6 Steps for Leaders to Be Better Allies and Advocates

June 1, 2023
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As a leader, you have the power to set the tone of your team, and maybe even your organization. You can choose to listen to others’ perspectives…or not. You can choose to take meaningful, DEI-centered actions…or be satisfied with the status quo. You can be a vocal, action-oriented advocate for marginalized and underrepresented employees…or you can remain silent and only take token actions (a social media post here, an email about inclusivity there).

I challenge you to be a true advocate and ally. Recognize that your employees from marginalized backgrounds do not necessarily experience the workplace in the same way you (or your “majority” employees) do. Understand that an equitable workplace is often made through intentional, strategic, and long-term actions. And oftentimes, these changes start at the top through system-wide changes and meaningful actions taken by the company’s leadership.

If you’re looking for a few concrete ways to become a better ally and advocate as a leader, here are 6 suggestions:

Educate Yourself

DEI education should be persistent and ongoing. Don’t rely on your employees to do it for you! Take the initiative to attend training sessions and workshops or read books and articles to educate yourself. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by marginalized communities and provide you with the knowledge to be an effective ally and advocate. In a past blog post, we discussed 10 DEI books to spark action. Consider going through this list and reading as many as you can.


Don’t assume you have all the answers. You can learn a lot by establishing trust with your people and engaging in open, one-on-one conversations. Listen without judgement and try to understand others’ point of view. Remember to respect confidentiality and do not share anything from your discussions unless you have express permission to do so. When you’re talking with your people, be sure to establish trust, ask good questions (including clarifying questions), and provide any resources or follow-up actions that you can.

Understand Microaggressions

Not all discrimination and marginalization in the workplace is obvious. It’s important to understand the definition of microaggressions (subtle, sometimes unintentional acts of discrimination towards marginalized groups) and how they can impact your employees. Take the time to learn about the different types of microaggressions and how they can manifest in the workplace. This will help you recognize when they occur and take action to mitigate their effects. Lastly, BELIEVE your people if they report a microaggression. Aim to understand why something a person said or did was harmful, and take appropriate action.

Speak Up!

As a leader, your voice has weight. Use it to advocate and support your people. When you see or hear something disrespectful or discriminatory, speak up and take action. You can do this in a variety of ways, including during meetings, through company-wide communications, or in one-on-one conversations with employees. Have the courage to call out non-inclusive or harmful behaviors and to advocate for your underrepresented employees.

Amplify Others’ Voices

If you notice certain people are repeatedly being silenced, use your position of power to amplify their voices. This can mean recognizing their contributions in meetings and giving them credit where it is due, or inviting them to speak in front of a larger audience. Use your platform to elevate others and give them the opportunity to be heard. This is especially important for employees from underrepresented communities who may not have the same access to opportunities and visibility.

Take Action

Education and awareness are important, but they mean nothing without action. Use your power and influence to advocate for and implement meaningful changes in your workplace. This can include policy changes, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and creating opportunities for underrepresented employees to grow and advance. Remember that allyship and advocacy are ongoing journeys, and it’s important to continuously take action to improve your workplace culture and create a more equitable environment.

Here are a few examples of concrete actions you can take:

  • Implement diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as mentorship programs or affinity groups
  • Review your HR policies and procedures to ensure they are equitable and inclusive
  • Use your budget to invest in DEI training and education for all employees
  • Conduct regular anonymous surveys to gather feedback on the employee experience and identify areas for improvement
  • Set diversity goals and hold yourself and your team accountable for achieving them


Remember, allyship and advocacy are ongoing journeys, and there is always more to learn and do. By taking these steps and continuing to educate yourself and others, you can create a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported.

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