Each June, as we celebrate Pride Month, LGBTQ+ communities are more visible than ever. This can be encouraging for some, but also very revealing for others. What does it mean to be an ally in the consulting industry as we navigate the daily hustle and bustle of client interactions, project deliverables, and dynamic teams across consultancies and clients?
Being an ally is a lifelong process of building and nurturing supportive relationships with underrepresented, marginalised or discriminated individuals or groups with the aim of advancing inclusion. It is about progress, not perfection. Allyship is active, not performative, and requires frequent and consistent behaviour – that goes beyond Pride month and does not fade with the celebrations. It is not about fixing others; it is about empowering them. For me, Pride Month is a time to reflect year after year on the progress I am making by educating myself, learning more, knowing better and acting better.
Through careful reflection, listening, and action, what can you do to make an impact?
It all starts with learning – be curious to learn about the challenges faced by the community at work and across society. Familiarising yourself with key historical events to help understand historical struggles that the community has faced. Understand the origins of Pride, the legacy of protest, and the political struggle to reach the present day that made it possible to show up in Pride parades across the world.
Many charities and organisations offer LGBTQ+ workshops, panels, and podcasts, along with quality literature to get yourself up to speed about the issues they face in the workplace and wider society. Every ally has to start somewhere, and I know from experience that absorbing the right documentary or book at the right time can be life-changing.
Ongoing, year-round education is fundamental to being an effective LGBTQ+ ally, initiating more open conversations. Educating yourself can also make you a role model to your peers who are potential allies struggling to find ways to show up, further encouraging them to step up and contribute to a more inclusive workplace.
Know this can be an intimidating experience; at times, we can all fear saying something insensitive or offensive in front of others. To lean in with security, embrace these interactions as the listener. Allies must continue to build their understanding by letting others share their experiences and creating safe spaces for these exchanges.
Visible in your Allyship
A great step towards inclusion is through visibility – of people and allies, efforts, and actions in the right direction.
Allyship can create a bridge connecting the lives of LGBTQ+ to others, taking steps towards creating a more inclusive workplace and society. It’s especially powerful when leaders speak up as visibly committed allies – it helps amplify the quieter voices and creates an environment of inclusion and makes the workplace a safer space for LGBT+ colleagues.
Being visible in your allyship as a consultant can have added layers of complexity as one works across diverse clients, industries, and geographies, with different laws and varying degrees of openness and views on the topic. While it creates the need for a stronger support system and allies for some, it is worth being aware and conscious of your actions. Liaising with the leadership can better help you understand the client and going the extra mile to learn and find ways to show up will indeed be appreciated.
Be sensitive and listen more, pick on non-verbal cues to better under how your client feels about the matter. Remember to be human, engage and lead with empathy and be open to change.
Conscious of Language
The dictionary is a record, not a rule book. Allyship is not knowing it all and never making mistakes. That’s impossible. It’s putting in the effort and not expecting trophies. The effort is important because it does take time, whether it’s a new name, a new pronoun, or using gender-neutral language in general, e.g., about someone’s partner, to avoid making assumptions.
It might make it easier to empathise with why respecting someone’s pronoun is important but I still need to practice. Just occasionally now I might slip up. When this happens, I apologise quickly and move on. These things happen and it’s our intentions and our reactions that matter more than the honest mistake.
Ally All Year Long
It can be tough to continue to think about allyship after the Pride month celebrations conclude. Reevaluating your acts of allyship throughout the year, checking in with yourself, and asking questions to see how you are progressing – not to score but checking the direction.
Every three months, consider reevaluating other acts of allyship you can take by adding reminders in your calendar to take just 15 to 20 minutes may help expand your allyship skills. As you evaluate your approach to being a stronger LGBTQ+ ally. Do you feel like you’re making an impact?
There is a list of questions here that you can ask yourself – How to Celebrate Pride Month Today, Tomorrow, and All Year Round (With Examples of Actionable Allyship) (linkedin.com)
Allies must recognise they often hold privilege and power to influence larger systems. While they can (and should) do their part to help individuals in the workplace, the greatest leverage may be impacting larger systems at work that inhibit inclusive cultures from the top down. Allies are often in the unique position to challenge poor behaviors among their peers and spark change in hiring or promotion systems that systemically reduce opportunities for diverse talent.
In a hybrid world that seems to be our reality, it can be easier for some and difficult for others to show up as their true authentic selves and allies to find better ways. It leaves us with a challenge and opportunity to find creative solutions that work – to think beyond coffee chats, coaching circles, and checking in.
Sources and Recommended Reads
- 7 Ways to Practice Active Allyship (hbr.org)
- BBC Sounds – Pride & Joy – 10 Ways to Be An LGBTQ+ Ally
- 5 Simple Ways To Be A Better Ally At Work (forbes.com)
- Your Rainbow Logo Doesn’t Make You an Ally (hbr.org)
- Here’s How To Really Support LGTBQ+ Family And Friends Instead Of Just Saying You Do | LittleThings.com
- The Guide to Allyship
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Written by Agrima Bhutani, Young MCA Vice Chair for Diversity & Inclusion