Many heterosexual white males simply don’t know how to engage when conversation arises about important diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies at work. They may or may not realize all the benefits and privilege they have, but more often than not they withdraw because they don’t know how or in what ways to support DEI efforts without further exacerbating the problem or feeling attacked.
Now more than ever, it’s essential for these white males to engage and become allies on these topics. This will help bring these discussions into the open will help foster inclusion throughout company culture, governance, and policies. Below are nine ways for allies to make tangible change and help advance diversity, inclusion and equity efforts.
- Advocate for others
Stand up for others and elevate the accomplishments of individuals usually not at the table. Notice who is consistently being left out when decisions are being made, and make sure to reach out to that group of individuals and to ensure that the pool is consistently diverse, inclusive representative.
- Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume you know how other individuals or groups feel at your workplace, company, or in any social setting. To be an effective ally, you need to spend more time listening than you do speaking. Don’t just listen to their words but hear where they are coming from. By doing so you will be better equipped to communicate diverse perspectives in the future.
- Acknowledge that diversity is everyone’s job
It is easy to just say to yourself “this is someone else’s” job – someone in HR, recruiting or diversity. The reality is that diversity, equity and inclusion is everyone’s job. Not only in what they do – but how they do it. Are they listening to other perspectives, bringing voices into the conversation and including people who normally aren’t? Realizing that this isn’t one person’s job, but everyone’s job, is a critical first step.
- Get comfortable with new, uncomfortable circumstances
It can be easy to form connections with people that are similar to us, but to truly advance the causes of diversity and inclusion, we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Evaluate your own social and professional network and examine where you might be excluding others, who you should be including in conversations, and who you can support.
- Accept that allyship isn’t something you can turn on and off
Allyship isn’t something you can clock-in to, it is constantly evolving. You can’t pick your battles, and it isn’t something that you can just turn on when interested and convenient and ignore when it isn’t. Letting an insensitive comment slide, ignoring exclusive policies in job description or contracts, or invalidating the experience of people with different backgrounds are all damaging to workplace culture and inclusion, and identifying and addressing these moments is crucial.
- Encourage others to join you
You can’t do this by yourself. Work to inform others and ask them to join you. Host lunch-and-learns on how to make others feel more included, point out microaggressions and offer alternatives, and invite others in different departments and specialties to become advocates.
- Recommend someone take your place
If you find yourself seated at a table where other diverse voices should be included, recommend other qualified candidates that should also join in, or offer up your spot for a viewpoint that might not already be represented in the room. This can be difficult because you may want to be there, but to advance efforts, sometimes we need to sacrifice our own seat.
- Continue to educate yourself
Being an ally is an ever-changing task. In fact, just a few years ago, this was simply referred to as “diversity” and companies only aimed to increase their “diverse” workforce and nothing more. Educate yourself by listening to new perspectives, researching best practices for engaging others and find studies that discuss effective initiatives for improving diversity, equity and inclusion at work.
- Keep yourself accountable
Everyone makes mistakes, but what will set you apart is your willingness to acknowledge these errors, apologize, and change your behavior. Listen openly and focus on impact rather than intent. Being an ally means acknowledging the effect of your actions, correcting them and striving to be better going forward.