Embarking on the journey of allyship is a transformative process, one that requires self-reflection, learning, unlearning, and diligent practice. It’s not just about recognizing the injustices faced by marginalized communities, but also about committing to actions that create systemic change.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the “7 Stages of the Allyship Journey.” and we’ll delve into each stage, share real-world examples, and provide practical techniques to help you navigate this path.
What Is Allyship in the Workplace?
Allyship means actively supporting marginalized groups (of which you are not part), using your own advantages to fight against unfairness together.Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
Why Is Allyship Important?
Allyship is important in companies because it provides an invaluable and important role in helping to push inclusion and equality in the workplace.
It gives a voice to marginalized groups to help them fight against the oppression that they otherwise experience.
These marginalized groups are groups of people who are kept at the fringes of society because of characteristics they have such as gender, social class, ethnicity, and disability.
This happens because dominant groups discriminate against them so that marginalized groups don’t have access to the same level of resources, rights, and opportunities that dominant groups have.
Allyship is important because it provides an approach for attempting to tackle the level of equality that exists and to make businesses more inclusive and fairer for all employees.
7 Stages of the Allyship Journey and Examples
As you can see on the main diagram at the top of this page, allyship is an ongoing process hence why we call it the “Allyship journey”.
This journey can be traced along a spiral because it is not necessarily linear. You can go back and forth between different stages. So let’s tackle one step at a time.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage of the allyship journey is Awareness.
It involves recognizing that there are social inequities, biases, and systemic discrimination that affect marginalized groups.
In the workplace, this could mean noticing that people from certain groups are underrepresented in leadership roles or that certain voices tend to be overshadowed in meetings.
For example, imagine you are a manager who notices that the majority of team leaders in the company are male, despite having a diverse team.
You have become aware that there is a power imbalance issue.
Stage 2: Education
Once you are aware of the issues, the next step is to educate yourself about them.
This involves seeking out and absorbing information about different identities, cultures, experiences, and systemic issues.
So, to return to the previous example, if you are that manager, you now decide to attend training or webinars on gender inequality in the workplace, read articles and books about the issue, and listen to podcasts featuring women leaders.
Stage 3: Self-Examination
This stage involves introspection and acknowledgment of one’s own biases and privileges.
It requires humility and honesty to recognize how we may unknowingly contribute to the problem.
For example, if you are the manager we have talked about, you might realize that you have been unconsciously favoring male employees for leadership roles because of your own bias.
Stage 4: Empathy and Understanding
This stage involves developing empathy for those who experience discrimination and trying to understand their experiences and perspectives.
This doesn’t mean co-opting their experiences, but rather acknowledging and validating them.
At this stage, you need to be prepared to listen more than you talk and to try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to try and imagine how they might feel.
So, as the manager in our example, you spend time talking with female employees to try to understand their experiences, challenges, and aspirations.
Stage 5: Building Relationships
Allyship isn’t just about understanding; it’s also about building genuine relationships with those you aim to support.
This involves active listening, respect, and mutual trust.
As the manager from our example, this might mean that you start having regular one-on-one meetings with your female employees, offering mentorship, and showing genuine interest in their career growth.
Stage 6: Taking Action
This stage involves actively challenging and changing behaviors, systems, and practices that contribute to inequality and discrimination.
It’s about moving from passive support to active participation in creating an inclusive environment.
For instance, as the manager, you might initiate a gender-neutral evaluation process for promotions, ensuring that decisions are based on merit and not influenced by unconscious biases.
You might also organize training sessions for your team to educate them about gender bias and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Stage 7: Advocacy
This stage involves helping to raise inequality issues among other people, such as within your organization or society at large.
So, you will use your privilege to advocate for marginalized groups.
This could mean speaking up against discriminatory practices, supporting policies that promote equity, or using your influence to create opportunities for underrepresented groups.
So, as the manager from our example, you may use your position to advocate for more inclusive hiring and promotion practices within the company.
You may also speak out at conferences outside your company promoting the idea that qualified female employees should be given equal opportunities for leadership roles.
Remember that allyship is a continuous journey, not a destination.
So, even after reaching the advocacy stage, it’s important to continue learning, growing, and adapting to better support marginalized groups. As such, you might want to revisit any of the other steps.
The manager in our example, based on their observation of the issue, may decide to go back to one or more of the previous stages.
So, if you were that manager, you may decide that you need to find out more about the situation of women in the workplace.
As a result, you may seek more resources to learn from. You may also want to reevaluate your biases; you might decide that you need to do more networking and affiliate yourself with different groups and so on.
This journey is flexible, and it is possible to go back and forth between steps. Ultimately, progress will be made.
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