Positive workplace environments are crucial to business and individual success. Inclusion plays a huge part in that. EY Research shows that almost two-thirds (63%) of Gen Z staff consider working for an employer that shares their values ‘very or extremely’ important. These staff prioritize fulfilling careers where they feel valued over making money. McKinsey recently reported that allyship is a critical success factor for DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives. It also fosters a positive future for all your staff and colleagues. Some experts even declare that ‘allyship’ is the top skill set of 2023.
Often, we encounter vague statements about what it means to be an ally. Here are some concrete examples from the fintech industry that demonstrate effective allyship.
As a disabled individual who works in the fintech sector, Kris Foster, founded Open Book to drive better disability awareness. He talks about the ‘transformative power’ of allyship. He says being an ally means supporting those around you. You can do this by “challenging stereotypes, building deeper relationships and helping others see the human behind the preconceptions and prejudices.” Kris shares different perspectives and lived experiences through publications, podcasts, events, and panel debates. He believes that “real allyship” is found in those “who pass the mic” to allow more voices to be heard.
Show Paths To Success
Maggie Jiang is VP of Transaction Banking at the Norwegian Financial Services group, DNB. She says being an ally is about ‘community outreach’. She is passionate about “demonstrating that there is more than one path to success.” She says this is especially important to “communities of people that don’t know what’s possible.” She does this through programs of connection and education. Encourage sharing atypical career routes and career progression.
Call Out Bad Behavior
Sarah Persov, Engineering team lead at the Fintech Dojo, believes that allies use the power of their action through ‘calling it out’. She says, “don’t just say you are accommodating. Be accommodating. Don’t just say you’re going to empower someone. Empower them and stand up for them and stand by them.” She used an example of someone in a meeting standing up and saying, that’s not ok – this is not how we should treat people. To ‘stand by’ someone includes asking people what they want. You can set business standards for meetings and ideation sessions.
Sarah Wachter is Communications and Brand Manager at the European embedded banking company Swan. She says that recognition is a form of Allyship and that it works well when spotlighting great work, regardless of hierarchy. You should “notice whose work is not getting highlighted as much as others, for whatever reason.” Whether C-suite or intern, celebrating great work and following up with opportunities to lead and grow is beneficial. This mindset should be spread across teams, “you don’t have to be in management to hold others up.”
Amélie Berille is Swan’s Talent Acquisition Manager. She emphasizes the need for nurturing ‘fresh talents’ over ‘migrating senior’ ones. “If you only want to recruit senior profiles from strong engineering schools…you’ll be moving talent from one company to another.” By doing this she says, “you don’t bring anything to the ecosystem.” Allies will focus more on hiring, coaching, and training up juniors.
Seek Accessible Opportunities Everywhere
According to Amélie and Sarah, Swan’s product team are their “biggest allies and inclusivity champions.” Across the company, Swan tries to ensure that every interaction is accessible. This includes looking at tech documentation, marketing materials, website, and more. “What names are we using? Do those names represent diversity of nationality and gender?” Sarah asked, adding, “we make sure we aren’t labelling those John Doe every single time.”
Build An Inclusive Environment
CJ Barton is the COO at WealthKernel, a flexible embedded investing firm. To build better environments, they have a “zero tolerance for bro culture or derisive banter.” CJ focuses their allyship efforts to encourage all viewpoints and debate openly. They say it’s about “not allowing a homogeneous section of your company to become the norm and everyone else to be the other.” This creates an ‘us versus them mentality’. If you bring in individuals who don’t adhere to the traditional image, voice, or ideas of a particular industry, you will attract more people like them and demonstrate that diversity is possible.
Have Strong Role Models And Go Back to Schools
Clare Jones, Chief People Officer at GSS – Global Screening Services, believes that strong role models are crucial in business and wider society. She says that these role models should “be visible, be relatable and have a voice.” The focus is on having visible role models that others can identify with and help to shape a pathway. Businesses can also engage with their teams and encourage ideas and suggestions. For example this can work through employee resource groups or volunteer committees. Leaders don’t have to come up with all the answers and sometimes the best ideas come from within the wider business. Businesses can look at engagement with schools, colleges and universities. This can inspire our next generations. Career pathways will be opened up in areas people may not have considered. Further widening the talent pipeline to a much wider population on a sustained basis.
Allies Spread Opportunities
Rebecca Jones, Head of Customer Success at Access PaySuite, focuses on payments. She believes that allies should be spreading opportunities across seniority levels. This can take many different forms, including ‘intergenerational mentorship’. When mentoring a Gen Z individual, she discussed the power of having a digital-native mentee. They questioned everything and pushed back, asking, “why does it need to be this way?” This approach brought an open-mindedness and healthy challenge to the business she had not seen before in other generations. Listening to others in these circumstances encourages further action. This can be in the form of bringing those individuals into meetings and encouraging them to contribute their ideas. They can also practice speaking up in front of more senior members. She takes this further by highlighting how you can invite those people to your networking events and show them the benefits you gain from them.
Create Safe Spaces
Tandem Bank is a financial institution committed to a sustainable future. Kirsten Lightfoot, their Head of Talent and Development, believes that creating a safe space for everyone is essential to being an ally. According to Kirsten, it’s crucial to listen to everyone’s perspectives, not just those accustomed to speaking up. Tandem Bank’s People Council members deliver segments during monthly and quarterly meetings. This “creates a more relatable space for people to connect and feel represented.” It helps individuals build their personal brands. That opens up opportunities for people who might not get that level of exposure on a day to day basis.
Inclusion at work relies on everyone driving forward better workplaces for everyone. These examples can help anyone become an active ally by following any of these steps.