Allyship in the workplace: how majority groups can support minority groups

Allyship in the workplace: how majority groups can support minority groups
Opinion: Career Leaders

Media companies need to be doing more to create a diverse and thriving workforce.


A desire to support minority groups within workplaces is becoming more commonplace, but many businesses are still falling short of eradicating discrimination.

A recent report found that 36% of UK adults have experienced discrimination in the workplace — a figure that rises to more than 50% amongst US employees. Equally as concerning, only 54% of those who reported discrimination internally had their issue fully resolved.

It’s clear that allyship in the workplace is needed now more than ever. Employers have to be willing to change the way they run their businesses, and employees in privileged positions must become better at calling out the behaviours around them.

This isn’t about targeting or blaming those of privilege, but showing them how they can become true allies. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes people don’t appropriately reflect on their own — or their colleagues’ — actions. This is highlighted by the fact that only 29% of people speak up when they witness bias, while almost a third completely ignore it.

Something has to change.

A positive work environment

The most successful workforces are the ones where diverse voices from different backgrounds, races, genders, ages, neurodivergences, etc, can work together in an environment where all of their ideas and concerns are equally considered. Creating this culture has to start at the top of the business.

Employers have a duty not just to their employees, but to the future of their businesses. This duty means creating a workplace that is accepting and inclusive.

Creating this environment starts with employers ensuring they are giving the same opportunities to everybody across the company. Minority groups often feel they have to change who they are to have any chance of progressing, however talented they may be. This can cause doubts over whether they feel they truly belong in the organization.

The hurdles placed in front of “less privileged” employees should not be greater in number than the ones in front of privileged individuals. If a person is talented enough and deserving of an increase in pay and/or a promotion, how good they are at their job should be the only characteristic that’s looked at.

Employers should consider forming internal working committees dedicated to minority groups. These groups can regularly meet and come up with a range of ideas to promote a more inclusive workplace where everybody’s needs are taken into consideration. They can also help to provide an education to the wider team about what actions may be deemed inappropriate, and help all staff to learn more about each other.

Employers can take this a step further by ensuring they listen and address any concerns that are raised to them — whether they can relate to discrimination or otherwise. That may sound like an obvious point, but quite clearly many employers don’t take the issues raised with them seriously enough.

Being a true ally

The responsibility to create an environment that is welcoming to everybody isn’t just down to employers. Everybody is an adult at the end of the day. Being an ally means not standing by and waiting for somebody else to take action.

Employees need to become active bystanders. If they hear something that they perceive to be discriminatory in any way, they should be calling it out. Sometimes they may feel uncomfortable speaking up in the moment — many people actively avoid confrontation. But even bringing it up with a boss, HR, or head of people at the earliest possible convenience goes a long way to putting an end to those biases in a workplace.

This also means employees should not just call out their peers, but also their bosses if they are showing biases. Though perhaps even more difficult than calling out peers, to create a positive work environment, any discrimination should be equally highlighted both from the bottom-up as it is from the top-down.

The media and advertising industry has made strides toward becoming more inclusive and, though generally moving in the right direction, it still has a long way to go. It’s up to all people within majority groups to ensure they are working toward creating a more positive environment for their peers from minority groups. Having a happy and diverse workforce is not just a positive step for the world, but one toward a thriving business.  

Sally Laycock is UK CEO at Incubeta.

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