Diversity and allyship are more than corporate jargon. It is important to understand these terms and how they impact our lives and organizations. By building a company culture focused on diversity, we accomplish more than we do by surrounding ourselves with people who look and think just like us. We all have the right to feel safe and accepted at work, but for some, that means more than for others.
Fostering a culture that promotes and practices allyship allows for every individual regardless of their social and ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age to feel comfortable being their most true self in the workplace. “You never know whose life you may change by being an ally,” said Hannah Lloyd, vice president of channel sales at inSOC and chair of the UK Business Technology Community’s executive council.
Lloyd highlighted diversity and allyship within the CompTIA community and ways you can be a good ally and support increased diversity and inclusivity within your organization during a CompTIA UK Business Technology Community Meeting in Bristol, UK. Here’s a look at what she had to say:
Supporting Women in a Male-Dominated Industry
It’s no secret that the technology industry has been historically male dominated. It is important to strive to build a safe and accepting culture within your business so that individuals of all genders have a path forward and feel supported and included. Within the CompTIA community and beyond the number of women in tech has grown, but there is still more work to be done, according to Lloyd.
“As a young woman in my twenties and being neurodiverse, I’ve got ADHD, I have come a long way and CompTIA has always been my safe space. To be able to do that, I have always had a lot of male allies behind me,” said Lloyd. As a young woman in tech, Lloyd understands the importance of mentorship and allyship. Being a mentor and being open to have a mentor are great ways to support women looking to learn and grow in this industry.
Implementing initiatives and mentor programs that lift women in your organization is only the first step, she added. You must look at how your organization can go beyond this to create ongoing dialogue that is open and allows for women to continue to succeed.
Life is Not Binary
Not only is it crucial for women to support other women in tech, and males to support their female colleagues, but it is important for all employees to support those that are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and those that may be transitioning, so that all individuals can feel safe and empowered at work using their chosen pronouns.
Consider how you can include and support those within your company that wish to be recognized as their most true selves. “Through trying to be inclusive we can be exclusive through putting our perceptions of gender on to others in an unconscious way,” according to Lloyd. By working towards learning about others and being open and accepting, you can create a culture within your business that helps people reach their full potential. How can you be an ally to your LGBTQIA+ colleagues? Here are a few tips to create a more inclusive workplace:
Be an ally
Stand up for what is right
Don’t make assumptions
Be open and ask questions
Be compassionately curious
Implement and join employee resource groups
This is only a sample of the things you can do within your organization to support your LGBTQIA+ colleagues. Talk with your company to find out how you can get involved and be a better ally!
Neurodiversity—The Brain is a Complex Thing
In order to make the workplace safe and comfortable for all, we must remove the labels, said Lloyd. “I’ve grown two businesses from start-up, no customers whatsoever to a global brand, we now have customers all over the world. I’ve done that because of ADHD, not in spite of it.”
We all have the right to feel accepted at work, and for neurodiverse individuals that may mean providing accommodations that promote equity.
True inclusivity starts with supporting the strengths of the neurodiverse as you would anyone else and accepting the things that they struggle with.
In order to invoke change, leaders must be committed to working to inspire individuals that come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to show them that there is a place for them in tech.
“How do we learn and support those from different backgrounds within the community and our own organizations?” asked Lloyd. Where there is a lack of diversity, there are missed opportunities. Individuals from diverse backgrounds bring things to the table that you may never have thought of before, so by lifting them up and supporting them you will often find that both your company culture and your bottom line will benefit.
What can you do next? Understand that it is not your BIPOC employees’ or coworkers' job to educate you. Being a true ally requires consistent work and learning. Take time to unlearn things to become a better ally to your BIPOC colleagues.
Not All Disabilities are Visible
Just as you can’t know if someone is neurodiverse simply by looking at them, you can’t always see disabilities either. Regardless of if a disability is visible or invisible, you must never make assumptions and allow everyone to feel included by asking questions to lift others up and help to make their voices heard.
To be an ally to your colleagues or employees with disabilities:
Educate yourself about disability issues
Speak up about injustices
Implement accessibility policies to ensure those within your organization with disabilities have the same opportunities for success
Compassionate Curiosity Goes a Long Way
Having open, sometimes uncomfortable conversations where you express compassionate curiosity is a great way to be an ally and make others feel included. “It is important to listen to understand, because most people are happy to answer questions that will help you understand their differences and how to support them and be a better ally,” said Lloyd.
Asking questions can be scary, and it can often feel like asking a question may do more harm than good. However, by avoiding asking questions you exclude someone even more than when you compassionately ask an open question.
Everyone in the world is different, and that is what makes the world so great. Our differences are what makes us unique, we all have different talents, skill, and strengths, and when taking steps to be a better ally, moving away from your own perceptions and assumptions and taking the time to appreciate and celebrate our differences is crucial. When you take the time to get to know someone, you will find that there are often more commonalities than differences.
Being a better ally starts with knowledge and education, and you cannot count on those in marginalized communities to educate you. While many individuals are happy to answer questions, it is important to also educate yourself in order to best support your colleagues.
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