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“Allyship is Leadership” and Other Excellent Theories Shared at Microsoft HQ

On May 3rd, hundreds of Bing partners gathered for the annual summit at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond. This was a day packed with vision and rich in sharing. The event concluded with a spirited Janes of Digital discussion about how Allyship and Inclusion Drive Better Business. The panel was moderated by Alicia Carey, Global Agencies Director at Microsoft, who kicked off the discussion with some frank and honest stories from working in countries down under and abroad. Alicia was joined by Darrah Joy Clay, engaging storyteller and Account Executive at Bing Ads, Karen DeJarnette, a leader and cultural groundbreaker, SEO Manager, Global Technical SEO, SEM team at Expedia, Inc., ally and inclusion-supporter Rohan Philips, Global Chief Product Officer for iProspect, Jen Cole, autos industry veteran and working parent, VP and GM at CDK, and Christine Vincent, promoter of authenticity and inclusion, VP of Customer Growth at Kenshoo.

Understanding Allyship and Inclusion

Alicia jumped in feet first, asking the panelists explore the concept of an ally being a verb, not a noun and understanding the importance of using this to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Karen said, “I see allyship being addressed in the way that the opposite of oppression is not neutrality. People with privilege will often see that those people are being marginalized, but not by me. But by not getting involved, you’re not contributing to the solution. Carry and use the weight of your privilege to help with the solution.” Rohan said, “To me, it’s a commitment to a cause and finding a moral compass.”

Alicia emphasized the idea that, “You don’t just name yourself an ally.” Karen agreed, noting that, “In many ways, I equate allyship to leadership.” Darrah said, “Just being honest about where you stand on diversity and inclusion…helps to create and support allies.” The conversation moved on to ideas about privilege – how we can recognize our privilege, and how we can use this to support others. Some of the most impactful moments in the night can be captured in my favorite quotes:

“When I asked the world to see me as my authentic self, it was only then I realized both the privilege I had and the privilege I had lost.” – Karen, who has transitioned from male to female.

Janes of Digital Partner Summit

“To show up at work every day, and not have my citizenship threatened, even as a black American, this is a privilege. People are out there, who are completely capable and can benefit companies but cannot afford to intern for free. I was able to take these opportunities, but others were not. These are the two aspects where I am very aware of my privilege.” –Darrah

Janes of Digital Partner Summit

“You start examining your biases as a man – and use that to help identify those not in privileged positions and helping to build a platform where they can speak up.” – Rohan

This Janes of Digital had quite an international audience and what we heard, and learned, is that the term ally wasn’t globally known or recognized. It was a good reminder for us in the U.S. to be aware and open to learning about the topics of diversity and inclusion with a global mindset. If we’re all in this fight together we need to really learn all about each other. At future Janes of Digital events, we’ll aim to bring in more international perspectives.

Event Wrap

As the event drew to a close, one of the topics we circled back to was about motherhood in the workplace. Jen had provided some fantastic insight on her experiences in a male-dominated field. “For years I never talked about being a mom at work. Having a male boss who talks about his kids has helped a lot and speaking up allows me to help younger moms and new employees.” Based on this idea, I asked Christine how her current journey to motherhood is going today. Does she feel apprehensive, scared, or worried about her career?

Christine said she feels lucky, not experiencing the same friction that others such as Jen have reported and is able to focus on her soon-to-arrive little one instead of worrying about the workplace. It’s clear she has some great on-the-job allies.

Our other audience input focused on race – both recognition and how to provide support and opportunity. While clearly, we still have a long way to go, educating our communities and our families seemed like an important place to start. By creating these often-uncomfortable conversations, we can lead the way to become better allies.

If you couldn’t attend in person catch the live stream here.

Be sure to keep current with the conversation with @JanesofDigital on Twitter.