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5 Ally Actions - Nov 16, 2018

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.


Make it safe to surface problems

This week, best selling author Adam Grant tweeted, "If organizations are always hiding their dirty laundry, it will never get clean. When you make it safe to surface problems, you don’t just solve them—you also learn to prevent them.”

While this is good advice in general, it feels especially relevant to allies who want to create a more inclusive workplace. Here are some ideas to make it safe for others to raise concerns about biased, offensive, or inappropriate behavior:

- Believe others’ experiences. Don’t assume something couldn’t happen just because you haven’t personally experienced it.
- Listen and ask questions when someone describes an experience you haven’t had. Don’t jump in with your personal stories.
- If you are a manager, hold regular “office hours” encouraging all of your team members to speak with you about issues that are troubling them.


Be an upstander, not a bystander

Of course, just making it safe to surface problems is not enough. We need to also take action when we hear about (or witness) biased, offensive, or inappropriate behavior. Listening and keeping quiet doesn’t make us neutral, it makes us complicit.

Does coming forward and objecting feel uncomfortable? For many of us, the answer is a resounding, “Heck yes.” But this discomfort is nothing compared to how it feels for the person whose racial group is being joked about. Or the colleague who is forced to endure constant commentary about her appearance. Or the coworker who is being excluded due to a disability. The discomfort of allies pales in comparison to what people from marginalized groups are forced to live through on a daily basis.

Folks, let's make sure we're being upstanders, not bystanders.


Suggest breakfast meetings (to take alcohol out of the equation)

In The Quiet Efforts to Battle Silicon Valley’s Bro Culture, we read how Elise Hebb and Anarghya Vardhana, the two female partners at venture capital firm Maveron, wanted to ensure their culture wasn’t excluding anyone. Recruiting was often done over drinks and dinner, and they wanted to take alcohol out of the equation to be more inclusive. So the firm started holding breakfast events for prospective employees instead of happy hours.

The next time someone suggests a happy hour recruiting event, why not propose breakfast instead? It’s just one of many ways to quietly change the bro culture.


Check your assumptions about a new parent’s priorities

Research published in Harvard Business Review highlights that returning to work after parental leave is tougher than many women anticipate. There are a host of reasons, from concerns over leaving their baby to deterioration of professional relationships, unconscious bias against mothers, and loss of job responsibility or customer accounts.

Any of us might make assumptions about how a new parent will prioritize their family and their career. To combat our biases, allies can meet with colleagues before they go out on leave. Ask them about their communication preferences while they're away, and if they want to make any scheduling changes when they return. Discuss how we can best support them as they wrap up their projects. Identify any concerns they have about going out on leave and how we might mitigate them.


Ask professional groups to boycott #manels

The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council has banned “the all-too-common all-male panel.” This organization has over 1000 members, and they host over 100 events yearly.

While we’ve written previously about saying no to all-male speaking lineups, we hadn’t considered the impact it would have if professional organizations started banning them.

Let’s all think about the meetups and other professional groups we belong to. And reach out to their organizers or board members to ask them to issue a decree or make a pledge to boycott manels.

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

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.

Copyright © 2018 Better Allies, All rights reserved.

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