Why Allyship Improves D&I and Diverse Hiring Strategies

Andrew Hargreaves Resource Solutions

Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Coral Bamgboye shares four ways to be a great ally in order to uplift colleagues from marginalised groups and drive change in your organisation.

The benefits of allyship within a workplace cannot be understated – it supports diverse approaches to hiring and fosters an inclusive workspace where everyone can thrive.

As a black female leader, there’s no question that I’ve had to fight to get my voice and presence heard and seen. I’ve worked with many clients over the past 14 years and have seen how D&I has evolved – or in some cases hasn’t – since the initial pledges made by organisations decades ago.

But then 2020 happened. A turning point.

Amid the turmoil of COVID-19, George Floyd was murdered and overnight the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement was felt across the world. Companies of all verticals and sizes (not just the large FTSE 100) were re-energising, refocusing and redefining their D&I pledges – and discovering what it means to be an ally in light of this tragedy.   

The commitment to action, the conversations, the increased use of diversity data and the very visible lack of minority representation – particularly at board level – became more apparent, and frankly, demanded attention and action from organisations.

In all that has transpired as of late, what stands out to me is the majority recognising the role they must play as allies to drive meaningful change. It starts with actively listening to the views and experiences of minorities and addressing the root issues within an organisation that prevents them from being seen or heard.

Allyship transcends roles or job descriptions – whether you’re in finance or a D&I leader – this article will help employees understand the principles of allyship and its application to building a more diverse and inclusive workspace. Without allyship, the journey towards real change cannot exist meaningfully within an organisation

What is Allyship?

Simply described: an ally is an advocate.

This is someone who recognises that they hold power and privilege, actively builds trusting relationships with minority groups and is willing to stand up, voice their support and take action to confront the inequities that underrepresented groups face within a company.

Why is Allyship important?

Research shows that only 37% of FTSE 100 and 69% of FTSE 250 companies have no ethnic minority representation at board level (parker Review 2020). Although this has increased over preceding years, still only a third of FTSE 100 boards contain female members. The very nature of being a minority precludes you from harnessing “power in numbers”. To create and foster a truly inclusive workplace, allyship should be taken meaningfully by the majority.  

Beyond the benchmark of an organisation achieving gender/race parity, allyship is a vital trait for companies who truly want to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. Allyship provides an organisation and its people enable an increased understanding of the challenges and barriers that those in under-represented or minority groups may face – and the limitations it can have their opportunities and experiences.

How to be a great ally and support driving change within your organisation

  1.  Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

    The first step of allyship doing the hard work of addressing your biases. These are difficult questions to ask yourself and to self-reflect on. Whether privately, through coaching and/or workshops, you’ll feel exposed when you confront your biases head-on – it takes time to unlearn engendered behaviour. Just remember – don’t ask what you get out of allyship, ask what others get when you become an ally.

  2. Determination – it’s not an easy road.

    The path to change is not linear, nor short. Determination is key if you want to be an ally for change – it requires work, engagement, conversations, active listening and self-learning for continued growth. When you embark on being an ally, it is a lifelong journey that isn’t put on pause when you get busy or when the going gets hard.

  3. Seek to understand, listen and engage.

    Be proactive. Have conversations. Be introspective. Within your organisation, seek out marginalised voices, and with their permission, ask if they’re comfortable sharing their story to widen your perspective and diversity of thought. Approach with sensitivity and transparency – address the fact you want to have an honest conversation about someone’s lived experience to become a better ally. Be respectful of their decision if they decide to engage or not – no one owes anyone their experiences.

  4. Be a data-informed ally.

    Look at the numbers to see what story is being told. Data is critical in highlighting whether an organisation is succeeding in breaking the status quo – and allyship requires accountability. Champion the engagement of external diverse hiring practitioners to counsel you on your processes and what can be addressed to make meaningful change.

How does being an ally help with diverse hiring?

Once you have a network of allies within your business, they become integral in fostering and developing a culture of inclusivity by being at the forefront of hiring strategies and people organisation. After all, an ally should recognise, speak out and push the envelope to address the inequities in an organisation –there’s always work to be done.

  1. Involve allies in your recruitment processes

    Ensuring allies and minorities have a stake in an organisation’s recruitment process is vital to bringing in and retaining diverse talent.

  2. Use your Influence

    Speak out and drive positive action in your recruitment policies and processes. Look for improvements that can be made based on the challenges you start to understand through conversations with under-represented groups within your organisation.

  3. More allies, more diverse hiring

    With allies at the helm, the people you recruit will have a heightened sense of awareness and appreciation to a more diverse-focussed hiring principle: a sense of belonging, connection and community

Actions however big or small carried out by the many will help us move towards that meaningful change we so badly need to do and continue to focus on.

Resource Solutions' specialist practitioners can empower you to drive meaningful change within your organisation. Find out more about our Diverse Hiring Advisory service here.