How Organizations Can Encourage Productive Allyship

How Organizations Can Encourage Productive Allyship

New research suggests that people from underrepresented groups appreciate acts of allyship more than people from majority groups might think.

March 13, 2024

Illustration by Gustavo Pedrosa



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  • Many leaders want to be allies for underrepresented groups, but fear their attempts will be awkward or offensive. New research suggests these fears are often unfounded, with acts of allyship generally being appreciated more than anticipated. Organizations can help by educating potential allies on how their efforts are received and by creating a culture where open communication and support are encouraged.

    Acts of allyship — whereby historically advantaged group members (e.g., white people, men) support relatively disadvantaged group members (e.g., racial minorities, women) — are critical for generating inclusion in the workplace. However, many well-intentioned managers and executives feel paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong. It’s not hard to see why: Some high-profile attempts by companies and business leaders to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion have backfired spectacularly in recent years.

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    • HB


      Hannah J. Birnbaum is an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior at Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis. Her research investigates strategies to facilitate successful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in organizations.


    • DW


      Desman Wilson is a researcher who has been published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General as well as Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. He is currently a research coordinator at Greener by Default.



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  • New!


    HBR Learning

    Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Course

    Accelerate your career with Harvard ManageMentor®. HBR Learning’s online leadership training helps you hone your skills with courses like Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Earn badges to share on LinkedIn and your resume. Access more than 40 courses trusted by Fortune 500 companies.

    How to build a better, more just workplace.

    Read More

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