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5 Ally Actions - Oct 11, 2019

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

Know someone who wants to be a better ally? Forward our newsletter to them. Received a forwarded copy? Sign up here to get 5 Ally Actions delivered to your inbox every Friday.


Maintain eye contact with someone who was interrupted

During a male allies panel at last week’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), Evin Robinson, who’s President of NewYorkOnTech, shared a simple but effective way to combat interruptions: Maintain eye contact and stay focused on the person who was interrupted. Not only does it demonstrate your support for that person, but your body language also helps direct the conversation back to them.

Try out Evin’s technique the next time you’re in a meeting and someone gets interrupted. Consider turbocharging it with a simple, “I’d like to hear so-and-so finish their thought.”


Call out offensive statements, even if no one in earshot is personally offended

Another panelist at the GHC male allies panel, Michael Ellison, CEO of, discussed the importance of calling it out when someone says something offensive. Even if no one in the room is personally offended or hurt by the comment or joke. In other words, don’t let this kind of language become the norm. Stand up for a workplace that is respectful of all, versus standing by.


Clear the lunch left-overs

Wayne Barlow, an engineering leader at Bloomberg, was also on the male allies panel. He mentioned his growing awareness of office housework, specifically cleaning up after a lunch meeting. He admitted that he used to leave meetings without even thinking about who would bring the left-overs to the nearest kitchen. Now, he takes a minute and does this task himself.

As your meetings break up, look around. If there are mugs, pastry boxes, or other post-meeting detritus left on the table, take a minute to throw out the trash and bring the rest to the nearest kitchen—especially if you’re in a position of privilege or authority. Become a role model for others.

If you don’t, chances are the last woman to leave the room will feel compelled to clean up the mess.


Ask about the accessibility of products under construction

A stunning new library recently opened in Long Island City, New York. Yet, in a country where all public buildings must comply with accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and where architects are trained on these requirements, this library was not designed to be fully accessible. Three fiction sections are reachable by only a staircase.

Think about what’s under construction in your company. An office build-out? A website revamp? A new software service? Don’t assume the people developing it will make it accessible. State it as a priority. Ask questions along the way. Make sure it happens.


Push back on pregnancy and caregiving bias

With reporters focusing on Elizabeth Warren’s story of being fired as a 22-year old teacher, visibly pregnant, maternal discrimination is being discussed, debated, and refuted.

Actually, according to Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, “It’s the single strongest form of gender discrimination.”

In Better Allies, Karen shares this example of caregiving bias:

“I remember talking with a man on my staff who needed to fill a senior role on his team. When I asked if he planned to promote his top employee into the role, he replied that she had young children at home and he felt sure that she wouldn’t want all the travel that would come with the promotion. I countered, saying that this was her decision to make, not his. (He decided to make her the offer, which she accepted. She went on to totally rock the role.)”

This bias is real. Look out for it, and push back.

Mark Your Calendar

Karen will speak about Better Allies at these events:

  • Oct 16: EDUCAUSE 2019, Chicago IL. Details
  • Nov 5: Women Advance IT Conference, University of Nebraska. Details
  • Nov 7: Allyship Event, Sunnyvale CA. Details
  • Nov 13: FREE Better Allies 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)

In the coming weeks, she’ll also speak at Bloomberg and Handshake. 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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