Allyship | Diversity & Inclusion

How to Make, and Win, the Case for Allyship


At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we define allyship as being aware of one’s advantaged position in a specific domain and using it to actively support and include people in less advantaged positions.

That could mean advocating for the equitable distribution of opportunities (like recommending a disadvantaged coworker to speak on a panel), amplifying voices that tend to be passed over (like acknowledging a coworker’s overlooked contribution in a meeting), or working to change a system (like parental leave for parents who haven’t traditionally been granted that privilege).

Allies, in short, are the change agents of equity. Through acts of allyship, individuals can counteract and remedy systemic inequity, create equity, mitigate bias, and create inclusion.

There are times when any of us could use an ally. And any of us can be an ally.

Studies show that allies can have an outsized impact on team performance, so it makes sense that many organizations are incorporating allyship into their DE&I strategies.

But before you can launch any successful initiative, you’ll need your leaders’ buy-in (as well as the resources leaders can buy). So we’ve compiled a list of our most foundational publications on allyship to help you make the case to decision-makers in your organization.

Here’s how make, and win, the case for allyship:

1. Define the terms of the discussion

It’s easy to get lost in the thicket of vocabulary associated with DE&I. We often conflate or confuse some of the foundational terms and concepts; like equity and equality, or systemic and systematic.

The confusion can cloud our understanding of allyship and make us less likely or able to engage in fruitful discussion and meaningful action. (Or, worst yet, the confusion causes senior leaders to just ignore the topic.)

In a recent post, we unpacked some of those foundational definitions, and the science behind them, to help leaders make sense of the terms and concepts.

2. Dispel the common misconceptions about allyship

Even with a basic understanding of the terms, we can fall prey to the myths and misconceptions surrounding allyship (like the idea that allyship is the same as friendship, or that simply being aware of inequity is enough).

So, it’s important that we look closely at our understanding of allyship, and supplement it with science.

In this post, we explore the common misconceptions about allyship, and what the science really says.

3. Understand the cognitive barriers to allyship

Even with a sincere desire to become an ally, our brains encounter some cognitive barriers that make practicing allyship difficult. These challenges are natural, and we can overcome them with conscious effort.

In this post, we explain why our brains struggle with allyship, and what we can do to make it easier.

4. Explain the critical habits to scale allyship

We’ve been reviewing the research for nearly two years to identify the core habits of allyship. We’ve distilled the practice into three core habits that individuals can practice on a daily basis: identify inequity, increase equity, and drive change.

In NLI’s pilot programs with three companies, 87% of participants reported helping amplify the voice of someone not being heard at least once a week, and 72% connected with someone to
grow their allyship network.

In this post, we unpack the habits more fully so organizations can scale allyship and create more equitable workplaces.

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