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April 30, 2024

Deej Savage


Senior Account Director

Americans spend 2,080 hours in a year working, making the workplace — whether physical, remote, or hybrid — a crucial space to foster an environment of allyship and inclusivity for historically marginalized communities. With so many hours spent at work, it’s vital to create a welcoming space that appreciates and understands the unique backgrounds and experiences everyone brings to the table. This approach not only strengthens relationships among colleagues but also improves team morale, well-being, and performance.

If you’re new to the term, allyship is the active support and advocacy for historically marginalized communities by individuals within a dominant or privileged group. Allies use their privilege to support and amplify the voices of those who are often not heard, and actively work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

While the term “ally” can be easily tossed around in spaces like the workplace, there’s more to being an ally at work than simply expressing support for the title’s ethos. True workplace allyship means taking the time to understand the issues that impact historically marginalized communities, how those experiences manifest in the workplace and then actively leveraging your privilege to support them.

Below, we’ll explore how to go beyond just the title of “ally” and take the first steps towards doing the self-reflection, education, and action needed to make meaningful change.

Allyship starts with self-reflection

To be a true ally at work — or anywhere — you need to first reflect on what needs to change in the workplace, the world, and (most importantly) yourself. Start by honestly examining your biases, privileges, and blind spots.

In allyship, just as in life, it’s good to remember that actions speak louder than words. Your impact should measure your commitment to allyship and the communities you’re supporting, not the accolades you receive at work.

Listen & educate yourself as a workplace ally

One of the most crucial steps in being a good ally is a commitment to listening and educating yourself. This means actively seeking to understand the perspectives, lived experiences, and needs of colleagues within historically marginalized communities instead of just hearing their words in meetings and messages.

Listening is not a passive act but a deliberate practice that requires humility and openness to being challenged and corrected. It means setting aside preconceived notions and assumptions and approaching conversations with genuine curiosity and a willingness to learn no matter what your position in a social group or company hierarchy may be.

When it comes to education, progress hinges around you as the ally taking the initiative to seek out resources, literature, and diverse voices that offer insights into the historical context, systemic injustices, and intersectional dynamics that impact historically marginalized communities.

For example, if a colleague from a historically marginalized community shares their experience of feeling excluded from important decision-making processes during a team meeting, you as the ally should actively listen to that colleague's experience without interrupting or dismissing their perspective.

After the meeting, you should be the one to take the initiative to learn about the barriers faced by historically marginalized groups in workplace decision-making processes and then use that knowledge to course-correct and/or support your colleague in the future.

Listening and education are ongoing practices in allyship. And something the Alloy team is passionate about putting into practice. As issues evolve and new voices emerge, it’s important to remain committed to staying informed and continuously expand your understanding.

Advocacy & Action as a workplace ally

Beyond education, part of fostering allyship in the workplace involves understanding the various ways you can actively support colleagues from historically marginalized communities. Here are some key areas to be mindful of, advocate for, and champion as an ally at work.

Amplify their voices: Actively listen to and amplify the ideas and contributions of colleagues in meetings or brainstorming sessions. If you notice someone being interrupted or talked over, use your voice to ensure they are heard and respected.

Intervene in microaggressions: If you witness a microaggression or other discriminatory behavior directed toward a coworker, intervene respectfully and supportively. This might involve addressing the behavior directly with the offender or privately asking the affected colleague if/how they would like support.

Advocate for inclusive policies: Use your voice within your organization to advocate for policies and initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. This could include advocating for inclusive hiring practices, equitable promotion opportunities, and accessible workplace accommodations.

Recognize privilege as power: Use your privilege and influence to create opportunities for colleagues when you can. This could involve recommending them for leadership positions or advocating for their inclusion in high-profile projects or assignments.

Create safe spaces: Work to create a safe and inclusive environment where all employees feel valued and respected. This might involve establishing employee resource groups, implementing anonymous feedback, or providing resources for employees to report discrimination or harassment.

Be open to feedback: Be open to receiving feedback from colleagues about ways you can improve as an ally. Approach these conversations with humility and a willingness to learn and grow.

Knowing when to pass the mic

As an ally, it’s imperative to combat hate speech and actively advocate for historically marginalized communities, especially when they’re not present. However, it’s also essential not to let your advocacy become performative, overshadowing the voices of those you aim to support.

Allies sometimes struggle with this because of an innate feeling that their voices will be more effective, but this can inadvertently do more harm than good. While it’s admirable to stand up for others, it’s important to recognize when to step back, pass the mic, and allow those directly affected to speak for themselves.

Embracing the challenges and rewards of workplace allyship

Sometimes, supporting others in their fight for rights, equity, and acceptance in the workplace may feel difficult and uncomfortable. However, by advocating for inclusive policies, amplifying marginalized voices, and actively challenging discriminatory behavior, allies can play a vital role in building a more inclusive and diverse workplace. The work isn’t easy, and it’s never completely finished — but it’s necessary and always worthwhile.

Interested in joining a team that truly values empathy and inclusivity? Visit our careers page to explore opportunities where every voice is heard and everyone belongs. Become part of our mission to create an environment where you can do the best work of your life.