Webinar Recap: Allyship at all Levels—How Organizations can Support Black Employees Right Now
As organizations across the country make their stance clear and—in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the protests that have catalyzed action around the world—support the Black Lives Matter movement externally, they also need to be thoughtful about how they are supporting their Black employees internally. Organizations and leaders have a distinctive role to play to not only address racial injustice, but actively work to combat racial discrimination and practice effective allyship.
On June 10th, Oona King, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Snap, hosted a webinar with Paradigm Director Evelyn Carter, PhD., and Paradigm’s co-founder and Head of Services, Natalie Johnson, to discuss how to practice allyship and support Black employees during this pivotal moment. You can download the webinar here, and you can find a summary of their thoughts on how allyship has changed and what organizations and leaders can do to support their Black employees below.
What is allyship right now?
At Paradigm, we define allyship as: (verb) “An ongoing commitment to learning and taking courageous action to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace.” As Oona King points out in the webinar, the current moment should be seen as a rallying cry for majority groups to practice allyship and demand action that combats discrimination and systemic racism against marginalized groups — solving racial injustice cannot fall on those most burdened by it.
Below is a summary of strategies the panelist discussed for how to support Black employees and practice effective allyship:
At the organizational level:
- Organizations should communicate their support for Black employees and racial justice both externally and internally. However, there also needs to be follow through — a statement supporting Black Lives Matter means nothing if your organization’s hiring and performance management policies continue to disproportionately negatively impact Black people.
- C-suite executives need to be brought on board and properly trained around DEI topics and issues.
- Organizations need to understand that it’s not enough to have a seperate DEI strategy, they need to incorporate DEI through their people processes and into their already existing strategic plans. Be sure to include both representation goals and retention goals in your strategy.
At the managerial level:
- It’s critically important that leaders and managers say something. Don’t let the fear of being perfect get the way in being a supportive manager and an effective ally. Welcome any feedback you may receive and learn from it.
- Be flexible in supporting your Black colleagues. Allow them to take time off, reprioritize their work, or offer to help them on any tasks.
- Understand that Black employees are having a tough time right now. Review your benefits and add additional benefits to support your employees mental health (kudos to Snap, which already had some of the most generous benefits we’ve seen). Be sure to communicate these policies to your employees.
- Amplify the voices of Black employees as much as possible. Ensure that any concerns that Black employees raise are being acknowledged and heard.
- For more tips for managers, check out our recent guide.
At the individual level:
- People who want to practice allyship need to stop making excuses and educate themselves on racial justice and how to be an ally. Good places to start include Oona’s call to action for Snap, Evelyn and Natalie’s blog post on allyship and our recent reading list for allies. Oona also recommends people watch Ava DuVernay’s the 13th and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy.
- Speak-up! Allies should be talking and trying to educate their non-Black colleagues as much as possible.
- Allies need to be sure to hold themselves accountable, and ensure that they’re following through with their commitments to create sustained change.
- Allies should embrace discomfort. Allies need to engage in uncomfortable conversations and actions and use that discomfort as a catalyst for change.
The audience also shared some additional strategies for how to practice allyship, including:
- Educate yourself, don’t ask to be educated.
- Don’t let fear hold you back from learning. You can’t expect to become an expert in one day.
- Call our racism when you see it, including microaggressions!
- Don’t leave the responsibility entirely on your Black colleagues.
- Develop a DEI action plan for your team and avoid just paying lip service.
Overall, this is an important moment for organizations, managers, and individuals to step up and do their part to combat racial injustice and support your Black colleagues. We need to ensure that we develop the strategies to practice allyship so that we can sustain this momentum and create lasting change.
June 12, 2020