This past October, I virtually attended the Better Together Conference hosted by Jennifer Brown Consulting and Better Man Movement. This conference was engaging, educational, and inspiring. In the spirit of practicing my own diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) allyship through action, I am sharing my experience here on our blog.
During the two-day conference, I engaged in a series of conversations with organizational leaders and other champions of DEIA, with the intent of creating a vision for true partnership that enlists all of us. We learned from Ray Arata (CEO and founder of Better Man Movement) and Jennifer Brown (CEO and founder of Jennifer Brown Consulting) that this conference “was born out of the idea that we need safe spaces devoid of shame and blame, to ask questions, practice, and learn how to have meaningful and authentic conversations that build bridges across differences.”
The psychologically safe environment that the facilitators created was what made this conference so special. Presenters modelled active listening and demonstrated true vulnerability as they shared deeply personal stories about the experiences that led them to DEIA work and towards allyship. Getting vulnerable in front of complete strangers created a ripple effect that led to a shared sense of openness and connection among everyone who attended. We, as attendees, became less afraid of saying the wrong things, began to discuss elements of DEIA that we did not understand, and began to confront uncomfortable topics without fear of judgement or shame. The participation throughout the conference was incredible. Conference attendees (including me) were engaged and getting vulnerable by the time lunch rolled around on the first day.
When we removed the common barriers to communication with regard to discussing DEIA topics (e.g., shame, guilt, looking ignorant), we were able to learn from one another and quickly began the work of ‘activating our allyship’ as Ray and Jennifer would say.
I left the Better Together conference with a greater understanding of what my role is and can be in promoting diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility at work. During the conference we discussed how to go from being a supporter (one who is passively in favor) of DEIA at work to an ally (one who is actively contributing to the creation/implementation) of these ideals. We were taught how to “take it (i.e., the work we did and the lessons we learned during the conference) to Monday”. This phrase, ‘Take it to Monday’, was used throughout the conference to underscore the importance of taking action at work.
Here are a few actionable steps you can take towards being a better ally that we discussed in detail during the conference:
- Develop your frame of reference story: During the conference, facilitators and presenters demonstrated the power of effective story-telling and showed us that sharing personal experiences related to DEIA at work can help foster connection and build trust and safety. As part of the story development process, we spent time practicing and getting feedback on our delivery and content. As you develop your own allyship story, seek feedback from trusted friends and peers.
- Share your frame of reference stories: Once you have developed your allyship story, seek opportunities to share it with colleagues. We spent time on the second day of the conference reflecting, identifying, and crafting our own DEIA stories. I was shocked by how effective sharing stories was in bringing my breakout group and me together. It was awkward and uncomfortable at times to be vulnerable in front of others, but it was well worth it.
- Model the behaviors you want to see from others – authenticity, vulnerability, connection: This is an action that you can implement at work right now! As I alluded to earlier, throughout the entire conference, speakers demonstrated active listening and showed us the power of vulnerability when connecting with others (i.e., through story-telling or everyday conversation). I encourage you to reflect on your own behaviors. Do you inject vulnerability into discussions where appropriate? Are you creating an environment where team members can be authentic at work? Do you actively seek to connect with those who you work with?
- Show, don’t tell: Allyship is about taking action as opposed to being a passive supporter of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Get involved. Share your DEIA story. Be curious about others’ stories and experiences at work as they relate to DEIA. And, be supportive and nonjudgmental of others, regardless of where they are in their journey towards allyship. We need to eliminate shame and guilt from conversations around DEIA and encourage learning and open dialogue to create a space where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences and perspectives.
As I reflect on the deeply personal stories that the speakers and attendees shared so openly throughout the conference and the impact they had on me, I feel I have a clearer understanding of the importance of creating an environment at work that is supportive of DEIA. And I feel inspired to ‘take (what I’ve learned) to Monday’ at FMP. I look forward to demonstrating my allyship by continuing to craft and eventually share my DEIA story with FMP, inviting others to share or reflect on their own DEIA story to the extent that they feel comfortable doing so, and fostering a psychologically safe environment among my teams.
Ian Hamilton joined FMP in May 2022 and graduated with his Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology at George Mason University, VA in 2022. Ian works on strategic planning, cultural assessments, and internal DEI initiatives at FMP. Ian grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA with his three brothers and sister.