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Five Ways to Practice Allyship in the Workplace

December 6, 2023

This piece was written by Alex Wagner and Jon Maree from APCO’s sister company Trilligent.

What is allyship? How can we show up for others as allies and navigate our own diverse identities in the workplace? 

On October 26, APCO hosted a webinar exploring allyship—the active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group—organized by Power of Difference, APCO’s employee resource group for LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies in Europe. The webinar was led by Asif Sadiq, chief global diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Warner Bros. Discovery, who shared his insight and advice on the tools and strategies necessary to actively promote inclusivity in daily work interactions.  

In line with our commitment to fostering a workplace where everyone can authentically be their whole selves, thrive as employees and be recognized and celebrated for their talents and perspectives, here are five key ways to practice allyship and advocate for all in the workplace: 

Show Up Every Day

There’s a step beyond inclusion: creating environments where people belong. 

While diversity and inclusion happen through important initiatives like Pride month, true allyship often begins when you leave that environment—it’s how you show up the other 11 months of the year.  Sadiq highlighted the power we have every day to ensure we are fostering environments where people belong while asking ourselves what we can do individually to empower others. “It’s not the big things that drive change, it is what each and every one of us does… it’s giving someone the opportunity in a meeting to speak up,” Sadiq said. To practice allyship we should use opportunities every day to take action and promote a sense of belonging. In doing so, however, it is also important that we do not speak for others; rather, we make space for different people to feel safe and empowered to talk for themselves.  

Find Comfort in Discomfort

As languages and ideas around diversity continue to evolve and progress, we need to accept that being uncomfortable is crucial for growth. As long as intent is positive, we should accept that we might sometimes feel uncomfortable as we attempt to better understand different lived experiences. Listening to, and learning from, different perspectives might challenge our ideas or force us to face uncomfortable moments. True allyship involves accepting discomfort whether it’s challenging harmful or unacceptable behaviour or simply through understanding and listening to different lived experiences.   

Communication is Key

As allies, we should also strive to use the power of communication, especially when faced with uncomfortable situations in our daily life. In situations where we feel compelled to speak up, consider what form of communication would be best under the circumstances. Whether giving feedback in a private conversation or publicly calling out harmful language, we should always strive to communicate in a respectful manner. If all else fails, Sadiq recommends focusing efforts on people who are receptive to change and building a stronger community together. “The beauty of diversity is that we can still disagree but come together to produce exceptional results despite our differences,” Sadiq said.  

Go Beyond the Binary

Despite good intentions, it is important to be mindful and avoid seeing groups as homogenous. Remember that we each have complex and overlapping identities—some visible and some not—and lived experiences will vary. Fostering inclusivity and a sense of belonging encompasses a range of characteristics including, but not limited to, ethnicity, sexual characteristics, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, disability and illness, socioeconomic status, pregnancy and marital status.  

Find your Purpose

Without an appreciation of diversity and inclusion, we cannot champion change for ourselves and for our clients. To do so, Sadiq urges everyone to find their personal purpose regarding diversity—their own personal why. When you find your why, you can then focus on the how. How do you choose to show up every day, at work and outside of work? How can you help foster an empowering and inclusive community?   

Above all else, we can practice allyship by embodying the values that unite us in our work; boldness, inclusivity, curiosity, and empathy. These values serve to remind us of the strength of our diversity, and the ways in which we can continue to learn from, and empower, one another.  

In doing so, we are reminded of the strength of our diversity and the guiding principles we can follow to actively contribute to creating a more inclusive where everyone can achieve their full potential as their authentic selves.  

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