Diversity and Inclusion champions lead, manage, plan and deliver on the charter for diversity in the organization. It is difficult to image one single person driving the D&I charter of the organization. It is important for the Diversity and Inclusion champion to build allies who support the cause and provide ground level support to minority groups within an organization.
An ally is a person or group who is associated with the diversity champion in building an inclusive culture in the organization. Allies may not have the end responsibility for meeting the charter for Diversity and Inclusion however they play more of a supportive and local role within their teams. They certainly have a greater sense of acceptance and motivation to build inclusivity. They are typically like super users – who, while remaining tied to their day job, further the cause by enhancing the impact of the D&I initiatives within their local circle of influence. One of the most important tasks for an Ally is to build strong, long term, high trust relationships with the minority groups.
As a D&I practitioner, Diversity and Inclusion champions must recognize that they are not alone and that it is only natural for them to build a support system within the organization to ensure that there is progress in the initiatives. It is important to build Allies because:
- It could be emotionally draining to support minority groups and progress the D&I agenda over a long period of time. Champions are constantly exposed to emotionally surcharged situations that they hear, see, reflect on and internalize and this may be harmful for their own emotional health. By continuously supporting people who require emotional support, D&I experts can experience stress and diversity fatigue.
- Diversity is a new area of work for Organization Behavioural experts. Further, the landscape of issues that they may need to address are very broad and culture specific. The point is that as Diversity and Inclusion Champion, you may not have all the answers. Also, one’s own biases and cultural upbringing may influence your perspectives. By teaming up with other people champions can play on the collective wisdom of the group to drive forward the organization’s D&I charter.
- Diversity and Inclusion initiatives may face a plethora of challenges – each one unique to every team or subgroup with the organization. By cultivating allies, champions can have their eyes and ears in every part of the organization. This helps them understand problems, spot resistance and deliver customized solutions to every nook and corner of the organizational network. They can manage the expectations of the stakeholders as they find strength in numbers. When a group of people work together towards a certain goal, change is easily accepted as it is not seen as a personal choice or intent of the D&I champion.
Allyship involves the following:
- Advocating: Allies frequently and openly talk about the rights and needs of the minority groups.
- They proactively share growth opportunities with those who may have a disadvantage or lack of access to information related to the opportunities.
- Identify and mitigate the risk of micro inequalities that may exist in the system
- Listen to and support minority groups when needed
- Build a culture of mutual respect and tolerance by demonstrating the same on everyday basis.
- They sponsor underrepresented groups at forums that provide them development opportunities.
- They call out and protect minority groups from unacceptable behaviours at workplace.
- They support minority groups to raise issue that they may not be comfortable in raising to the management.
- They challenge those who may be biased in their decision making and mitigate the risk of unconscious biases seeping into team situations.
Allies play a vital role in furthering the Diversity and Inclusion charter of the organization. Those leading such initiatives must invest time, money and critical training effort in cultivating a battery of Allies to support cultural change in an organization.