An ally is someone that aligns with and supports a cause with another individual or group of people. The importance of allyship in the workplace is increasingly talked about as highly beneficial to organisational culture and DEI goals. Being an ally to LGBTQ+ colleagues, and in the wider community, can be a powerful agent of change. As a starting point we’ve put together 3 key factors of “good allyship” below, and some links to further information and resources to learn more.
Mind Your Language
Take the time to educate yourself. What are the preferred terms and definitions used by the LGBT+ community?
Listen to the language that colleagues use to talk about themselves, their lives, and their identities. Check if people have preferred pronouns. If you don’t know someone well, stick to neutral language that doesn’t assume their sexual orientation. For example, you could ask a colleague if they had a nice weekend with their ‘partner’ as opposed to ‘boyfriend’ / ‘wife’.
Be open to correction. If you accidentally call someone who identifies as ‘they’ by a gendered pronoun, simply acknowledge this slip up, correct yourself and move on. For example: ‘I had a meeting with Lucy and she – sorry, I mean they – had a great idea.’ Similarly, be respectful if you are corrected by others.
Be an Active Bystander
Call out or question dismissive remarks when you hear them. Pushing back against ‘throwaway’ comments helps others to get it right and disrupts ways of thinking that have proved harmful to marginalised communities.
Simply holding others accountable for their language and behaviour, calmly correcting and educating others on the effects that their comments, statements and generalisations have on members of marginalised groups, can be a powerful form of allyship and advocacy.
For example, you could question a generalisation: ‘Everybody?’ ‘Always?’ Or give the person a moment to reflect: ‘Could you explain that please?’ or ‘I’m surprised to hear you say that.’
Listen Without Judgement, Check What is Needed
It’s possible that a colleague will come to you for support in sharing their identity with their family, friends, or colleagues. The key is that if someone shares their personal story with you, it’s important to understand from them how you can be the ally they need.
Ask them what they would like you to do and in what ways you can help. To begin with it may well be acting as a sounding board, giving them time and a supportive listening ear.
Ensure you clearly understand what they need: for example, check if this is something they are comfortable sharing with others before you disclose it to anyone else or take any action. Never ‘out’ anyone without their consent, since this could be very turbulent and have far-reaching impacts.
Allyship is important, and worth learning more about. For more information, check out the external resources below: