Saturday, June 12, 2021

Trying to Be a Better Ally at Work

Something that I really appreciate about the latest push for diversity and inclusion at my workplace (and at workplaces around the United States) is the greater emphasis on what allies (i.e., people who are not systemically excluded or marginalized) can do to support those who are being held back by an unjust system. I've been on both ends of this in just my first few years in the Foreign Service: being in a position where I could advocate for someone else and where I needed someone else to advocate for me. Things like privilege, allyship, and marginalization are not simple and nobody is fully privileged or fully marginalized; people are complex beings. But it's important for those of us who have access to resources and power in some ways to make sure we're using that access to lift others up, too.

There are so many ways to be a better ally at work I couldn't possibly list them all. One thing I do recommend to everyone who wants to do better supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is to sign up for the free 5 Ally Actions weekly newsletter. It's a quick read that gives you five things to know or do to help boost others around you. And unlike other resources out there, it's accessible to laypeople (e.g., it doesn't require academic or other expertise on issues) and it's focused on the realities of modern work.

It was actually in one of these newsletters that I learned this blog isn't as inclusive as I want it to be. I often write posts where the word "here" links to the outside resource, but those can make websites more difficult to navigate for people who are blind or use screen readers for other reasons. UC Berkeley has a quick explainer on this subject, but in summary screen readers may catch the link without the necessary context when the link text says something like "Click Here". This is a longstanding habit of mine, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to try and change it so that my blog is more accessible to visually impaired readers.

There are countless small actions we can take to reduce barriers to information and opportunity that we might never know about if we don't experience it ourselves and don't seek out the experiences and expertise of others. So in addition to reading about these issues, I want to recommend all readers to volunteer their time or money to advance inclusivity where they work or study or live, too. In the Department of State, Secretary Blinken has made this issue a priority and most posts and bureaus now have Diversity & Inclusion Councils. These initiatives would benefit from broader participation, especially from allies.

Regardless of where you work, there is certainly something you can do to give back to your colleagues and build up better institutions. There are infinite ways to measure success, but I think one of them should be that you left projects, offices, programs, people, language, and everything else you had influence over a little more diverse, inclusive, and equitable than you found it.

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