Crises such as the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota and the rise of Asian hate crimes over the past two years have led companies to increase Black allyship, Asian allyship and the support of other groups such as the LGBTQ community. But what happens to the fervor for justice once headlines fade?
The National Institutes of Health defines allyship as “the practice of emphasizing inclusion and human rights by members of an ‘in-group,’ to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized ‘out-group.’”
While more organizations have increased allyship in recent years, it’s important to remember that allyship is a lifelong process that involves building relationships anchored in trust, accountability and consistency in interactions with marginalized groups.
So, how can your organization continue to build allyship as part of its culture and make it a lifelong commitment? What can be done beyond attending protests, donating to activist groups and using hashtags on social media?
Below, we outline a few things to consider when committing to allyship.
During a session titled “Black Male Allyship in Corporate America” at DiversityInc’s fourth annual Women of Color and Their Allies event on Oct. 21, Keith R. Wyche, Vice President of Community Engagement and Support at Walmart (No. 22 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity List in 2021) said companies need to be “both intentional and deliberate in our efforts to be allies and advocates.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” he said. “Be deliberate about what you’re trying to do, making sure that you’re holding yourself accountable and asking yourself, ‘how many women of color do I mentor? How many do I sponsor? How many do I support? What can I do more of?’ The key to success in all these areas is ultimately about making all your actions deliberate.”
Look for Action
On the same panel, Ken Bouyer, Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting at EY (a DiversityInc Hall of Fame Company), said there’s no room for excuses when it comes to allyship and focusing on DEI in the workplace.
“There’s a great saying out there that says, ‘if you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one.’ My advice to allies is ‘no more excuses,’” he said. “Let’s stop looking. I’m not looking for excuses; I’m looking for action.”
He added that’s it is essential to define your “why.”
“Why does this matter to you? Why is it important to be an ally? I can list a ton of reasons. That’s my message to all the potential allies out there: think about your why — because we need you,” Bouyer said.
Show up Outside of Your Organization
During a panel focused on increasing support and allyship for transgender and nonbinary communities, Gabrielle Claiborne, Co-Founder and CEO of Transformation Journeys Worldwide, said organizations need to focus on what they can do externally in conjunction with what they can do internally.
“Are you showing up in the spaces that I live, move and have my being in? When you show up in those spaces, and I see you, and you are very intentional in your communication, then I’m going to start paying attention to you and say, ‘Hey, you could be an employer of choice for me,’” Claiborne said.
Build an Inclusive Workplace
Wherever your place of work is, Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative for Human Rights Campaign, said it is important to create an affirming space for people.
“When we talk about programs, when we talk about inclusive work initiatives, there are still folks who say, ‘well, we don’t have any trans people that work here. We don’t have any gender-diverse people that work here,’” Cooper said. “The truth is you don’t know. I think of equity work as the field of dreams; if you build it, they will come. People don’t always feel safe or affirmed in sharing with you who they are, so make sure that you’re providing a safe and affirming space for people, wherever it is that you work.”
Have ‘Uncomfortable’ Conversations
Mark King, Vice President of Global Diversity at the packaging company WestRock, said forums focused on race issues inside the company didn’t happen for a while because senior leadership felt uncomfortable discussing it.
King said the company is still early in its DNI journey, but part of his privilege “privilege is having built rapport where someone said, ‘if you are willing to stick your reputation on this, we’ll give it a shot.’ And it was wildly successful.”
“We called them courageous conversations, and that was a lesson learned because a lot of people pointed out that this isn’t really courageous,” King said. “If it were courageous, we’d have been talking about this for years, not just now.”
Scrutinizing Data Will Help Shed Light on Perception vs. Reality
During a session titled “Resilient Leadership: Facing Bias & Violence Against AAPI Women,” Tracy Allen, Manager of Human Resources at Northrop Grumman (No. 21 in 2021), said people need to remember that “Asian Americans are not a monolith.”
“We are authentic with each of our ethnicities, with the 30+ countries that are in Asia. Highlighting that authenticity and making it known is very important and beneficial,” she said. “There’s also the negativity that comes with the model minority myth. I believe that a lot of the general public doesn’t know what that means. Or there’s even a common misconception that it could be a good thing — so that’s another damaging stereotype we are continually fighting.”
“A lot of the education is about looking at the quantitative data and disaggregating it. South Asian, Southeast Asian and East Asian communities have very different experiences, representation and outcomes — career, educational and health,” added MyKhanh Shelton, SVP of Enterprise Inclusion at WarnerMedia. “There’s also generational representation, where immigrants may be represented differently than the newer, younger workforce. AAPI is really not a monolith, and the disparities are pretty striking.”
Click here to view all content from the 2021 Women of Color and Their Allies event.