Like other D&I initiatives, allyship can be viewed with a little trepidation, and considered something that has to be learned and used in a certain way. However at its most simple, allyship is about helping others to feel confident in themselves, to feel supported, to feel included, and therefore able to maximise their potential.
By comparison, sponsorship typically involves a more senior person proactively promoting the sponsee, whereas allyship support can be provided by any co-worker. An ally seeks to understand the life experience of someone from a different background or group, including them, and speaking up for them.
Effective allyship is about listening to the individual, seeking to understand them, taking direction from them, asking questions about their life experience, and speaking up for them.
At Included we talk often about ‘in-groups and out-groups’ in order to understand the concept of exclusion. Taking a look at our own circle of friends, acquaintances or work colleagues, the group we are most comfortable with, is an easy way to see what this means in reality. The challenge is how to open up our groups and become more inclusive of all people, and it is here that allyship can offer an in-road.
Employee networks are increasingly keen to promote allyship. We are hearing more about male allies, partly as a response to the #MeToo movement, but also as a way for men to show their active support for women in the workplace. With the catalyst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and increasing awareness of intersectional experiences, we have an important opportunity to expand this further.
Finally, effective allyship is active allyship, and organisations should consider providing guidelines on how to be an active ally, standing up for under-represented groups, and promoting inclusion and belonging.