Five ways to practice allyship

Allyship is a topic gaining increased attention, particularly during Pride month. It is important to move beyond performative allyship and truly embrace the role of an Ally to affected communities.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into allyship and provide practical ways to practise it effectively.

Defining Allyship 

An ally is someone outside a marginalised group who actively supports and takes action to help that group. 

LGBTQ+ individuals often describe an ally as someone who creates a safe and supportive environment, advocates for LGBTQ+ groups by raising awareness and demonstrates humility by listening and learning about their challenges and struggles. 

Allyship is important and should be embedded in our daily behaviours.

For allyship to be successful, we need each and all of us to see ourselves as enablers of inclusive workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, appreciated, and enjoys a sense of belonging.

It’s normal to make mistakes and feel nervous about being an ally. but reframing it as a journey of progress rather than perfection helps us grow. We only improve by stepping into difficult situations, supporting affected groups and learning from these experiences. 

Here are 5 ways in which you can practise being an Ally:

1. Advocate

First, you want to be advocating for LGBTQ+ groups actively.

This means publicly supporting them. A study from Mckinsey showed how nearly one-third of surveyed LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing a microaggression, such as being interrupted or talked over, at the workplace. 

These numbers also increase significantly depending on their subset within the LGBTQ+ community. For example, LGBTQ+ women and transgender employees were more likely than gay men to report experiencing microaggressions in the workplace. When you notice LGBTQ+ teammates being interrupted or talked over at the workplace, you can be an ally and advocate for inclusive practices by saying, “Hey, I notice we are interrupting people in the team. Let’s be more mindful of it so that we don’t miss out on anyone’s great ideas”. 

By doing so, you are leveraging your power and privilege to advocate and support them.

2. Listen and learn

Secondly, be open to learning, listening and educating yourself.

Part of being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community means developing a true understanding of how the world views and treats them. Being a good ally also implies listening with the intent of understanding rather than responding.

Ask and listen to their personal experiences with empathy but also ask questions respectfully on how you can support them. Take it upon yourself to research and learn about LGBTQ+ history, terminology, and the struggles that the community still faces today. It is during these moments that we learn to grow as an Ally.

3. Avoid assumptions

Thirdly, you want to refrain from making assumptions.

Don’t assume that all your colleagues are straight and/or cisgender. Use gender-neutral language which is unassuming of sexual orientation or family makeup. 

For example, instead of asking someone about their husband/wife, ask about their partner. You can also include your pronouns in your email signature and Zoom descriptions which encourages all to feel free to do the same. By not making assumptions, as allies, you effectively give them space to be their authentic selves and open up when they are ready. 

4. Be conscious of your own unconscious biases

Being an ally entails frequently encountering situations where you must confront and speak out against biases and stereotypes. In these situations, it can be tough to realise that you, too, might have been carrying such unconscious biases and stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community. 

Research shows that we all have biases, and 99% of the time will be unconscious. Reflect on the jokes you have made and the assumptions you may have made about someone’s gender based on how they looked, dressed or acted. Be open to raising awareness of your biases and being more conscious of them, as that is a first step to being willing to work on them to be an ally.

5. Practice allyship all year around

Pride Month might only be four weeks long, but the LGBTQ community and other minority groups face challenges and discrimination year-round.

Consider starting an Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ+ employees, educate the wider workforce on allyship to create inclusive workplaces for all and help implement  inclusive policies and practices.

Allyship is an ongoing journey

Lastly, you may be new to practising allyship and worried about saying the wrong thing or messing it up. 

How you feel is completely normal, and the truth is we’re not going to get it right all the time, and that’s ok. Practising allyship is an ongoing journey. 

But the only way we get better is with practice. 

Research shows that each of us practising allyship is important in ensuring that everyone at the workplace feels they belong, promoting overall  organisational success.