The Power of Allyship: Tips for Creating a Supportive Workplace

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to coach men.

Usually they come to me because they either have been told they need to become a better colleague to their female counterparts or they have identified their inability to work well with women as a shortcoming of theirs. I’m always intrigued when a man comes to me and asks me to help them.

The other day I was coaching a man who wanted to improve his relationship with his female peers. He is in a c-suite position and the lack of diversity around the table is finally getting to him. He shared that there was one lone woman around the table for the past two years. He always thought she shared excellent ideas that helped the company move forward. However, she recently left and gave the men an earful on her way out. He acknowledged that other women had done the same thing; however, they weren’t the same caliber of women as this one, which is what made him stop and take notice this time. She tore into him about the non-stop competition for the limelight she not only felt from him; she also said it was felt at every level of her own organization.

Finally wanting to become an ally of women, this man searched for a women’s leadership coach to help him and my name came up. He’s a strong, driven white man who admits that he hasn’t had many hardships in his life. He wasn’t surprised to find competition at the top of his strengths, and said, “I credit competition with allowing me to be successful in school, sports and now in my career.” Right after he said that, he stopped and said that his only measures of success his whole life were A+ grades in school, the most notable player in whatever sport he played, and the best title and pay at work. Now, he sees that his competition has totally steamrolled other people and stolen the ability of others, including this woman who he highly respected, to celebrate their own successes.

I asked him who he wanted to be as a competitor to women and he said he wanted to be a motivator who helps women become number one in their lives and in the workplace. He recognized that he could have celebrated this woman for being number one in her own successes and achievements and it would not have detracted from him being number one in his.

At the end of our coaching session, he committed to reaching out to the woman and apologizing for the way he treated her. He also said he was going to let his peers and direct reports know that he is working on addressing this competitive and gendered bias in his life and would ask others use the word “ouch” when they hear bias in his words so he can stop and become more aware of his biases in his life.

I thought I would use this opportunity to share some tips on how to create a supportive workplace and become an ally.

Recognize your privilege and biases

Understand that as a white woman or as a person without a disability, you may have certain advantages and experiences that others do not have. Take time to reflect on your own biases and acknowledge how they may influence your interactions with others.

Listen and learn

Actively listen to the experiences and perspectives of minorities in your workplace. Seek to understand the challenges they face and the unique contributions they bring to the table. Educate yourself on equality issues and the importance of creating an inclusive environment.

Support and advocate

Use your position and influence to support and advocate for minorities in your organization. Amplify their voices by giving credit where it is due and actively promoting their ideas and achievements. Encourage other colleagues to do the same.

Challenge biases

Be aware of biases that may exist in your language and actions. Challenge these biases when you encounter them, both in yourself and in others. Encourage open conversations about bias and create a safe space for feedback and dialogue.

Apologize and make amends

If you realize that you have contributed to an unfair or biased environment, take responsibility for your actions. Apologize sincerely and commit to making amends. Reach out to those you may have affected, like my client did, and demonstrate your willingness to change.

Create an inclusive culture

Foster an inclusive culture where everyone’s contributions are valued and celebrated. Encourage collaboration and teamwork, rather than fostering a cutthroat competitive environment. Emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion within your organization.

Continuously improve

In times of change, it’s essential to embrace continuous learning. Seek out opportunities to acquire new skills, expand your knowledge base or explore new areas of interest. This proactive approach to learning not only enhances your adaptability but also increases your value as a leader in the ever-changing professional landscape. I think I’ll encourage my daughter to invest in bedazzling jeans, instead of ripping them. Who doesn’t love a little sparkle on their jeans? One never knows where these new ideas and skills can take her.

Remember, being an ally is not about taking away opportunities from others. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can thrive and succeed.

Work with me

Are you struggling to create an inclusive environment at work? Maybe you know you need to change or you are trying to shift your work culture. Click here and schedule a time to talk. I welcome the opportunity to work with you and your organization so everyone feels like they belong.

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