At Lunaria, we are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from people’s lived experiences. We are constantly impressed by the ways in which individuals make a difference to diversity, equity and inclusion. It was this sentiment that launched us into a series: Acts of Allyship. An ongoing project where we spotlight allyship practices from allies we encounter in our work, through their words.
1. Show up, Speak up
Wanda Deschamps applies her experience as a neurodiverse professional, family history in advocacy and a powerful voice to her allyship work. Wanda urges allies to overcome fear, educate themselves and show up whenever they can.
You do not have to travel the world or have a high ranking position to make a change. You can read a book from the library, attend a public lecture and gravitate to the informal ways of learning. No matter who you are, there is always a level of fear – put yourself in the shoes of the people experiencing discrimination and marginalization. Imagine how they feel fear. What’s greater? It means so much for you to show up.
Wanda Deschamps is founder and principal of Liberty Co, a consultancy working to advance meaningful societal causes through forming organizational and individual partnership. Her ultimate goal is to facilitate fuller participation of the neurodiverse population in the workforce.
2. Start small and be constant
Dr. Patricia Gestoso is a cultural broker, with experience living in Europe, South America, and Canada -building collaborations with nationals from 50+ countries. This global awareness has enabled her to communicate effectively across cultures and taught her to approach others with curiosity and humility. The other powerful experience comes from Dr. Patricia Gestoso’s role as head of services. She finds the platinum rule – treat others like they want to be treated – a great allyship compass.
Allyship is like a bike. You need to carry on pedalling if you want to keep moving. My advice for people beginning their allyship journey is to start small and be constant. For instance, small acts of inclusion only take a couple of minutes and when performed consistently they have a cumulative positive impact in our workplaces.
For example, when I’m introduced to new people in a meeting, I make a point to check with them how they pronounce their name. The power of this practice is twofold. First, by giving them the opportunity to choose how they want to be called, it signals that I’m seeing them. It also conveys that I’m open to learning how to pronounce their name and being corrected if I don’t get it right the first time.
Dr. Patricia Gestoso is Head of Scientific Support at Dassault Systèmes. She’s the founder of the company’s first gender employee resource group, which was recently named one of the 10 winners of the 2020 Women in Tech Changemakers UK award. She’s also a member of the We and AI advisory board.
Patricia writes about diversity and inclusion in tech. Visit her work at patriciagestoso.com.
3. Keep an open mind
In a world where it’s easy to fall into the trap of “We are doing the right thing,” “We are perfect” and “We know better,” I think allyship is about asking “What am I doing wrong?” and having the courage to face the answer.
One of my bosses once said to me ‘Majid, most people around us are reasonable and reasonable people don’t like conflict. Where there is some smoke, there is usually some fire.’ So my tip would be, keep an open mind and constantly adapt. Try to have a beginner’s mind and don’t fall into the trap of ‘knowing too much.’ As humans we are always on the quest for perfect understanding but this doesn’t exist. We should be content striving for 80% and allow the 20% to remain vulnerable. A quest for perfection in an imperfect world can leave us disappointed and disillusioned.
Majid Mirza is CEO and Founder of ESG Tree, watch the introduction video here. He has over 10 years of experience as a project manager and consultant in the sustainability and environmental, social, governance (ESG) management fields. Majid is a former board member of the Canada Forum for Impact Investment and Development (CAFIID). He has managed projects in over 20 countries with a core focus in impact investing, sustainable finance, blended finance and ESG management. He is also a consultant to the Federal Government in development finance initiatives. With a Masters in Business Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET), Majid has a passion for social impact, technology and business.
4. Align allyship with your passion
Sowmya Rajasekaran’s instinct and advocacy has always been focused on women’s empowerment, diversity and inclusion. She is also a huge believer in community. After being laid off during Covid-19, Sowmya launched the Buildupwomen Series.
I use my personal & professional experiences as well as the challenges I have faced and am still facing as a woman, a woman of color, an immigrant and now a mom to reach out and connect with organizations, change-makers, thought leaders, influencers, and community builders to becomes allies with, collaborate and work towards ACTION for CHANGE. I have found a new community of incredible female disruptors to join forces with, to collaboratively and continually push for women’s empowerment, diversity & Inclusion.
After being laid off, I was very fearful of the unknown, things were certainly out of my control. I gave myself one day to cry, be angry, frustrated, and fearful of how things may unravel. I soon realized that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts, many women are in the same if not in worse situations and conditions than I was in. That was when I made the decision to create an online community to support and address key issues that affect several women in Canada. Buildupwomen Series was created in March 2020!
Covid-19 has unveiled so many concerns, frustrations, gaps and the impact on women has amplified so much during the pandemic. To not let fear, failure or rejection change the course of one’s passion and drive. To ensure your allyship journey aligns with your passion and will help and not hinder. Allyship is inspiration, encouragement, resilience, strength, being unstoppable and a force to be reckoned with.
Sowmya Rajasekaran is the founder of Buildupwomen Series. Buildupwomen Series is an online community created to inspire, share, support, engage and build up women during and after COVID-19. The series has had thought provoking and insightful discussions titled Mental Health during Covid-19, The importance of Self-care, Accessibility during Covid-19, Education during Covid-19, Anti-racism & Inclusion, Economic Abuse, Job loss & Creating opportunity, LEAD-HER-SHIP, Art of Self-mastery and Motherhood & Everything in between.
Follow them and their work on Twitter @BuildupwomenS | Linkedin – Buildupwomen Series | Facebook – @Buildupwomenseries
5. Interrogate defensiveness
Erin Huston is a social justice advocate and community-building educator. After finishing degrees at the University of Waterloo in Legal Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies, Erin pursued a Masters degree in Social Justice and Community Engagement at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Making mistakes as an ally is unavoidable. Mistakes are actually a really important part of the process when we are unlearning the invisibility of our privilege. Getting called out when you make a mistake can be painful, and because so often our intentions are good we may feel defensive about our actions or behaviour. We may want to say, “But…” or “I didn’t mean…”. Rather than acting on that defensiveness, I encourage you to interrogate that defensiveness. Ask yourself why you feel so strongly about defending yourself or your position in that moment, and that may lead you to spaces within yourself where you have more unlearning work to do!
Passionate about working with youth, Erin uses her education of structural factors and discourses that lead to social inequality and environmental injustice to facilitate programming designed to help empower young people to think critically about issues they care about. Especially interested in self-esteem and body image, Erin commonly leads workshops and speaking engagements around the topics of disordered eating, diet culture, and building relationships with our bodies. Erin currently works with non-profit Body Brave as their public educator.