This past weekend we celebrated Pride at Philips in Amsterdam! There was an incredible boat, crowds, music, and lots of fun fare! It was such an honour to be there to celebrate our LGBTI colleagues and to advance the conversation about inclusion and diversity in our company.
At Philips we believe life is better when #youareyou. But how exactly are we living out this motto? How are we fostering an inclusive environment and making sure that people of different backgrounds really are themselves next to us every day in the company?
Allyship is one of the most important keys to us winning this battle.
The fight for equality has ALWAYS needed more than just the voices of marginalised groups. If we are going to truly dismantle the systems of oppression that drive the social inequalities around us, we all need to show up, which means both majority and marginalised groups. In other words, we all need to become allies to each other and actively support, respect and advocate for each other to build the world we want to live in. Women need men, LGBTI people need straight people, disabled people need able bodied people and people of colour need white people. A lot of us are keen on playing our role but have no idea exactly how.
So how do we all become better allies to each other?
Here are a few lessons I have embraced along the way as a social justice advocate and a card carrying member of 2 marginalised groups, being black and being a woman.
1. Educate yourself
Education is an essential starting point to the road to allyship. It enlightens us to our privilege, sensitises us to the realities of those not like us and shows us where we can contribute. For instance being a black woman, I hold 2 marginalised identities. However I am also highly educated and a legal immigrant, privileges that position me to speak to issue such as the refugee crisis. Lastly there is a tendency by majority groups to lay the burden of this education on marginalised groups. We must remember marginalised groups do not owe you any of this emotional labour and well, there is always google. Don’t know where to start? Fear getting lost in fake news? Ask for recommendations from the people in a group you are interested in supporting. Make the effort to educate yourself and people will appreciate it, and meet you halfway.
2. Listen to and BELIEVE marginalised groups
Some of the times I have been frustrated with advocacy conversations is encountering the “not all (insert majority groups)” people. These are people who tend to respond to the experiences of marginalised groups by saying not all (insert majority group), are like the experience a member of a marginalised group just shared. This feeble attempt at offering a comforting line actually has an opposite effect. It invalidates the experiences of marginalised groups and silences them. It is not on you to prescribe how a member of a marginalised group should feel about a situation. Take the time to listen, empathise and most importantly, ask them what they need from you.
3. Speak out against injustice
Speak out on behalf of marginalised groups. Actions such as responding to someone's insensitive remark or calling attention to the lack of representation in the room can be more effective when it comes from an ally. When marginalised groups speak up, people can often see them as complaining or self-serving. For instance, I have been accused of playing the race and the woman card on several occasions. But when allies initiate a similar confrontation, people often instead view it as objective. Let’s not be bystanders to injustice.
4. Pass the mic
One of the most powerful ways of advocacy is using your platform and spaces to amplify the voices of marginalised groups. I want work at a company where when a man is invited to yet another of what turns out to be an all-male panel, they instead suggest the name of a colleague from am marginalised group who can carry the topic just as competently as they can. This is one of the most powerful ways of supporting the work of colleagues from marginalised groups that helps boost their standing and reputations. Be a champion, sponsor and amplifier of marginalised groups around you.
5. Be prepared to fail
Social advocacy work is not easy. While some issues seem very black and white at first, once you get into them you waddle into shades of grey. Inevitably you will make a mistake. Some of us are too afraid to act for fear of messing up, but I encourage all of us to ACT anyway. What is important is how you come back from your mistakes. Be humble and open to criticism and learn from your missteps.
The key ingredients to good allyship is self-awareness and a dedication to continuous improvement. Earlier this year, I learnt a phrase that I love that says, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance at the party.” Here is to a future in which we hold each other’s hands and dance on the graves of systemic oppression and social inequality!
And remember life is really better when #youareyou!
Originally posted here.
Philips is a world leading health technology company with a vision to make life better for people worldwide through meaningful innovation. Making good on this promise depends on our inclusive, passionate, inspirational, collaborative and diverse team.