Allyship - breaking barriers at the workplace and beyond!

Nivedita Sarbadhikari discusses allyship as an ongoing commitment to support marginalised groups both professionally and personally. It involves empathy, recognising one's privilege, and taking proactive steps to foster inclusive environments. She highlights notable actions such as Danish male football players taking pay cuts for gender pay equality, exemplifying true allyship.

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Allyship is a very simple yet powerful word. It can be applied in all walks of life both professionally and personally. The word ‘Ally’ comes from the Latin word ‘alligare’, which means to bind to. A true Ally is not a sprinter but a marathon runner. Allyship is a continuous effort and a consistent commitment. At the heart of it lies empathy and acknowledgement of one’s privilege that drives someone to be an Ally in the first place. If someone is committing to being an Ally one must be resilient, have the art of listening and learning and ultimately drive action by openly advocating and supporting. In short, you not only need to speak up, but you also need to roll up your sleeves and do more through proactive actions to showcase your commitment to Allyship. One can be an Ally for a colleague, a partner, a friend and even communities making it inclusive and equitable for all.

Since it is Pride Month, let’s start with that. This is a month to celebrate and recognize the LGBTQIA+ community. An LGBTQIA+ Ally is someone who supports and advocates for their rights, dignity and overall well-being. They challenge discrimination, biases and stereotypes, are vocal in their advocacy and constantly strive hard to create an inclusive environment irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identities. The end goal - to promote equality for all.

In addition to being an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, Allyship can have many forms at work and beyond. It need not have to be massive actions; the magic lies in simple, small yet powerful actions that can collectively make an impact. 

  • Helping a new mother ease back into her professional life without feeling overwhelmed. Also helping a new father to do the same! 

  • Conducting inclusive interviews by keeping personal biases and assumptions in check and actually giving a chance to underrepresented communities to integrate into the workforce.

  • Mentoring, coaching or simply guiding someone to navigate through tough situations.

  • Giving the shy ones a ‘voice’ and asking them to speak up or speak on their behalf so they too feel included.

  • Using ‘pronouns’ and standing up for underrepresented people.

  • Listen to understand and not to respond. Focused listening is key to being an effective Ally.

  • Sharing the ‘spotlight’. If you move up, try and help someone else do the same. Share your learnings, access and opportunities. Recognize, acknowledge and celebrate the successes of others.

  • Recognize exclusion and course correct. E.g. For persons with disability, if accessibility is an issue, make sure there is prompt action to change it.

  • Recognize where Allyship is actually needed. We would love to do more but we also must not lose sight of what’s truly important. Pick, choose and champion where it’s actually needed.

  • Being an Ally Is hard. One is often faced with dilemmas and situations where it may seem like you need to compromise. Stand tall and strong in situations that question your moral and ethical sensibilities and make hard calls and stances where needed.

  • Become a molecule. Enable more people to become Allies. It is very fulfilling when you have more people join the Allyship club and fight for a cause.

As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2023, the global gender gap score when considering the 102 countries covered continuously from 2006 to 2023 closed at 68.6% advancing by a modest 4.1 percentage points since the first edition of the report in 2006. At the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to reach full parity! 

Men being Allies for women at work, partnering with them for their success and fighting for equality can go a long way in fostering a culture of inclusion and equality. At home, men can advocate Allyship by first acknowledging their privilege. Then move on to things like sharing equal responsibilities of household chores, childcare and elderly care. Emphasis on the word ‘equal’! 

A perfect example is the Procter & Gamble India and #Ariel campaign for relentlessly trying to change the narrative around the gendered household chores. They must speak up against gender stereotypes, biases and sexism. A good place to start is by treating house staff, drivers, community workers and caregivers with dignity and respect. Be a role model for women’s advocacy and lead by example. People watch and learn. Listen to their stories and struggles and educate yourself. Women have high EQs, be kind and emotionally available for them, and support them in everything they do, no matter how big or small. This also means appreciating them by showing gratitude. Treat them as equals and involve them in every decision that needs to be made.

I want to end by highlighting a very recent and powerful example of strong Allyship in action. It has all the right mix - calling out gender discrimination, positive role modelling and advocating for equality. As per the global players union FIFPRO, Denmark’s male football players have decided to refuse a pay rise for playing for the national team in order to ensure their female counterparts get equal basic pay. Players from Denmark’s men’s national soccer team refused a pay raise and accepted a 15% ‘pay cut’ in their insurance coverage to allow their female counterparts in the women’s national team to receive equal pay and a 50% ‘raise’ in their insurance coverage. They also chose not to demand any changes in the conditions in their new agreement. It is an ‘extraordinary step’ for gender equality in the sport and everyone including fans are going gaga over it!  This is what allyship in action looks like!

In superman’s words, an Ally holds a lot of power and with great power comes great responsibility. Be that Ally and partner today!

The article is penned by Nivedita Sarbadhikari, Global People Lead - DEI & People Director - India and SEA, Landor.

Disclaimer: The article features the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the stance of the publication.

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