The “How to be a better Ally: Answers to those questions you’ve always wanted to ask” event took place on 21 October 2020. Here’s a report from one of the organisers, Abdulmalik Lawal, of a hugely popular and constructive event and the follow-up that’s planned.
This event was a follow-up to the North of England and Midlands networks’ June 2020 “Allies” event where representatives from all five of the IP Inclusive networking and support communities provided insights into the issues faced by those they represent and thoughts on how we can all be better allies to those groups.
It was nice to see over 70 fellow members of the UK IP community in attendance.
The event started with a video where answers to some of the questions submitted in response to the “Ask Me Anything” survey were given by the relevant community or communities. After the video, we were put in breakout rooms to have the opportunity, in small groups, to discuss things further.
A lively discussion was had in my group (the event was scheduled as an hour-long lunchtime event, but discussions carried on for a further half an hour).
We discussed the issue of how to proceed with changing historically masculine terms to non-gender-specific terms, in particular how to go about choosing the most appropriate wording without unintentionally missing people out or offending some people.
It was acknowledged that we as allies need to celebrate the progress that has been made in relation to diversity and inclusivity BUT we need to keep the conversation going.
It was pointed out that the uncomfortable feeling that one may have discussing these topics or asking a question of someone in relation to disability, race, gender or sexuality is a good sign, as it is an indication of awareness that there is an issue to be addressed.
For me one of the main take-home points from the discussions in my group was in relation to “Diversity & Inclusion”. The area of “inclusion” often gets forgotten about but it is just as important, even more so in some situations, as diversity.
Without inclusivity, then real change cannot be truly effected.
Firms, companies and organisations need to pay more than lip service in their D&I initiatives. Increasing diversity is good but if those they bring in to improve their D&I stats don’t feel like they are being heard, or are helping to shape the progress and direction of the organisation, the effort is only slightly better than a token gesture. Inclusivity is such a huge factor in addressing this issue.
Firms, companies and organisations should actively promote their diversity efforts and successes. Include everyone in promotional material and activities. For example, the first the wider public hear about a certain female or Black employee should not be the announcement that they have been made a partner.
Something that seems out of the blue can lead some people to question whether the action taken by the organisation was based on merit or done as a token gesture to make them look good or tick some boxes. Such questions are unfair to someone who has worked hard for the promotion, and probably also had to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve it.
The discussions ended on the topic of how to get others to join the conversation. At times it seems like allies are speaking/preaching to the converted. We attract to events those who are already mindful that change is needed and want to make a difference.
Do we need to look at the language we use when we advertise our events, and come from the place of someone who is not already an ally?
Do we need to more deeply understand why someone else might think that something is a non-issue, which we believe is quite important?
I don’t know, but as I continue my educational journey in this area I hope to find out. Perhaps the follow-up videos answering some more of the questions submitted in the survey will shed some light on this: these will be published soon on the IP Inclusive website Resources page.
Personally, the event lived up to its billing and did provide me with valuable insight as well as practical tips to help me support others more confidently and effectively, and to be a better ally.
You can access the video here, in case you would like to see it for the first time or watch it again. Keep an eye out for the others!