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Allyship at Work: A Guide to Fostering Inclusivity and Equality

February 22, 2024

In today’s diverse and multicultural workforce, being an ally to underrepresented groups is more critical than ever. But what does allyship mean, and how can we practice it daily at work? Read on to learn some essential practices and principles of allyship for both employees and employers, from understanding privilege and unconscious bias to actively supporting our colleagues and fostering an inclusive, equal, and diverse work environment.


Why does allyship matter?

We all function our best, both as professionals and as human beings, when we feel welcomed, valued, respected, and safe. Historically, however, many members of underrepresented groups—whether the basis of those groups includes race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, or physical and mental abilities—have not had that experience in the workplace. Acting as an ally to these underrepresented groups at work is the right thing to do. 


It also makes good business sense. Numerous studies have shown that companies prioritizing diversity, equality, and inclusion benefit significantly from those practices. More diverse recruitment and hiring practices mean companies can access and draw on a broader talent pool. Bringing in people with a more comprehensive range of experiences can lead to more creative ideas and significant innovation. Companies can become more competitive in the marketplace. 


Data also shows that companies with higher levels of gender and ethnic inclusion outperform less diverse companies. Results show higher revenue growth and increased profitability. 


Companies that value the input of all employees also tend to have higher retention rates. Employees are likelier to stay with a company when they feel their leadership team trusts, respects, and considers their needs. Employees also experience higher rates of job satisfaction.


Understanding Privilege and Unconscious Bias

Becoming a genuine ally in the workplace starts at home. A first steps in becoming a faithful ally is examining, understanding, and acknowledging our privileges and unconscious biases.


Privilege comes in many forms, including race, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. Acknowledging our privilege is not about guilt; it’s about recognizing our advantages and leveraging them to uplift others.


Unconscious biases are deeply ingrained beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes we may hold about a group of people without realizing it; these biases affect our judgments and actions. We all tend to form unconscious biases based on the influence of parents, teachers, and social groups, what we see in the media, and our observations of the world around us.


As with privilege, having unconscious biases doesn’t make you a wrong person. It is a universal human experience. However, because our unconscious biases can negatively impact the people around us, it’s crucial to confront and challenge our personal biases. In the workplace, this is especially crucial for people in positions of power, including those in charge of hiring and promotions.


Educate Yourself and Others

Education is a powerful tool for fostering allyship. Employees and employers should take the initiative to educate themselves on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. Examples include:

  • Understanding the history and experiences of underrepresented groups.
  • Staying informed about current social problems.
  • Actively seeking diverse perspectives.


Employers can play a vital role by providing resources, hosting workshops and training, and encouraging open conversations about diversity. A well-informed workforce is better equipped to create and contribute to an environment that values and celebrates differences.


Employees can encourage and enhance a sense of belonging and inclusion by participating honestly and openly in these opportunities. In addition, take the time to learn about the different religions, cultures, and backgrounds represented in your company. Finally, commit to learning and growing. Be willing to apologize if you make a mistake and inadvertently offend someone and be open to feedback and growth. 


Actively Listen and Amplify Voices

Another fundamental principle of allyship is active listening – taking the time to listen to your colleagues’ and employees’ experiences and perspectives. For company leadership and supervisors, active listening also involves creating a safe space for open dialogue and ensuring you hear everyone’s voice.


In addition to listening, allies should amplify the voices of their colleagues. Give credit where it’s due, acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of underrepresented individuals, and actively promote their ideas. By acting as a supportive advocate, allies can help break down barriers and ensure all voices are valued.


Intervene and Interrupt

Allyship goes beyond learning and listening, however. Occasionally, allies may find themselves in a position where they need to intervene more actively.


Employers and employees should be committed to standing up against discriminatory behavior by speaking up if they hear an inappropriate joke or comment or experience the mistreatment of someone. Try to do so in a way that does not draw additional attention to any colleagues who may feel targeted. Suppose you do witness an incident of discrimination and harassment. In that case, you should also check in with the targeted individual(s) privately afterward to ask if they are all right and to determine how (and if) they would like to address the incident and how you can help.


Employers should also establish clear policies against discrimination and provide training on addressing and reporting incidents. Encouraging a culture where employees feel empowered to stand up against injustice fosters a safer and more inclusive workplace for everyone.


Support and Mentorship

A strong advocacy, support, and mentorship network is essential for all professionals but is even more crucial for underrepresented employees. Allies can actively advocate for the career advancement of underrepresented individuals, share professional guidance or resources, and create and promote opportunities for professional development.


Employers can also implement mentorship programs and ensure they are accessible to employees from all backgrounds. Such programs can help bridge the gap in representation and create a more equitable path to success for everyone.


Putting the Pieces Together

Strengthening allyship in the workplace requires a collective effort—we all have a role to play. By understanding privilege, educating ourselves and others, actively listening, intervening when necessary, providing support, and fostering inclusivity, we can build a workplace culture that celebrates all of our uniqueness and maximizes the entire team’s potential.


Being an ally is not just a responsibility; it’s an opportunity to create positive change and contribute to a more just and harmonious world at work and in our communities.


WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals, and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we assist in a number of different ways.



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