In many places in the world, we’re finally engaging in helpful conversations about a topic that once seemed to be easily dismissed. With movements around the world and the reveal of (very obvious) systemic inequalities, we are no longer discussing its existence, but instead, how to balance out the inequalities and combat the barriers. With the beginning of June also comes the beginning of Pride Month. It is a very important time to dig deep into how best to be an ally and actively promote allyship in the workplace, even if you’re working from home.
It is more important than ever to show allyship in the workplace and it should not be dismissed just because work has moved locations. There are also numerous benefits that have come from companies making the change to remote work when it comes to diversity and being inclusive. It will reduce times when discrimination is happening based on visible traits, and there are many disabilities that will be supported and helped with the introduction of the work from home format. Let’s start with the basics.
What is allyship?
Allyship is a term used to describe the effort that people (in particular, those in more privileged groups) make to support and advance the interests of those in marginalized communities. As an ally, you would actively promote and support inclusive efforts, which include intentional, positive, and conscious actions to help bridge some of the gaps and break down some of the barriers. Right now, it is a great time for us to re-evaluate our approach to certain aspects of the workplace.
More than 50% of employees believe that this is a perfect opportunity for companies to take a stance in addressing the need for greater gender and racial equality.
At Wrk, we are continuously looking for ways to improve and make sure we can provide a safe and inclusive space for all, and as a remote-first workplace, we have a few suggestions on actions you can take. Check out the list below.
Practice active listening
In recent years, studies have shown that over 80% of White employees in the US see themselves as allies at work, however, black women and Latinas disagree. True allyship must be practiced every day—not just when it is beneficial or easy.
Whether it is on camera, or in person, a sure way to be inclusive is to ask questions about others by including backgrounds, traditions, cultural differences, and customs, and share yours. Use storytelling to provide a safe space where you can learn more about each other, and make sure to pay close attention and actively and consciously be inclusive. The best part? You don’t need to be in person to do this. In fact, it might be easier for some to express their preferences and stories through video rather than in person. Give it a try!
Pay close attention to the descriptive terms used
When we started looking for the answers to the question ‘what is allyship?’, pronouns became a bit of a ‘hot topic’. An easy way to not put anyone on the spot immediately is to simply introduce yourself with your pronouns and your name. Pay close attention to how people introduce themselves, interact, and the pronouns they use. This will guarantee that you won’t mispronounce their name, or incorrectly address them. When in doubt, ask the correct way to pronounce names, holidays, traditions, etc., and how they would prefer to be addressed.
Read this article on why diversity & inclusion efforts in the workplace often fail.
Identify and adapt to different communication styles
Everyone has a different approach when it comes to how they communicate. Not all nuances are immediately identifiable. When working from home, communication is extra important in order to be successful. Communicating with remote teams needs to be more intentional, as you can’t just run into each other in the lunchroom. As a remote team, it's up to you to try to understand the different communication styles of each individual. For example, neurodivergent people (or even just introverts) thrive in different settings and with different approaches. Some are passive, or shy, while others are more active and speak up. There are a few different frameworks for understanding communication styles, but the most important part starts with recognizing that your form of communication might be different than your co-workers’.
Understanding the differences in the way we communicate is actually an investment. The payoff? Stronger workplace relationships, which is a major predictor of employee engagement, and therefore of productivity.
A good leader elevates their team
Whether you are a team lead, or just an ally looking to practice some active inclusion, make sure you take note of those not participating and give credit to those who are not as comfortable speaking up or advocating for themselves. 45% of women business leaders say it's difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings. Some minorities and underprivileged groups have barriers in their lives that others don’t. A great step is to acknowledge these biases and try to offer support and a safe space. Recognize where microaggressions may be happening and that they can happen in virtual meetings as well, you don’t have to wait for something to become an ‘obvious’ outburst of discrimination or bias.
64% of women face microaggressions at work and often have to prove their intelligence and competence more than men, and are 2 times more likely to be mistaken for someone in a more junior position. It is everyone’s duty to make sure that acknowledging and addressing the issues is absolutely necessary to have a healthy work environment and to guarantee success, productivity, retention, and a balanced work life for all.
Promote and advocate for allyship in the workplace
If working from home, make sure to use all the advantages, such as talking to your co-workers privately, being inclusive on calls, etc., to minimize the pitfalls. In the office, make sure your body language is matching those efforts. Above all, be kind and open. A workplace doesn’t have to be just like home, but with the shift to work from home, it certainly can feel like it. When you’re taking your work home with you, make sure you’re not taking added strife and barriers as well, both for yourself and others.
What are some other solutions can you think of to actively promote allyship in the workplace?
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Featured image: Melita