Episode five of the Tech’s Leading Women vodcast was released earlier this week, with more amazing women offering their thoughts on how the industry can become a better and fairer place for those from all backgrounds. This week’s discussion centred on the subject of allyship, and in particular how men can become champions for the female talent in their workplace and beyond.
Host Kashif Naqshbandi, Chief Marketing Officer at Tenth Revolution Group, was joined by Sarah Liu, Founder and Managing Director of The Dream Collective, Dax Grant, CEO of Global Transform, and Annie Gardner, MD at Slalom. Together, they discussed removing the guilt associated with having a seat at the table, and instead thinking about what you can do with that privilege.
Here are three key takeaways from the discussion.
The need for action, not words
Sarah revealed an interesting survey from The Dream Collective that suggested a lot of men feel that diversity has been used to beat them, despite them also admitting it’s had no effect on their own professional situation. This could mean a blanket agreement on diversity without actually understanding or believing in what’s needed, and subsequently taking action. She said: “What we uncovered was that 52% of these white-collar men are now feeling ‘reverse discrimination’ and feeling that diversity and inclusion initiatives could put them in a disadvantaged position. I thought that was really interesting that the research uncovered that, but at the same time when they were asked if their opportunity at a workplace actually changed over the past two years, 82% or 83% actually said, no, it hasn’t changed, or in fact it has improved.”
She continued: “So on one hand, they’re feeling that because there’s an increased awareness, education and scrutiny on technology companies to build inclusive culture, to hire diverse talent, I would say the attitude sometimes, whilst we see a lot of good progress, we also see some people, particularly from men or the majority, are feeling reverse discriminated. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the perception that’s currently being experienced, but that’s actually not the reality. So, are we making true change or are people saying yes to these things because they feel that’s the right thing to do and say, and I think it’s really important for us to bring that extra layer of scrutiny to what we’ve seen in the market.”
What makes a great ally?
Dax then touched on some of the characteristics needed to be a truly excellent champion for those that are under-represented in the workplace. She said: “An allyship is really about looking out for others and supporting them and looking for opportunities where you can be proactive in helping them move towards their ambitions, being aware of other people, their talents and always scanning for opportunities where you can introduce, where you can elevate someone, give them their next chance or help connect people really to create greater good. So allyship is a very selfless characteristic, it requires quite a lot of focus on recognising talents, recognising opportunities and putting all those things together and being very honest, humble and respectful about all of that in terms of how all those things are connected.”
Annie followed on with some further advice, adding: “Some people don’t know where to start. If you don’t feel that you can be a role model yourself, then find others that you think can be a suitable for the person that might need some allyship. Go talk to the people in your circle and the people in their circle and find people and do some connecting, but be proactive and deliberate about it by helping set someone out or help them move, and progress along that journey. Then I’d say, listen, know, and pay careful attention to each person’s individual situation and circumstance and what might make a difference to them, because what might make a difference to them is likely to not be the same thing to someone else, and speak out!”
The importance of being pro-active
One important strand of allyship that Sarah raised was in the way that people champion each other. She said: “I think it’s really important for us to differentiate being a passive supporter versus active advocate as a vocal ally. That’s usually where I think, it’s not a misunderstanding as such, but people need to take the concept of allyship so much further. A lot of times we do hear people say, ‘oh yeah, I support diversity’, but what does that support look like and how are you expressing it in a way that comes with accountability? So, I would really take the allyship concept further. It’s not about being a passive supporter, it’s about being an active and vocal ally—creating opportunities and becoming accountable for their progress.”
Annie also emphasised how important it is to be making a pro-active effort in this regard, offering a number of actionable ways allies can make a start. She said: “Spotting talent early, being deliberate about it, having that kind of authentic and vulnerable conversation where people feel comfortable saying what it is that is needed to help keep them motivated, help keep them within the organisation, help them keep them growing and feeling fulfilled, finding really exciting roles, stretch roles, and encouraging people to actually apply for them because they may not think they’re good enough to apply themselves, but finding them and then supporting them as they start those roles. And then the other thing I’d say is thinking about things like stay interviews. We always do a leave interview, but we often don’t do a stay interview. And wouldn’t it be great to understand why people are saying well, why they might be thinking about not staying and then be able to do something proactively to intervene at a moment where you can.”
All three members of our panel added a wide range of practical advice, as well as insight and experience they’ve gained across their own careers. You can watch the full episode, as well as the entire series, here.