I recently completed an online diversity course about allyship in the workplace called Becoming a DEI Ally and Agent for Change.1 Learning about the concept of being an ally in the workplace made me reminisce about my eleventh grade American History class when we studied the Allied Powers in World War I.2 I vaguely remember learning how countries joined in a coalition against other central powers; the joint effort eventually resulted in the culmination of the war.3
I realized that allyship is the connection between two parties that forms a partnership that strengthens the group against outside forces. I wondered how this might apply specifically to diversity in the workplace.
Most of us working in the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility field are familiar with the fact that underserved communities in the workplace have longed to be heard, included, considered, and recognized. They also hope to have others join efforts to support their cause. This is essentially the connection between allyship and workplace diversity.
Understanding the challenges of underserved communities, the critical question then becomes: “How might one serve as an ally to underserved communities in the workplace?”
Here are a few instances in which I feel my voice might make a difference in acting as an ally:
- Speaking up in everyday situations when I feel like others have been excluded from participating fully at the decisions made in the workplace. This is vital even when the discussions and decisions seem trivial. It is imperative to ensure that traditionally excluded groups have the opportunity to contribute and the power to influence outcomes.
- When planning events and workplace training, making the extra effort to ensure it is 508 compliant and accessible to all participants. It is imperative that we check color contrasts, write alt-text for images, seek interpreters for events, obtain closed-captioning services, and give everyone the information they need to reach the appropriate point of contact to receive accommodations so that everyone can be included.
- Making the effort to have a variety of diverse people when forming committees, workgroups, and hosting conferences or workshops. This includes, but is not limited to, recruiting participants from diverse cultures, social-economic backgrounds, careers or positions within the agency, and social identities and encouraging diversity of thought and ideas.
I am confident my skills as a workplace ally will continue to grow as I become more aware of the various ways in which I can help establish workplace fairness and equality. Change starts from within, can you think of ways you can become a workplace ally? Consider making yourself a list of the many ways you can serve as an ally in your specific office or community, and when you can, act on it!
1HHS Learning Portal (LMS) [DEI - Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion] (DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)
2Keegan, John. The First World War.
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