Four ways to being an effective ally

Lutfur Ali, Senior Policy Advisor, CIPD. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are increasingly becoming a top priority for organisations. Whatever the stimulus or motivation there is now a growing recognition that EDI is not just simply the right thing to do, because discrimination is wrong, but it is actually very good for business. EDI helps deliver high performing - fit for purpose well-motivated workforces that are fully reflective, at all levels, of the communities and customers served. Central to achieving this, is inclusive organisational cultures where all colleagues are valued, feel safe, welcome, have a sense of belonging and are supported to achieve their full potential.

One of the tools being used by many organisations is allyship. Having had a career spanning over three decades in the public, private and not for profit sector I have seen how effective allyship can have a life-changing impact on individuals and help organisations create that all-inclusive culture. As part of LGBTQ+ History Month, I want to humbly ask colleagues in positions of privilege and power to take a look around them to see whether they can be an ally to a colleague in their organisation from a discriminated-against group.

Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalised and disadvantaged individuals and/or groups. It is an opportunity to grow and learn about ourselves and others and involves recognising inequalities, understanding the impact of discrimination, disadvantage and taking practical steps to support including sponsoring, advocating and sharing growth opportunities. All this starts with just having a conversation and listening to the lived experience of your LGBTQ+ and other marginalised colleagues.

Below are four ways of being an effective ally.

  1. Widening your networks

 Most people have ‘people like me interest networks’. This can influence hiring, promoting, and offering other career-growth opportunities to people who are ‘just like me/us’. To diversify your network, spend time with colleagues who are members of underrepresented groups. Join employee networks, resource groups, conferences/focus groups. Follow a diversity of voices on social media. In all of these settings, you can get to know individuals from diverse backgrounds, hear about their experiences, and learn from them.

  1. Inclusive thinking and behaviour

Many of us spend much of our day in meetings. These are often filled with non-inclusive behaviours, such as interruptions, idea hijacking, misdirected questions, and housework tasks.  Conscious attention is needed to observe what is happening in meetings and take action. If someone is being interrupted? Interject, and say, “Let’s hear X finish their thought.” If someone is repeating another person’s great idea and getting all the credit? Saying something like, “Great idea. Thanks to Y for suggesting it earlier.” If a client is asking you questions instead of the most qualified LGBTQ+, woman or black or minority ethnic person in the room, redirect the conversation with, “Z is the expert on that topic. Let’s hear from them.”

Speaking out for underrepresented or marginalised colleagues in meetings and other settings will help ensure all voices are heard, with the added bonus of helping everyone know that they are valued. Also, invite a colleague from LGBTQ+ or other underrepresented groups to join your next high-profile meeting, give them insight into the discussion while increasing their visibility with the people around the table.

  1. Advocating

We all know the value of someone speaking highly of us. So, the next time you are in a decision-making position and you use your social capital advocating on behalf of a colleague from an LGBTQ+ or other underrepresented group with others, notably, influencers, you can make all the difference.

Using your position of privilege to share their achievement or what you have learned from them is a great way to boost their standing and reputation. Supporting them with their professional goals for example joining a different team or the board of a professional association to gain a certain kind of experience or publishing an article for the company blog.

  1. Recommend them for high profile assignments and speaking opportunities.

Skill-building projects and giving presentations are great confidence and career boosters. You can help them improve visibility within an organization, enhance social networks and build credibility. The next time you need someone to stand in for you on a presentation or take on a high-profile assignment, think about a colleague from an LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups. Ultimately, you can help someone be better positioned for a promotion.

Being an ally is a journey, and you don’t have to do it all at once. Start with a single act. While it may seem small, you’ll make a difference. You may even start a ripple effect, inspiring others across your organisation to act as better allies.

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.

  • very interesting article, I think it includes good practical recommendations to support underrepresented groups, not only for people in power but also for the rest of people across organizations. An inclusive mindset is crucial for strong corporate culture where everyone's effort is needed. thank you