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Is It Difficult To Be An Ally: How Can Workplaces Help?

The PRIDE month has just ended in June, and the entire global landscape is left buzzing with campaigns and programs that workplaces have initiated to support the PRIDE sentiment. I strongly feel that these initiatives and the buzz about PRIDE should not be short-lived for just the month that celebrates it. It needs to be an ongoing effort and collaboration that should continue around the year and for years to come. That’s when we can proudly say that we are being truly inclusive in nature.

How best can we do this? By being an Ally. An ‘ally’ in LGBTQIA community is referred to someone who supports the community by being there for the people of the community. An ally makes tangible effort through continuous actions to bring in respect to the community. For a fact, allies are the most emphatic and powerful voices of the LGBT movement. Allies are supportive and make it easier for people to be comfortable to reveal themselves; they also help others understand the importance of respect for each other, equality, and acceptance.

Of late we see more individuals being vocal about their support by calling themselves an ally. But is that enough? Here’s how to be an action-driven ally and here’s how organizations can help highlight the allies at work.

Be aware: As an ally, be informed and aware. Actively educate yourself. Discuss and learn with like- minded people, ask questions that will help to clear your doubts. Read extensively through books, articles, etc. about the history and current issues faced by the LGBTQIA Community to hear their side of the story! A leading digital transformation company launched ‘Take the Leap’ sessions for its employees to help raise awareness. These sessions invite DEI champions from across the industry to speak about their insights, challenges, and experiences for employees to become knowledgeable and show support.

A recent partnership with the PRIDE Circle, has helped this Fintech show its continued commitment towards building a LGBT+ inclusive workplace. Employees of the organization were encouraged to participate in Pride Circle’s unique campaign the #AllyChallenge. Built as a series of 14 micro challenges/actions/activities, this initiative was aimed at educating and sensitizing all participants towards the LGBT+ community and building a global group of passionate allies. Given the COVID-19 work settings, the challenge was completely virtual and leveraged gamification and recognition to drive increased engagement.

Provide a platform: As an ally, listen to what the people who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQIA community are saying – in person, on social media, in videos or in the articles you read. Keep your biases and prejudices aside and hear them out – their opinions their perspectives. Don’t hold back from showing your thoughtfulness. When you receive an invitation to an event for the LGBTQIA Community, you can simply be there to listen, learn and show your support! Organizations can set up forums or employee resource groups for employees to openly discuss about diversity and inclusion at work. Allies can participate and chair the forum as this should not be HR’s responsibilities. Organizations, therefore, should look to alleviate the role of allies.

Another way for an organization to show their commitment is to partner with local organizations such as PRIDE Circle, Campus Pride and Professional Diversity Network (PDN), which support the cause. Employees can be encouraged to subscribe to e-mail lists, follow these organizations on social media and participate in their campaigns to express support – not just once but on an ongoing basis.

Use the right pronouns. The times are changing and so should the way we address our colleagues in our teams. It will be wrong to address a group of individuals having men and women as “Hi guys” which not everyone will appreciate it. Moreover, the group may have men who do not identify themselves as men. As an ally, one should use the right pronouns when addressing others. By doing so, we are setting the right tone and creating an inclusive environment. As an organization, team leaders should appreciate their team members to use appropriate pronouns while addressing meetings or discussion groups. Ideally, employees should also mark the appropriate pronouns on their social and professional profiles.

Being an ally is an ongoing journey and trying to be one is only the beginning. As organizations there is a lot of ground to cover. As individuals, every small step counts.

The author is the Global Head of Operations at Synechron Technologies and heads the organization’s DEI Initiative named Same Difference

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