasized during the panel session. Here, we look at five ways allyship at your organization can help achieve gender equity.

But first, what is allyship?

Allyship is an active and consistent effort to use your privilege and power to support and advocate for people with less privilege. It involves understanding the inequities and taking concrete steps to help level the playing field. And sometimes it means that such actions or steps can feel tricky or uncomfortable, but taking action anyways that is responsible even if it’s not perfect the first time is the path forward. Allyship is about acting consistently in compounded efforts that add up over time.

By now, you may be wondering, where do I begin to advance women’s inclusion in the workplace? Or you might wonder, “What is the best role I can play? Should I attend the gender inclusion event at my workplace or step back and leave space for the women in my organization to gather?” The answers require thoughtfulness, tact, and deeper understanding; these questions alone can spark a flurry of considerations, thoughts, and ideas on where to begin.

Here are five ways you can help to build allyship in your workplace:

1. Help to level the playing field.

Intersectionality means that your team members have different experiences throughout their lives and careers. With diverse backgrounds, experiences and paths towards a career, it’s up to us to ask and listen to each other’s journeys to be more in tune and build diverse points of view on a team to make it stronger. Diverse perspectives bring forward different ideas around innovation, processes, and productivity that can improve your place of business.

2. Create a safe space for all voices to be heard.

Whether it’s through providing accommodations so that every member on your team has the opportunity to share their input or setting an environment that feels safe for all to be seen and heard is key to building allyship and a productive workplace. As an ally, getting comfortable and vulnerable with openly talking about inequities can create a trusting environment to share experiences.

3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Being an ally is not easy work, and it often involves practicing having conversations you’re not used to having. But taking small steps to speak about it regardless of feeling hesitant and uncomfortable creates a compounded effort towards positive change. It’s okay to make mistakes as you learn and grow together to impact your organization. If you make a mistake when practising allyship, it is important to acknowledge the mistakes and learn from them.

4. Learn the needs of others.

Allyship needs are different for everyone based on the individual you’re an ally to. It’s important to recognize that there is no blanket solution for being an ally, and each individual may have different needs and ways to feel supported. Therefore, it’s important to create an open dialogue and listen to the specific needs of the individual you are advocating for.

5. Build an action-oriented culture.

Culture is made up of all individuals within an organization that’s building it. It is critical to look at how an organization operates daily towards building an inclusive culture, such as deliberate gender and race representation in hiring teams. Actions towards allyship in your organization could also mean creating a safe space for vulnerability where views and experiences can be expressed or even using your privilege to provide mentorship opportunities. It could also mean allowing room for an individual to arrange to have an ally in a meeting they’re heading into for support.

These are just some of the many steps and actions an organization can take towards a diverse and inclusive workplace. One act at a time and small steps are crucial for achieving an environment where everyone can present the best version of themselves at work. A more diverse and inclusive team equates to an innovative, profitable, and productive organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to guide allyship conversations at your workplace and with your network, there are a multitude of resources available, including:

Allyship at Work Training Program
Allyship Control Workbook
Melinda Briana Epler—3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace
Willie Jackson—The 2020 MAKERS Conference

Listen to the recorded session of the IWW 2022: Better Together on our YouTube Channel, along with other inspirational IWW 2022 events.

Original Article on Invest Ottawa

Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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