As Pride Month draws to a close, corporate accounts all over the internet will be removing their rainbow logos and resuming their usual posts. But being LGBTQ+ isn’t something that stops July 1 and reappears the next June. Working at OPEN Health, I consider it important that we continue to nurture an inclusive atmosphere—a place where everybody can feel comfortable, safe, and confident in being themselves—during Pride Month and beyond.
For this to truly be the case at our workplace, I believe that we all need to practice allyship all year round. Having a diverse team where everybody feels welcome can widen our perspective, remind us of our blind spots, and help us work toward better solutions for all of our users—and that can only be a good thing!
What does allyship mean?
Allyship is an ongoing process of supporting marginalized groups and effecting positive change for others. In the workplace it can mean taking actions to promote empathy, encourage inclusion, and allow everybody to feel heard, recognized, and valued.
Some aspects of allyship may feel uncomfortable at first—and that’s okay! We may not be used to speaking up, or it may not feel right to question certain things. Just by reading and considering these things, we can start to help embed inclusion into our day-to-day work lives.
How can we become better allies?
- Acknowledge our privilege
Understand how we might experience privilege in the workplace due to our skin color, gender, or background, and use that insight to support others who may be less privileged. It is a misconception that privilege only means coming from a wealthy background; it can just be rights and advantages you have due to identifying with or being born into a specific group. Recognizing and understanding this can be the first step to becoming a better ally.
- Educate ourselves
Do research all year round—read, listen, watch, and deepen our understanding of the experiences of underrepresented groups in our industry. It is important that we don’t rely on marginalized people to educate us, and instead we do the work ourselves to understand the issues others might face, so that we can better support one another.
- Help all voices to be heard
In meetings it can be hard for everybody to speak up sometimes. Thus, consider assigning specific time in the meeting for everybody to have a chance to talk. Consider deferring to colleagues who may be the subject matter experts, even if they feel less confident about speaking up. When organizing a meeting, think, “Whose perspective might be useful to include here?”
- Call out potentially hurtful language
We all like to joke and have a good time at work, but it’s important that we call out comments that may use an underrepresented group as the subject of a joke. Even if a person in that group is not present, we can still let somebody know when a joke is not appropriate and explain why. It may also be harder for marginalized people themselves to feel like they can speak up and say, “This doesn’t make me feel good.” We can help by looking out for one another.
- Respect one another’s gender pronouns
People may prefer to be referred to as “he/him,” “she/her,” or “they/them.” As an ally we can listen and adjust our language when speaking to or about somebody. It’s a very small change for us, but it can make a big difference in helping others feel welcome as their true selves.
- Be prepared to learn and accept feedback
Part of educating ourselves is recognizing that we may have been wrong in the past—either regarding our actions or our preconceived notions. Being an ally means continually learning, so it’s okay to admit that we were wrong, learn from missteps, and apply lessons learned to future situations.
I believe that if we consider these things in our day-to-day working life and put empathy at the forefront of what we do, we can all contribute to making OPEN Health a great and inclusive place to work all year long.