Allyship in the events industry: a guide to inclusivity and diversity
Allyship is crucial to creating a truly inclusive and diverse workplace culture. Being an ally fosters a positive workplace culture that is inclusive and diverse.
Allyship is defined as supporting and helping marginalized groups that you’re not a part of. It helps create a sense of belonging and inclusion for people with historically underrepresented characteristics. In the events industry, allyship can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for attendees, speakers, and staff. It can also help ensure that events are designed to be accessible and inclusive for everyone, making sure EDI is considered at every stage.
What do aspiring allies do?
A - always center on the impacted.
To me this means don’t make it about me.
When my mind starts to make connections, when I want to share resources, or be of help, it’s important to pause and bring my attention back to those in the most vulnerable position; those who have been historically and systematically marginalized.
L - listen and learn from the oppressed.
To truly listen means to pay attention, with my ears, eyes, heart and mind.
Being a learner means showing curiosity–rather than certainty–towards another person’s experience. It’s essential to stay open-minded and avoid making assumptions about someone else’s experience.
We don’t always have to respond right away. If we need to keep listening for increased understanding, the two words “say more” open the door and give us time to process what we’re hearing.
L - leverage your privilege.
This is the one that involves most discernment. To me, this is the essence of solidarity. Remember, no one needs “saving” or “helping”. We often see injustice and intuitively want to help. That doesn’t mean it’s okay.
The definition of leverage is to “use (something) to maximum advantage”. To do that, we must have a keen awareness of privileges and what they allow people to do/have.
Y - yield the floor.
To me, yielding to the floor means always being mindful of whose voices are in the room and creating space for those who need it. To yield means to pause and wait, being mindful of my airtime and knowing when to step back.
Oppression is omnipresent. It’s our responsibility to pay attention to and notice what’s systematically at play, and then make sure there’s space for historically underrepresented communities to lead and be heard.
In relinquishing control and stepping back, it’s our responsibility to allow space and time for others. If you’ve struggled with perfectionism (like me) or you like control, this one will be hard, but it’s imperative that we sit with the discomfort and ambiguity that surfaces for us internally.
Other voices need to be heard.
A final step to consider…
Reflect and loop back
Check back in with the person/community after an exchange. An example of this kind of conversation might look like this after hearing someone’s truth:
“Thank you for sharing what you shared. I can’t begin to imagine what it must feel like to be in your shoes, but I feel grateful you trusted me to share your honest reflections.
“Also, I’m working on being a better listener and friend, and –if you’re open to it– I’d love to hear how that conversation felt for you? Is there anything I can do differently or anything you need from me?”
Being open to feedback is essential. It’s the only way this conversation keeps moving forward.
If we really want to build bridges and heal divides—deeper self-reflection and a commitment to learning is essential.
We all have blind spots. I’ll always consider myself a work-in-progress and intentionally work to uncover my biases and communicate with more consciousness as a leader.