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Equal Access Issues: Allyship (Or Lack Thereof)

Hello again. Today, we will discuss the concept of allyship. What exactly is an "ally"? They differ from a workplace ombudsman, in that they are not directly employed by the company to help other people out. You might even think of an ally as just another advocate, and you probably wouldn't be too far off either. This is my personal opinion, but I prefer to look at allies as people who have the capability to influence positive change within the company, and are actually willing to do it, even at their own professional.

Find your allies, and together, you can take down the Axis of Evil.

Unfortunately, being an ally is strictly voluntary, so it is also my personal opinion that we need to have ombudspersons. At the very least, we have people that we can voice our concerns to, and hopefully have someone in our corner. Unfortunately, the reality is for many people that workplaces are not very diverse or inclusive, and as a consequence, allyship is something that is easier said than done.

As I mentioned earlier, in more toxic workplaces, allyship can come with personal risk to the employee that is offering to help. There is also little incentive to be an ally in these types of situations other than to get the "warm and fuzzy" that you're doing the right thing. For many people, this is not enough to motivate them into action. And that is basically where we're at with this current situation.

So, how can we inspire people into allyship? We need a more diverse and inclusive workplace. With inclusion comes diversity, and with diversity comes innovation. People will feel safe enough to take bigger risks, and then all of a sudden, that "warm and fuzzy" doesn't seem so risky anymore. Human resource professionals in the workplace should also focus on providing a more inclusive workplace because of many of the benefits that come with diversity and inclusion, which we will mention in a later post. In fact, I'm almost a little surprised I haven't gone over that subject yet.

But in any case, something's got to give. People cannot and will not become an ally unless they feel welcome and encouraged into filling that role. At the end of the day, all of us are at least a little bit selfish, and being altruistic and virtuous is not in everyone's best interests. We have to make the idea of allyship more appealing, and part of the way we can do that is by being more inclusive and diverse within the workplace. Barring all that though, we need to create an environment where allyship can be encouraged, or else no one will be willing to step up and take any risks. Change and innovation will not happen in the workplace if the workplace is an environment that doesn't promote positive change.

Coercion and fear can only be so effective. People should be able to come to work, and dare I say it, enjoy it, to some extent. As we have seen in many of my posts, there are plenty of barriers that limit equal access, and I still have more topics to discuss in the next couple of upcoming posts. It is kind of like a complicated clog in a pipe, where addressing one issue may not necessarily fix the entire problem at hand. These topics are exclusive, albeit very closely related. We need to tackle all of them together to promote a truly inclusive environment that inspires new ideas.

That said, I will close here for now. Good luck with your workplace. Try to be an ally if you find the opportunity to do so. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, make sure you stay close to your own personal allies, because those are the ones that will help build you up instead of tear you down.


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