Its International Women’s Day today – yay! this year’s theme is #Embrace Equity and I want to talk about Allyship - how women should be Allies for each other and why and how White women should be allies to Black and Brown women. As a Black woman, I know how important and valuable it has been for me to have White Women as Allies. A Mckinsey study stated that Black women face more microaggressions in the workplace compared to other races. Shocking for some – but not for everyone. So, what should be and can be done about this?
Conversations around diversity have changed since 2020. We are having braver and bolder conversations and simply being an Ally is not enough – we need to be Active Allies. We need to put the work in and realise the importance of allyship in the workplace.
White women hold more managerial positions than Black and Brown women and are hence in positions of power and influence. Black and Brown women are underrepresented in many fields and face challenges within organisations based on their race and gender. This lack of representation in some work environments can cause many issues including a sense of lack of belonging and it is important to be able to build a solid working relationship with each other.
So, do you see yourself as an Ally to Black and Brown women? Where can you start? - By understanding what true Allyship is and being intentional about the amount of work, commitment and effort that you need to put in to become an Active Ally, you can start to show up as an Active Ally at work and make a difference.
Let’s start with defining what Allyship is.
What is Allyship?
Allyship in the workplace is critical to understand the experiences of all women is not the same. Although as a white ally, you will never truly understand the experiences of Black and Brown woman in the workplace, by showing up as an ally, you can use your platform and privilege to create change.
Not one definition fully defines what Allyship truly is, but let’s start with this –
Allyship is a lifelong journey of building relationships. Allyship is not a single action, it is ongoing action with a focus on other people and not on yourself.
Allyship starts with an examination of yourself to better understand the privilege, power and access available to you as a result of the different identity groups to which you belong. And importantly, allyship requires Education about the communities you are showing allyship towards. It requires you to educate yourself on the issues that may not affect you – even when it is difficult and especially when it is difficult. This is part of your journey to becoming a true and authentic Ally. As an Ally your job is to make change happen and we need more Active Allies!
Why is Allyship Important
We spend a lot of time at work – at least one third of your lifetime will be spent at work– (a very long time) and when inequity occurs it can have a detrimental impact on one’s mental and physical health. Because of discrimination, inequity and bias in the workplace, employees who are not part of the majority group are not given the same opportunities and do not have the power to create change. This is where allies are important – they use their voice to amplify ALL voices. The workplace is where we can use our voices and privilege to make a difference.
Allyship is powerful, it empowers everyone to get involved. Because Allies use their power and privilege to create change, they put the work in to understand barriers and situations. It gives everyone a role to play.
What you can do to be an Active Ally
· Know your Why!
· Educate yourself.
· Be aware of your bias.
· Learn to Listen – just Listen!
· Acknowledge your privilege and use it to create change!
· Amplify the voices of Black and Brown women.
· Keep the conversation going with other white people
· Support and take action
· Speak up
· Find ways to make and push for change within your workplace e.g. in Recruitment, pay, promotions etc
· Find ways to make change within your community, friendship groups and family
· Don’t ask Black and Brown women to work for free
· Dismantle systems of oppressions that you may have benefitted from.
· Don’t let the fear of making a mistake prevent you from your journey
· Remember, Allyship is a life long journey – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
How to Move from Awareness to Action
So remember, Allyship is a journey and it does not just mean hiring diverse employees, it’s a process which means ensuring you have buy- in from senior leadership and creating a plan to create change, bringing diversity to the table and making it EVERYONES responsibility. Understanding that the experience of every woman in the workplace is not the same and some women have more privilege than others and experience discrimination is important.
Understand your Why allyship is important, What needs to be done and How it is going to be achieved. Know what Allyship is, how it can be good for business and create inclusive cultures where EVERY employee can feel less isolated and thrive.
Put the work in to educate yourself and create safe spaces to have conversations. And most importantly, make this a lifelong commitment.
So make a commitment this IWD 2023 to become an Active Ally and make a difference.
Contact me to find out about the 30 day Allyship Challenge, Allyship Workshops and Webinars and a list of resources.