The latest Janes of Digital panel focused on topics ranging from harassment in the workplace, having difficult conversations and the need to become an accomplice. Taking place in sunny Seattle, during SMX Advanced (a search and digital conference) at the Olympic Sculpture Park on June 11th, 2018.
As I introduced the idea of speaking up even when it’s hard or controversial, I was joined by Brittany Page, Associate Director of 3Q Digital, Patama Chantaruck GM WW of Software Asset Management & Compliance at Microsoft, and Bree Black Horse, advocate and associate with Galanda Broadman. Christopher Morris added support to the stage as an ally and founder of the BlackLight organization at Microsoft.
I admired all the personal stories the panel and the audience shared – it takes a great deal of bravery. I was particularly struck by these ideas and lessons from the event.
Teach what it means to be an ally at younger ages
One of our brave audience members reflected on how she stood up for, and was an ally to, young women when chaperoning a school trip. By taking the time to teach others how to respect and support each other, she was able to have an impact and make a difference in these children’s lives. I was moved by the importance of teaching allyship at a young age, so these types of situations aren’t an issue later in life.
Bree said, “I am calling out all the women to support one another.” We can do that with conversations about what it means to be an ally that start not when entering the office, but when girls are still in school. Discussing these topics with younger students can help minimize harassment in schools, the workplace, and other areas of life. It’s important to have these conversations when children are young and provide them with strong examples and demonstrate how they can be good allies.
Become a radical listener
A topic we’ve touched on before at other Janes events is the importance of being a real listener. More than simply waiting for a turn to speak, you must also act on what you hear and make a difference.
Being a good listener is key to be an avid ally. Try to pause what you’re doing while listening, keep your eyes and ears open for those being marginalized, and don’t make assumptions about another’s perspective. Active listening also involves being empathetic and waiting and listening for others to share. It is critically important for those of us who want to be a good ally, a true accomplice, for us to listen and learn. As Chris shared with us, “Radical listening is a skill, we must practice and learn how to do it well. There are strategies to combat micro-aggressions – get educated in them. Being an ally means supporting the person beside you, not speaking for them.”
Take the time to learn these strategies and skills. As Megan Carpenter, a founder of the Blacklight group and colleague of Chris has said, “Sadly an uninformed ally can sometimes unintentionally cause more harm than good.” It’s important to take a stand when you’re radical listening makes you aware of new issues. This means using your voice, privilege, and platform to speak up when you notice others are wrong.
Speak up even when it’s uncomfortable
I listen and try to understand. If I hear another white person being bigoted, I speak up. I listen to those that are impacted, am compassionate, and use my voice to convey that to others.
— Brittany Page
It’s hard to be an ally and speak up — but it’s also extremely important. Saying you are an ally isn’t enough, instead prove your allyship through action.
Our audience shared the perspective that “being an ally doesn’t matter how you look on paper. It is what happens in the moment, and what you do when nobody is watching.” The panel added insight as we continued to discuss harassment in the workplace and the consequences of addressing these issues including coworkers leaving the company. Even when a complaint is fair, it can still generate negative backlash from other employees and friends at work.
As panelist Patama said, “Besides listening, make sure you come in with an open mind, don’t judge. In the early days I had a former boss tell me I wouldn’t get to the top because I am too short, and I speak with an accent. There are a lot of people who pass judgment. There are times a female colleague says something, and a male colleague will respond judgmentally, and I will call them out. Say something when people make a judgment.” Speaking up for those around you puts allyship into action.
These stories show the importance of allyship and acting even when it’s the unpopular option. Not everyone is going to like you speaking up but having the courage to do so can help protect both yourself and others in the future.
As someone who has been harassed in the work place learning there are others like me, and hearing from allies that they hear me and support me makes a huge difference. It gives me the motivation to keep sharing my story and to keep working to make my workplace safer, more inclusive, and an inspiring place to work. We hope that attending Janes of Digital events (in person and online) help and inspire you.
Making a better tomorrow shows the true power of seeing something, saying something, and doing something.
If you missed us on the 11th, you can still view the full discussion on our live stream. Don’t forget to check out our new Janes of Digital Instagram and join the conversation with #JanesofDigital.