Pride 2021: 5 ways to be a better ally
Like many businesses across the UK, we’re celebrating Pride at TrueLayer this month. In a very positive sense, celebrations have become a tradition for us, but it’s important to reflect on what still needs to be done to reach true equality.
As a company, we believe that we do our best work when there are diverse perspectives, opinions and experiences in the room. People should come to work without fear of discrimination and be able to contribute and collaborate openly, as equals.
Allyship is critical to creating this type of environment – without it, inclusion and diversity fall flat.
The most common questions that came up during our discussion were: How can I be a better ally? What does it actually look like in practice? We identified a few simple steps that anyone can take to become a better ally, and we’ve distilled them in this blog post.
First things first: what is an ally?
An ally is any person who actively advocates for those who are in a less privileged position and works to drive improvements to workplace policies, practices and culture. Most of us can be an ally because privilege is intersectional – straight people can be allies to the LGBTQI+ community, men can be allies to women, white people can be allies to people of colour, and so on.
Check your privilege
Understanding and accepting your privilege is an important step to becoming an ally. We are all human and we all have our own challenges. It’s important to check your privilege and acknowledge that you may have advantages, opportunities and resources that others do not. This video from Buzzfeed is a great way to start the conversation around privilege and includes a list of questions you can ask yourself or discuss with your co-workers.
For members of an underrepresented group, it can be exhausting to continuously educate people about inequality and injustice and recount their own negative experiences. Spend time researching and reading to deepen your own understanding of the obstacles underrepresented groups face, the history behind it and the systems that exist to enable discrimination to happen. This report from Stonewall about LGBT work in Britain is a great place to start.
Let go of your assumptions
Make an effort to respect people's identity. Even something as simple as asking someone how to pronounce their name correctly and what pronouns they prefer can make a big difference. In most workplaces, being heterosexual and cisgender is still considered the default. Avoid non-inclusive or presumptuous language like “that’s so gay,” asking women about their husbands and men about their wives, or assigning someone a gender pronoun. You can make things less awkward and stressful for people by letting go of your assumptions, asking questions and using more inclusive, neutral language. Adding your pronouns to social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn is a great place to start. You can learn more about using pronouns at work here.
Be curious and empathetic
Take an interest in the people that you work with. Getting to know your colleagues on a more personal level will help you to understand their perspective and point of view. This can be as simple as going for a coffee with someone or grabbing lunch. Start to pay more attention to how others move through the world at work and how they are treated in meetings. What stands out to you? Being curious and showing an interest in others will help to build trust and ultimately lead to more productive and collaborative relationships.
Call out bad behaviour
In a 2016 report from Out Now Global, nearly 3,000 people across 60 countries were asked in a survey what homophobic language they’d overheard at work and if they acted upon it. 57% said they were too scared to say anything and 49% were worried people might assume they are gay too if they did.
One of the most powerful things you can do as an ally is speak up. Often at work, bad behaviour can be subtle; interrupting someone, taking credit for an idea, or making an assumption about someone that isn’t true. Other times, it can be more extreme and obvious that someone is being discriminatory. If it’s safe to do so, say something. You can use general statements such as “that’s inappropriate, disrespectful, not okay,” or “this makes me feel uncomfortable” when speaking up.
If you want to learn more about allyship and how you can support the LGBTQI+ community at work, here are some of our favourite resources:
Stonewall – comprehensive information and resources on everything related to LGBTQI+
TotalJobs – short, easy to digest content on equality at work
Out&Equal – a broad range of articles, toolkits and guides for promoting LGBTQI+ equality in the workplace