Despite significant efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), workplace inequalities continue to persist, leaving many individuals, managers, and leaders of companies with a sense of uncertainty about how to bring about change. According to the latest research, progress towards gender parity is slow, with estimates suggesting it could take up to 132 years to achieve.
Recent studies indicate that despite some progress, much more needs to be done to ensure that individuals with intersectional identities, who face discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors, have access to equal opportunities in the workplace.
For instance, a study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with diverse workforces are more likely to perform better financially than those without. However, this study also highlighted that women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ individuals still face significant barriers in the workplace. Another recent report by the Diversity and Inclusion Research Institute found that while many organisations claim to prioritise DEI, few have put in place concrete actions to achieve this goal. These findings suggest there is still a long way to go before we can truly achieve workplace equality for all.
To create truly inclusive workplaces, it’s essential to recognise that inclusion isn’t achieved through a set of strategies or roadmaps, but rather through the everyday interactions and behaviours of individuals within the workplace. While it’s important for organisations to have DEI strategies and plans in place, it’s equally crucial for each individual to view themselves as a critical enabler of inclusivity.
To cultivate an inclusive workplace culture, each person must be committed to acting in a manner that fosters inclusivity. This involves challenging biases and actively working to create a supportive environment for all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or identities. One way to do this is through allyship, which involves advocating for and supporting individuals from marginalised or underrepresented groups.
Research has shown that effective allyship involves actively listening to and learning from individuals with diverse experiences and perspectives, taking action to support their needs, and using one’s privilege and influence to create positive change. By fostering a culture of allyship, individuals can work together to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, and where diverse perspectives are celebrated and embraced.
Allyship is about building and nurturing supportive relationships with individuals or groups who have historically been underrepresented, marginalised, or subjected to discrimination, with the ultimate aim of advancing inclusion. This involves consistently and actively demonstrating supportive behaviour that is not merely performative. It is important to note that the purpose of allyship is not to “fix” others, but rather to uplift them and provide platforms for them to be heard.
To truly achieve inclusive workplaces, it is essential to adopt practical behaviours that can be incorporated into our daily work routines. Below are five examples of allyship behaviours that can help make the workplace more inclusive:
Perspectives and experiences of underrepresented groups. It requires setting aside one’s own biases and preconceptions, and being open to learning about others’ experiences. Active listening can involve asking questions, seeking clarification, and summarising what has been shared to show understanding and empathy. It is important to create a safe and inclusive environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences.
Speaking Up: Allies should speak out against all forms of discrimination and prejudice, including microaggressions, and intervene when witnessing such incidents. It is important to create a culture where discriminatory behaviour is not tolerated, and allies can use their privilege to create safe spaces for underrepresented groups. Speaking up can involve calling out inappropriate behaviour, challenging assumptions, and advocating for change.
Using Privilege: Allies can use their privilege to create space for others who may have less access to opportunities or resources. This can involve sharing information, introducing underrepresented groups to key contacts or networks, or advocating for policies and practices that promote inclusivity. Allies can also use their privilege to amplify underrepresented voices and perspectives.
Amplifying Voices: Allies should use their voices to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups. This means promoting their achievements and successes, sharing their stories and experiences, and advocating for their inclusion in decision-making processes. Allies can also use their platforms to challenge stereotypes and assumptions and highlight the contributions of underrepresented groups.
Continuous Learning: Allies should continuously educate themselves and others about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and work to challenge their own biases and assumptions. This involves actively seeking diverse perspectives, educating oneself about different cultures and experiences, and reflecting on one’s own biases and assumptions. Allies can also promote education and awareness-raising within their workplace, by advocating for training and resources that promote inclusivity.
By engaging in these five allyship behaviours, we can truly start to nurture inclusive workplaces and foster a culture where everyone feels valued, respected, appreciated, and has a sense of belonging.