How to practice better allyship – Suzanne McGovern

In this video from Computer Weekly’s annual diversity and inclusion in tech event, in partnership with Spinks, Suzanne McGovern, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Splunk, discusses how to practice better allyship, explaining why it’s important to have allyship within a business and giving practical tips on how individuals can start supporting minority groups in the workplace.

Diversity and inclusion has been a hotly debated topic in the technology sector for some time, with businesses coming to realise building an inclusive internal culture is not only a feel-good initiative, but also makes good business sense.

McGovern explains: “I truly believe that creating more diverse and inclusive workplace is the right thing to do, it also drives stronger business outcomes.”

Pointing out racism and discrimination are “too familiar” for marginalised groups, McGovern also says the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has now left others questioning how they can help drive change.

People are now “coming together in unprecedented numbers” to try and help each other, often using technology to do so, and McGovern says “the world is watching”.

Building an inclusive culture cannot happen within an organisation without a focus on allyship, says McGovern, who claims: “There are many different places where we can practice allyship within the tech industry, and within your organisation, like using your power to support or advocate for colleagues of colour or from marginalised groups.”

Many who took part in the 2020 Computer Weekly diversity and inclusion event, including this year’s winner of the Most Influential Woman in UK Tech accolade, Stemettes CEO, Anne-Marie Imafidon, emphasised that allyship - taking concerted action to push things forward and encourage change for those in a less privileged position – is a “verb”, meaning talk is no good without action.

McGovern says: “Allyship is a verb, it’s a doing word, and it means you actually have to do something.”

Shining a light on Splunk’s own Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), McGovern says inside Splunk there are a number of groups offering support, mentoring and networking for underrepresented groups covering communities such as women in tech, LGBTQ+ people, black people, those with disabilities, those who are neurodiverse or veterans, to name a few, all of which wouldn’t be as successful without the allies involved in them.

When it comes to fostering allyship in an organisation, McGovern says: “It starts with you.”

While it’s important to check in with colleagues, don’t put the onus on them to educate you about how they’re affected.

McGovern explains: “We can demonstrate allyship by learning, and as a member of a majority group, as a white person, it’s my responsibility to remove the burden to name the issue, the injustice or the problem.”

Allyship practice should be part of an organisation’s makeup, and allies should work with leadership teams to make the organisation and themselves accountable.

She summarises: “I hope that allies can take this moment to help out more, to speak up, because without them we cannot make the progress we must achieve in this moment.”

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