When and how to be an ally?

Jade Vandal
Apr 28 · 5 min read

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you must be aware of the difficulties women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups face in their careers and everyday lives. Indeed, whether unconsciously or not, differences are often perceived as weaknesses or threats when in reality, they are a great asset to society and can bring a lot of value to businesses as a growing number of studies evidence.

At Doctolib, we have decided that building a safe and inclusive place for everyone is part of our top priorities, as the #CARE pillar shows. And we’re just starting the journey to help everyone feel more comfortable understanding and discussing these issues.

What we need to make progress is to have more people involved in diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, at the right moment, that’s why we tried to gather concrete tips to be the best ally you can be, and we decided to share them all with you.

But first, what’s Diversity? Inclusion?

Everyone is different, we all know that. People have different backgrounds and experiences, based on their education, story, life, we don’t have similar points of view and reactions facing particular situations. So, how do we make sense of these differences and learn to live with them?

Diversity in a company is important to have a broader vision and avoid blind spots when making decisions. But that’s not enough.

That’s where inclusion comes into play: being inclusive means accepting people as they are, with what makes them who they are. It’s when everyone can be their full self without fearing any judgment. It’s when interns and newbies can give their opinion in front of people with 20 years of experience. It’s when women don’t get criticized or judged because of the way they dress. And it’s also when people feel safe to discuss their sexual identity or religion if they want to.

What’s Allyship?

Allyship is about supporting a marginalized group by using one’s privileges to help those who lack them.

You are a privileged person if you check at least one of these boxes:

  • heterosexual

Then, congrats! You can be a great ally!

Because your privilege gives your voice more weight and you will be more listened to than the people you’ll support. You will also probably not directly (or at least not as frequently) be the subject of microaggressions — discriminant actions or words against marginalized people, for example, sexist or racist jokes — and it will be less risky for you to speak up.

Some people come to life with better privileges than others, it’s a fact. The first step is to acknowledge that power. The second step is to use it to lift other people up.

Most of the time, microaggressions are not intentional, often unconscious and they can even be meant as a compliment or “just for fun”, even if it’s not fun for most people. It’s not meant to hurt anyone, but it does. Usually, they are indirect and subtle, that’s why it’s difficult to spot them. You will have to trust your gut and put yourself in other people’s shoes because there’s no exhaustive list of micro-aggressions examples.

Regardless of age, educational level, occupation, or gender, everyone is keen to make mistakes because of stereotypes and implicit biases. Therefore, it’s important to have the courage and humility to be aware of them, so we can work on ourselves to avoid them. If someone corrects you on something you said or did, don’t justify yourself or make it about you, just acknowledge it and try to understand how to be better.

How to be an ally?

The role of an ally is not to try to punish bad intentions, but to mitigate their impact and champion the causes of the marginalized people you support.

Listen.

It seems easy to say, easy to do, and yet, it’s not only listening. It’s listening without minimizing the reactions and feelings expressed by the person and listening without emitting any opinion.

Learn.

Your education is up to you and no one else. As an ally, you’re as involved as marginalized people in inclusion topics, and it’s your duty to self-educate yourself (by reading articles, books, diversifying your social media feed…)

Make sure everyone is heard.

In a meeting or a group setting, make sure everyone’s voice is being heard and that even the quietest people in the room have the opportunity to express their opinion. Invite them to talk, let them speak, don’t interrupt them, and consider viewpoints different from yours.

Bring diversity.

For each workshop and decision you take, make sure to include some diversity: different teams, genders, locations, origins, tenured collaborators, and new joiners. In recruitment, look for talents from different schools, career paths, and countries.

Support.

It’s not always easy to find the right words or to know how to act when you witness micro-aggressions. Sometimes we prefer to say nothing than a bad thing. Turns out it’s not that difficult to show support, just say: “I believe you”, “I’m here”, “I have your back”, “I support you”, “I agree with you”. Checking how the person targeted by the micro-aggression feels can already be a big step.

Stand up.

If you feel there’s something wrong, it most probably is. Then, don’t hesitate to use your voice to say it. However, make sure you speak in your own name, not on behalf of the targets since it can be even more dehumanizing to them. For example, after witnessing a microaggression, you could tell the perpetrator: “I can’t believe you just said”, “I disagree with what you just did”, or even: “why do you think this is funny?”, “do you realize what you just did?”. Acknowledging the issue can be quite disarming. If you’re unsure of what to say or do, just creating a diversion can help a lot. This can be a powerful act and it’s called bystander intervention.

When to be an ally?

If you don’t have the reflex to react immediately at the right moment, it’s okay. You are not always prepared, you can be disconcerted and incapable of finding the correct words to object. You can react later but still react. And next time, you will be ready!

It’s not easy, but it’s worth working on every day.

Two golden rules: it’s always a good time and it’s never too late.

Thanks for reading this article. You did your first step.

If you want to work in a company where this kind of topic matters, come check out our job offers 👋🏻

Special thanks to Pamela Corbin-Audoux, Alexandre Ignjatovic, Mélanie Berard and Ségolène Alquier, for the inspiration and the help to write this article.

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