According to a study from Edelman Earned Brand, almost two-thirds of consumers will buy from — or boycott — a brand due to its stances on social or political issues. With such a surge of buyers supporting inclusive businesses, more and more companies are working to become more inclusive. Yet, there’s a fine line between performative allyship and truly making a workplace or organization more inclusive for all… If you’re a business owner working to create a more inclusive company, or an employee looking to become a better ally to your colleagues, read on for some top tips from our Allies in Action Roundtable, featuring Bisma Ansari, Dion Vlachos, Sara Rosales, Sascha King, Steven Wolfe-Pereira, and Terri-Nichelle Bradley.
First and foremost, to be a proper ally as a business owner, you need to create a diverse environment through inclusive hiring practices. That means working with your talent acquisition team to prioritize conscious and inclusive hiring and checking their unconscious biases. Hiring leaders, and the organization as a whole, must advocate for candidates throughout the process, and be open-minded to interviewing people from all backgrounds. There’s a tendency to look for talent with similar social circles, hobbies or education to current and past employees, which limits the acquisition of qualified candidates who may come from marginalized populations or less traditional work fields. Blind resume-screening — removing names, genders, and other affiliations — can reduce the role of bias during the interview and hiring process, and attract a greater variety of candidates. The people you hire as a business owner reflect the values of your company, and ultimately can influence whether consumers will be willing to buy your product.
Another aspect of having a diverse team is including a wide range of people in management positions and senior roles. Promoting diversity from within is crucial to creating a work environment that is inclusive to marginalized groups and discourages discrimination. Furthermore, having higher-ups that are part of an underrepresented group will encourage a broader range of candidates to apply for open positions, as it signals your business is a supportive workplace. There is strong evidence that diversity in the workplace can unlock innovation and drive market growth by establishing a culture in which all employees feel free to contribute ideas, and diversity in leadership positions is one of the easiest ways to create such an inclusive environment. Without diverse leadership, women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals are less likely to win endorsement for their ideas. This costs their companies crucial market opportunities because diverse contributors understand the unmet needs in under-served markets.
Hiring candidates from underrepresented backgrounds is just one part of being an ally. Maintaining a safe and inclusive environment that can retain such talent is the second part. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are an essential resource that benefits not only marginalized groups, but the whole company. ERGs help provide necessary mentorship opportunities, as well as tools and education that employees need to be great allies and change the company culture. What differentiates good allyship from performative allyship is knowledge and empathy. Education on socio-political issues, inclusion, and anti-discrimination helps foster empathy in employees and gives them solutions to a variety of workplace situations. When workplaces are more equitable, employees of all backgrounds and identities are happier and more committed to their jobs. As Sascha King said in the Allies in Action Roundtable “[Being an ally is] having conversations that are uncomfortable. It’s knowing when to shut up. It’s knowing when to speak up when required for somebody else on their behalf if it’s needed.”
Allyship is really about raising your voice with empathy, using your privilege to help others who don’t have that same luxury, and calling out problematic behaviors. If you’re running a meeting and notice that a small percentage of people are taking the majority of the time talking, set timers to allow each person to have equal time to speak. Some of the most powerful allyship actions can be the ones done behind closed doors, like recommending a colleague from an underrepresented background for a promotion, or leadership having meetings with employees and accepting feedback.
Becoming a better ally can seem like a daunting task with so many nuances to take into consideration, but imperfect action is better than no action at all. As long as you move forward with empathy and a willingness to have open conversations, you can achieve a progressive work environment that is inclusive to people from all walks of life.
This blog is inspired by WiT Webinar ‘Allies in Action Roundtable’. Watch it on WiT’s Webinar archive HERE.