While many conversations on allyship focus on the “right” thing to do or say, allyship is more about establishing a long-lasting community of support, respect, and genuine care. It is the business model of many successful organizations and pushes us to overcome systemic oppression hindering minority individuals. 

Allyship Definition

Allyship is the proactive and consistent re-evaluation of systemic powers to develop a more inclusive society for marginalized people.

An ally does not necessarily identify as a minority individual, but they always act in solidarity. It’s not something one earns or receives. Allyship is a conscious effort to listen to others and form intentional relationships. 

Why is Allyship Important?

Altering current systems and workflows may seem like a drastic shift in corporate culture. Yet, we must acknowledge that the current systems are broken. We each are afforded opportunities and advantages from the privilege we are born with. For some, access to educational and professional opportunities becomes easier than for others. 

Allyship recognizes these gaps in equal opportunity and uses that knowledge as a tool for change. It is proven to boost business success and improve employee working conditions. Below is a sample of statistics on the impact of allyship on the workplace: 

  • Employees with strong allyship and inclusion cultures are 50% less likely to leave.
  • Companies with diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability.
  • Companies with diverse allyship initiatives have 21% higher employee engagement levels.

*HR Drive / Diversity for Social Impact 

What is Performative Allyship in the workplace?

Performative allyship is posturing solidarity and action in the name of marginalized people to falsely improve public image, cover issues, or comply with laws. It is not a long-term solution nor cheaper overall. Instead, performative allyship excuses systemic issues and perpetuates harmful ideations. 

Here are a few examples of performative allyship:


Platitudes are empty words of commitment and empathy that some leaders use to appease complaints. Authentic allyship acknowledges negative feedback as a learning opportunity to continue to grow into a more inclusive environment. Performative allyship tries to brush negative feedback under the rug with platitudes.


Allyship is not a competition. More initiatives and policies around DEI do not result in being the “best” at allyship. Using inclusion and equity to position oneself or their organization as better than others demonstrates a lack of understanding. Allyship strives to make environments, like the workplace, more equitable, inclusive, and diverse with a strong sense of belonging. Pinning someone as less than others is the exact opposite.

Seeking Validation

As mentioned above, allyship is not received or given as an award. Advocating for change should come from a genuine concern and empathy for the challenges facing marginalized communities. Voicing an opinion or changing one thing in hopes of a “thank you” or congratulations is performative allyship.  

Speaking for Minorities

A component of allyship is listening, learning, and researching to understand the impact of systemic oppression. An ally should not present themselves as the expert or speak on behalf of minorities. This concept can be confusing, as many are wary of saying the wrong thing. However, speaking for someone is very different from speaking with someone.

Getting something wrong is part of the learning process, and acknowledging that you do not know everything is a great first step. Allyship should feel more like a discussion among peers who agree on a decisive action. 

Misguided Support

Ever have that neighbor who trims your bushes for you or rakes your leaves without asking? While you feel grateful, it does not help you out in the end. Misguided support evokes the same feeling. The intentions behind these acts of allyship are good, but not knowing the real issues, they do not solve anything. Listening to minority individuals about their personal experiences should be one of the first steps in supporting someone as an ally. 

Feigned Benevolence 

Treating allyship as a favor rather than unconditional solidarity is a misstep into performative allyship. Creating community and a feeling of belonging is not a favor or act of charity. Allyship should be a genuine desire to change things for the better. 

Acts of Allyship in the Workplace

Leadership Advocates

True change starts at the top of an organization. Having C-suite-level leaders championing DEI and allyship can launch initiatives and improve policies. In a recent survey, 45% of employees felt no interest or buy-in from the executive level. 

Track Diversity-Related Metrics 

As in many aspects of business, key performance indicators are vital to success. By learning about diversity metrics and tracking them over time, companies can improve their DEI strategies. Plus, sharing these metrics publicly increases trust with employees, buyers, stakeholders, and more. 


Allyship takes consistent effort and re-evaluation to ensure it truly supports marginalized communities. Transparency acknowledges the learning path the individual or organization is on. So mistakes are bound to happen, and they are not something to sweep away to seem a “better” ally. In fact, 87% of job seekers say they desire transparency in their future workplace.

Policy Change

The more we diversify the workforce, the more policies need to change to continue to establish equal opportunities. For instance, an only-in-office policy will add an extra challenge for wheelchair users. Regularly reviewing policies for fairness supports the company’s growth and promotes allyship in the workplace. 

Establishing ERGs

Every individual identifies in many ways, and this intersectionality can be celebrated through employee resource groups. They can be a well of knowledge for any HR leader looking to become a better ally, plus they offer safe spaces for minority employees. 

Develop a Diverse Workforce

Prioritizing authentic allyship begins by re-evaluating the hiring process. Diversity recruitment aims to foster a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and creates an environment where employees from all backgrounds feel valued and included.

From small to large acts of allyship, a consistent effort to drive out performative allyship demonstrates a level of care and empathy that many recognize. Only together can we hope to move away from oppressive systems and make the workplace welcoming to all. 

Interested in establishing an allyship at your company? The Professional Diversity Network has been helping employers build productive and diverse workforces since 2003. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your unique needs.