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5 Ally Actions - Nov 8, 2019

Better allyship starts here. Each week, we share 5 simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace.

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Provide board games at your next event

At networking events and conference receptions, not everyone enjoys working the room with a drink in their hands. Why not provide an alternative? Here’s a fun, inclusive idea we learned from Hannah Foxwell, organizer of the London DevOpsDays conference: offer a quiet area with board games. Such a simple way to make a difference.

While we’re on the subject of more inclusive events…


Offer mocktails with those cocktails

We’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again. If your event has a budget for fancy cocktails, premium wine, and craft beers, there’s budget for more than just the usual assortment of soft drinks. Think mocktails, kombucha, bubble tea, and so forth. Make your event inclusive and special to people who can’t or don’t drink alcohol.


Use their titles

In 6 Steps Everyone Can Take to Become an Ally in Male Dominated Workplaces, Dr. Ethan Siegel captured our attention with a story about first names. Because he believes “Dr. Siegel” creates an extra distance between his students and himself, he asks them to call him “Ethan.” In turn, he calls everyone by their first name, too, including his colleagues.

Yet, he’s realized this isn’t the best approach, especially with colleagues who are underrepresented in his field. For example, a few years ago when he was attending an astronomy press conference, the following took place:

“I was very interested in one of the presentations, given by a woman scientist in my field, and I casually referred to her by her first name, asked my questions, and got some wonderful knowledge out of it.

But this wasn’t in private; this was in public. In front of dozens of other professionals in our male-dominated field, I addressed a woman scientist by her first name. In isolation, perhaps that would be no big deal, and maybe even today she doesn’t think it was a big deal. But it’s such a small behavioral change to just be a little bit thoughtful — to care enough about their experiences to change your own actions slightly — to give URMs in your field the respect that is so often withheld from them, and to recognize that the respect freely given to you may not be so freely given to them.”

Allies, let’s all be a bit more thoughtful and use titles, especially for those who are underrepresented in our fields.


Stand up to harassers (and report them)

At a conference last weekend, Dr Kathleen Bachynski, an assistant professor of public health, was presenting a poster session when someone started flirting:

“One conference conversation that was not so fun this afternoon—somebody circled back to my poster to ask me my age, then said he guessed he was too old for me. All I could muster was in the moment was ”yes, you are.” Please do not do this to anybody at a professional conference.”

If you witness this kind of harassment at an event, pull the person aside and point out, “We don’t do that here.”

Then check back with the person being harassed, and ask if you can report this code of conduct violation on their behalf.


Use the singular “they” in everyday conversation

With the latest edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, it’s now officially good practice to use the singular “they” in scholarly writing. For example, instead of writing,

“A person should enjoy his or her vacation.”

We can write,

“A person should enjoy their vacation.”

The APA made this change because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.

While it may take some getting used to, allies can (and should) strive to use the singular “they” in everyday conversation, too.

Mark Your Calendar

Karen Catlin will speak about Better Allies at these events:

  • Nov 7: Allyship Event, Sunnyvale CA. Details
  • Nov 13: Better Allies Hiring Workshop during Digital Diversity Days at Sparkbox, Dayton OH. Details
  • Jan 17: Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, Washington State University. Details
  • Feb 14: Technical Leaders Call. (Details coming soon)
  • Apr 6: Workshop at The Lead Developer Conference, New York NY. Details

In the coming weeks, she’ll also speak at Google, Okta, and Under Armour. Want to invite Karen to give a talk at your event, speaker series, or company meeting? Simply reply to this email to start the conversation. It’s that easy!

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

Book cover for "Better Allies: Everyday Actions to Create Inclusive, Engaging Workplaces"
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