A couple of days ago I wrote the article - Allyship - Are you aware of it? - and I want to go back to this topic because yesterday, I came across something that showed me why and how important it is to be aware of it, and advocate for it, not only at work, but at all levels of society.
Allyship goes beyond "supporting an individual".
To my understanding, it has to become a "culture", a way of living. However, we are not there yet. In fact, we are still far from it, but… the conversation has started and when there is something being talked about, people start listening and awareness is created. And after awareness, action needs to take place.
What I experienced was, an invitation to an online event about how to craft effective presentations, where there were several categories listed and, under the category of Storytelling there was not a single woman present as an expert in the field!!!
Great professionals in the lineup of speakers, no doubt about it, and I personally know a couple of them, but, come on… are you telling me that there is not a single woman on this planet who is a badass storyteller? I was honestly shocked, and concerned…
Shocked because by all means I believe event organisers must be more aware of bringing diversity to any stage. As leaders in our industry we do have to "push" for a more diverse and inclusive culture. And this has nothing to do with "pityness" or condescension towards the so-called, minorities. It is about being aware that if our audience doesn't see different people, gender, and culture representations, especially in public events, we are not giving a good sign to the ones who are looking up to us.
Concerned because, are the organisers telling us that there is not a single woman represented as a storyteller expert because: 1. Not a single woman has applied for the role…? 2. Not a single woman who applied was not good enough…? Or, else...?
In my last article, I cite the research from LeanIn where they reported that, "In the workplace, studies show that leaders are more likely to mentor people who remind them of themselves…and since most leaders are white men, that means that it is often easier for white men to find mentors…"
And, adding to it, bear in mind that one of the persuasion principles, as per Dr. Robert Cialdini, is Liking. (I wrote an article about all the six universal principles of persuasion, worth checking it) We like people who are similar to us, have the same beliefs, like the same things…
On that note, back to my experience: if I look at an event where there is not a single woman represented in a particular category, it is clear that I'm not represented there. And I can simply ignore and move on. Which is what most people do. However, I personally can't. Because I know the consequences of overlooking such things. It gives subliminal messages that reinforce a patriarchal system that we are all in a way sick and tired of talking about, but we, leaders in our fields and industries, have to continue talking about and pushing it forward towards change because we are far from finding equitable opportunities for all.
Please bear in mind that this is not an attack on the people organising this particular event. I'm also aware that there might be "behind the scenes reasons" that might have led to this lack of women among the speakers' lineup.
On the contrary, it is a heads-up to bring awareness to everyone who is in a such position. I repeat what I said before, as leaders in our industry we do have the obligation to be sensitive to those issues (it is an issue), and advocate for change. And it starts from awareness, then action.
And here I also take the opportunity to give a heads-up to my fellow male speakers, colleagues in the industry, to use their voice and put allyship into practice, and advocate for diversity on stage when they realise the event they are participating in has overlooked it. I know a number of speakers who already do that. Allyship is needed at several levels of our professional environment, it is not for "pityness" nor condescension towards professional women and minorities. Here is just one example of a blind spot that we should all be aware of, and work towards bringing light to it, and eventually, eliminate it.
If you want to know more about Allyship, go to the LeanIn page on this topic, so you can understand further why it is important to promote Allyship and Diversity, not only at work, but at all areas of our lives.
But beyond that, as a leader in your industry, it is important to have the awareness and understanding of the need for a more diverse environment at all levels of our society, and take action towards promoting it.
No excuses on that.
PS Picture credit to Essex Live