5 ways to be a workplace ally

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Authored by QBE

Allyship is more than just believing in equality; it’s taking action to build a diverse and inclusive workplace at every level of our organisation

“Being an ally can’t just be about nodding when someone says something we agree with – important as that is. It must also be about action,” said Kamala Harris.

“It’s our job to stand up for those who are not at the table when life-altering decisions are made. Not just those people who look like us. Not just those who need what we need. Not just those who have gained an audience with us. Our duty is to improve the human condition - in every way we can, for everyone who needs it.”

At QBE we believe everyone has the power and opportunity to be an ally and make a difference in creating and building an inclusive workplace, no matter their role, seniority, or department.

But what does it mean to be an ally – especially in the workplace?

Action, as Kamala noted, is central to demonstrating effective allyship and this action is exactly what we want to encourage during Pride Month, at QBE and in many other organisations.

You don’t have to fully understand what it feels like to be part of a marginalised or oppressed group, but allies can share ownership of the action required, whilst acknowledging existing positions of privilege.

Good allies act to champion other individuals or groups, promoting both equality and diversity, whether that’s in the context of Pride, or for any other minorities in the workplace.

Five ways to be a workplace ally:

LISTEN:  

Listening is an essential first step when it comes to creating a welcoming environment from which to action effective allyship. Try to make conversations a comfortable experience by:

  • Mirroring language people use when speaking about themselves, including personal pronouns
  • Avoid interrupting others when they’re talking
  • Listen with the goal of understanding, rather than mentally preparing your own response or defence
  • Believe in other people’s lived experiences as they describe them
  • Acknowledge new information, opinions and feelings before offering insights, your own opinions or solutions

LEAD:

Good allies lead by example. You don’t have to be part of a minority group to attend special events, networking opportunities or celebrations organised by diverse groups in the workplace. Allies are a welcome addition, and event attendance is a great way to boost the profile of the Pride networks – or any other minority group.

Showing your colleagues that you are interested and invested in issues that don’t directly impact you/your work shows solidarity and helps build a culture of inclusion. Inclusion is most powerful when it’s demonstrated from the top down, at every level of the organisation. You could also invite and encourage senior leaders to attend with you, or to promote the diversity networks, helping member of those groups feel that work is a place they are seen, valued, and welcomed.

EDUCATE:

Stay curious! It’s important to never make assumptions about other people or believe you know it all. Take some time to educate yourself about the experiences and needs of underrepresented communities, especially those in your own team. Allies can draw further information from a range of sources including:

  • Books, articles, and blogs
  • Vlogs and video content
  • Television documentaries
  • Live and online events
  • Following thought leaders on social media

Remember, it is your responsibility to educate yourself – it is not the job of your minority colleagues. Learning is an opportunity for personal growth and with some time and effort put into education, new insights will help foster a culture of inclusion in your workplace.

CELEBRATE:

Shining a spotlight on the work of underrepresented groups is a powerful move. Too often, we find it difficult to promote our own successes, but as a member of a minority/underrepresented group, it can often feel even more challenging to put yourself forward for attention or recognition.

An ally can champion an individual for their professional ideas, innovations, and achievements, alongside endorsing their work to senior leaders and recommending them for new opportunities and/or promotions.

ADVOCATE:

Advocating for others is a key component of active allyship and it’s good to keep an eye out for any opportunities to do this. Advocating actions can be big or small, whether it’s flagging an internal policy that needs further discussion, or the chance to nominate an individual for an opportunity they might not feel is accessible.

Speak up for, not over, the voices that need to be heard - make sure to pause and check that you’re always focusing on the voices of the community and not yourself. Allies can be a great way for marginalised groups to have their voices amplified, but it’s just as important to step back at the right moment and not take up space.

Allies should also amplify individual voices. Getting into the habit of calling on those colleagues to contribute insights during a key meeting, present their work, speak at an event, or give feedback on an important project builds their professional profile, and places their valued experience and expertise back on a level playing field.

QBE’s commitment to an open and inclusive workplace

QBE has a long-standing commitment to supporting and enabling all colleagues to bring their authentic selves to work. QBE’s Pride Network promotes and supports an open and inclusive workplace culture where diversity is acknowledged, respected, and celebrated. It draws on the unique backgrounds, experiences, and networks of  LGBTQI+ employees and allies to build an inclusive workplace.

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About QBE

QBE European Operations is part of QBE Insurance Group, one of the world’s leading international insurers and reinsurers and Standard & Poor’s A+ rated. Listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, QBE’s gross written premium for the year ended 31 December 2018 was US$13.7 billion.

As a business insurance specialist, QBE European Operations offers a range of insurance products from the standard suite of property, casualty and motor to the specialist financial lines, marine and energy. All are tailored to the individual needs of our small, medium and large client base.

We understand the crucial role that effective risk management plays in all organisations and work hard to understand our clients’ businesses so that we offer insurance solutions that meet their needs – from complex programmes to simpler e-trading solutions – and support them in minimising their risk exposures. Our expert risk management and rehabilitation practitioners focus on helping clients improve their risk management so that they may benefit from a reduction in claims frequency and costs.

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