Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander

Ten people's arms coming together

The Importance of Allies

Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of workplace harassment, discrimination, marginalization or bias knows it’s essential to have empathic family, friends and colleagues. So being a strong ally is enormously helpful to individuals who need support. But allyship goes beyond that: It also helps amplify the voices of a mistreated community and raises awareness that can lead to a more equitable society.

Here’s how to show your support:

  • A first step is truly appreciating the value of diversity. Studies show that diversity fosters a more creative, innovative — and productive — workforce. Diversity in the workplace is essential for businesses to compete in today’s global economy.
  • Proactively look for inequities. Be cognizant of not only the big biases, but microaggressions as well. Take note of comments people might make that others might find offensive, even if they’re not intended as such.
  • Do a thorough self-examination. Look at what advantages we might have that others are deprived of due to their race, class, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Be aware of your privilege and the resources you have that others lack.
  • Listen! Try to understand that your colleagues may have outlooks, approaches and concerns that are different from your own. Really hear what others are saying and realize that their perspective is equally valid — and that you can learn from it.
  • Be aware of colleagues behaving badly. For instance, if you have a male colleague who repeatedly cuts off women or treats them dismissively in meetings, use phrases such as “Let’s hear her out,” or “I’d like to see her finish her point,” to demonstrate your support. If you hear a someone in the office making racist, ageist, homophobic or sexist remarks, let them know that it makes you uncomfortable.
  • Talk to HR if you witness discrimination. Advocate for company policies — such as salary transparency and bans on retaliation for discussing salary — that can help to narrow the gender and racial pay gaps.
  • Share what you know. Offer to be a mentor, a sponsor and to use your standing in the organization to help others get ahead. Don’t be shy about letting people know know their success is important to you and you’d like to help them get ahead.
  • If you’re a man, think of how you can help women at work. Women have been pushing for equity for a long time, and it’s clear that it’s not going to happen without support from the other half of the population.
  • Refuse to fall into gendered roles. If you’re a dad, take the all the parental leave you’re entitled to. If you’re leaving early to pick up your child or attend a school event, let others know. Men need to lead loudly when they’re talking about their experience at home to let everyone know that this is not just a women’s issue.
  • Be an ally at home. That means sharing childcare and housework, which not only helps individual families but builds men’s awareness about the unsung tasks that must be tackled at work. Studies show that female workers are more often tasked with “office housework,” such as making coffee or taking notes. But when men are more involved at home, they are more attuned to such injustices.