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4 Tips for becoming an Ally in the workplace

Lee Blackwell & Louisa Kouzapas

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, allyship means ‘being a person who supports the rights of a minority or marginalised group without being a member of it’, but to our EFinity groups (affinity groups created and run by EF employees), it means so much more. We asked the captains of these communities what they value in an ally and what effective allyship looks like to them. The captains replied commonly with the belief that:

Allyship is the action someone takes to show up and stand firm with a group or team, supporting their beliefs and ensuring their voices are heard

4 tips to make a difference today

For group members, an ally does this without being asked and will act even if there is no personal gain.

Find below their Top 4 Tips for us to make a difference today:

  1. Ask questions
    Be curious, people appreciate you taking the time to find out about them.
    ‘Asking members of your team about their personal stories and beliefs will help you engage with a wider range of topics, as well as better understand difficulties being faced by minority groups’.
    An example includes faith practices, which are an integral part of many people’s lives and finding out about these will help to create space to recognize different celebrations and allow a colleague to share the core beliefs that shape how they identify. Though engaging with dialogue, helps to curate and nurture a safe environment where everyone can share ideas and feel comfortable at work, it’s important to trust the intent of people if they tell you something is not right.

  2. Hold each other accountable.
    If you hear someone you work with say something that could be considered outdated or offensive, then raise this with them and use it as an opportunity to help someone learn why it’s wrong and prevent the behaviour from being repeated.

    Within our own organization, if an individual is not comfortable doing this, then our EFinity Group members or own internal DEIB Ambassadors can help resolve these issues. With our clients, we recommend that they think through how they can harness the collective power of their own employees to further drive transformational change.

  3. Engage in Continuous learning:
    Read, listen, watch videos and learn about difference, equity, inclusion and belonging issues and consider how you can play a part in progressing your organization and society in the face of this. Regulations and laws are constantly changing and keeping up with what is happening will enable you to support minority groups who need someone to stand with and by them. Internally at EF we have a monthly DEIB book club which provides a great vehicle to discuss current literature (both fiction and non-fiction) around a variety of diversity and inclusion topics.

  4. Diversify your network:

    Whether via internal work initiatives or externally in your social networks, making the effort to engage with different communities, hear personal stories which can expand your knowledge, and celebrate together when there are great experiences.

All of this helps further individual understanding and your ability to help as an ally. Internally we recognize that if you join an EFinity group, you’ll meet people you wouldn’t usually deal with daily, this helps people to learn about the challenges and opportunities minority groups face and enables individuals to build a wider community who can help them navigate their role.

Having recently got engaged, I couldn’t wait to share the news with the rest of my LGBTQIA+ community when we met up for our bi-weekly call because I can see the value in sharing with others, giving them a chance to share their thoughts on questions I had and to celebrate together.

There is still a lot to be done to support the EFinity groups at work, but it is the support of allies that helps create a bigger movement and a louder voice.

Thank you to our EFinity Group Captains and Members who shared their thoughts so openly to allow us to write this piece.

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