Becoming an ally to women and moms of color isn’t complicated, but it’s often misunderstood! Simply expressing verbal support is kind but unhelpful. Likewise, taking action without asking whether your efforts are appreciated and useful is also unhelpful. Allyship is partnering with women and moms of color and using your influence to make a difference in their lives. In the workplace, there are several simple ways that you, the executive, can start the journey toward allyship!
Create space for conversation. Then, listen.
Professional women and moms of color come from all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences, but they do have one thing in common – they often don’t feel heard. For instance, when women and moms of color experience subtle (or not so subtle) microaggressive behavior from colleagues or clients, such as doubt in their capability or being overlooked for projects, they need to know that you’re in their corner. This empowers them to confront the behavior confidently. However, if you don’t make space for your women and moms of color to express their concerns safely and in confidence, they will likely feel alone and isolated in the workplace.
Similarly, moms in particular often struggle with pressures in the home, such as caring for sick children, navigating inconvenient daycare hours, and maintaining a family schedule. Knowing they can express their needs to you and receive a caring, empathetic response will go a long way in promoting allyship as well as retention.
Be open to making changes.
If your professional women and moms of color express that they’re struggling in an area, don’t dismiss their concerns. Instead, ask for more information. Work with them to find a solution. Make it clear that their concerns are important to you. For example, a mother who takes her children to a 8am-4pm daycare might not have the ability to arrive at work promptly at eight o’clock. However, if she is a strong contributor to the company, this should not be a deal-breaker in her employment. She should be able to express her struggle to you and expect to receive help, not shame. This is one of the keys of a human-centered work approach: addressing people, not just the problem.
Create and encourage mentorship and sponsorship opportunities.
Mentorship and sponsorship are two important ways to show value to your professional women and moms of color. If your company does not currently invest in a mentorship program, ask your senior leaders if they would be interested in mentoring. Even better, become a mentor or sponsor yourself to pave the way. Your professional women and moms of color will benefit from the internal support.
Recognize the signs of burnout.
Women are twice as likely to be burned out at work than men (McKinney). Even employees who work flexible hours and/or work from home struggle to balance their work demands with their personal lives. If you see that the professional women and moms of color on your team are struggling to stay motivated, complete their tasks, or keep a positive attitude, burnout might be the culprit. To “cure” burnout, start with two things: first, make sure you’re modeling a healthy work-life balance. A leader who works unhealthy hours or lacks boundaries creates an environment that makes it more difficult for employees to enact their own personal boundaries. Second, have a conversation. Ask about stress at work and/or home, work load, and peer support. Your professional women and moms of color need to know that you are a resource.
If you’re ready to learn how to keep your professional women and moms of color happy and fulfilled – which in turn increases productivity, engagement and belonging – We Optimize Work wants to partner with you! Let’s have a conversation to discover how we can help. Email Domonique at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to her personally on LinkedIn to get started!