Coming from an engineering background, I never really thought twice about being the only woman in the room or on a call – it was normal to me. If you had asked me whether allyship was important in the tech industry I probably would have had to think about it before answering.

However, if you ask me today whether allyship is important I would, without hesitation, reply with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" But it's not only important in the workplace. It also needs to be woven into our daily lives, so that thinking it's normal to be the only woman in a college engineering course is no longer the norm.

You might be wondering, why the change, Christine? My answer is: awareness. Last year, I read a book called, "How to Be an Ally: Actions You Can Take for a Stronger, Happier Workplace," by Melinda Briana Epler. It really opened my eyes to things that I might not have necessarily noticed or thought twice about before. It delved into the benefits of allyship and how allyship plays a critical role in building more diverse, equitable and inclusive teams. It also helped me to realize that allyship is a journey and that each of our journeys will look different, but that's okay. 

In this post, I'll discuss why allyship is important, especially in the tech industry, and the steps you can take to be an ally at work or in your personal life.

What is allyship?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines allyship as, "the state or condition of being a person who supports the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it." Examples include when a man supports a woman, a cis person supports a trans person or a white person supports a person of color.

Another way to look at allyship is standing beside someone when they need support, standing behind someone when they need some backup and standing in front of someone when they need protection. 

Why is allyship important?

A survey by Empovia found that 92% of people feel allies have been valuable in their career. This is because allyship benefits everyone. Allies play a critical role in building more diverse, equitable and inclusive teams and environments. Allyship leads to higher engagement, increased happiness, improved productivity, a greater sense of belonging, feeling safer, higher retention, reduced stress and career advancement making the workplace a great place to work for all. 

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Do you have an ally that's made an impact on your career or caused you to experience any of the benefits? I know I have. Being a woman in tech I've routinely been one of a few, if not the only, woman in the room. Has it bothered me? Not really. Have I been in professionally uncomfortable or inappropriate situations because of it? Sometimes. But I know other women who have been in very uncomfortable and dangerous situations, so I consider myself lucky. 

Imagine a world where women didn't have to endure uncomfortable or inappropriate situations, and that being the only woman in the room was no longer the norm? That's why allyship is so important.

Allyship journey

But allyship is not a destination or a one-time thing. It's a journey that never truly ends because even as an ally, we'll always be learning. 

In the book, "How to Be an Ally," Ms. Epler discusses the various stages of allyship, seen below. While I won't go into detail on each of them, I encourage you to read the book for that reason. Here are a few select highlights:

  • Most people start as deniers and move through the stages towards becoming an ally. Some will go even further to be an advocate, accomplice or activist.
  • Each of our journeys will look different and that's okay.
  • We may not reach every stage and we might be in multiple stages at the same time. For instance, someone could be an ally for women but a learner for the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • The important thing is that people move from observing and learning to action. Allies cannot stay in the safe space of non-action and must take the uncomfortable steps forward to become active allies.
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Stages of Allyship; source: "How to Be an Ally: Actions You Can Take for a Stronger, Happier Workplace" by Melinda Briana Epler;

The journey won't be easy and there will be bumps along the way. Mistakes will be made but that's okay, no one is perfect. If you make a mistake, own it, be humble, and learn from it so that it's not repeated in the future. The important thing is to not let the bumps or the fear of messing up stop you from starting your journey. And, if an ally makes a mistake with you, give them grace. Educate them and give them another chance, trusting they'll do better the next time. 

How to be an Ally

How do you become an ally, you ask? There are six key steps someone can take to be an ally at work or in their personal lives.

  1. Educate yourself – Take the time to read, listen, watch and deepen your understanding of allyship. Learn the ways we harm people without realizing it, how to interrupt unconscious bias and how to recognize and overcome micro-aggressions.
  2. Use inclusive language - Be aware of gendered terms and use language that embraces all walks of people. Pay attention to the pronouns someone uses and mimic those terms.
  3. See something, say something - Call out inappropriate or unacceptable behavior and intervene whether or not the women or other underrepresented groups are in the room. Explain that you are offended and that such comments or actions aren't acceptable or representative of your organization. People in underrepresented groups may feel uncomfortable saying something if they are present. Depending on the situation or your comfort level, it may be more appropriate to address the comment or situation in a 1:1 setting instead of a group setting.
  4. Amplify the voices of others - Echo and attribute the thoughts and ideas of others. Don't take credit but use your power and your platform to bring others into the conversation and to hear their ideas. If there's someone on your team that's not participating call on them to bring them into the conversation.
  5. Become a mentor, sponsor and/or champion – There are various ways to get involved and these are different levels of commitment but they're equally important to the career growth of someone from an underrepresented community and for overall company retention. mentorship assumes someone needs help with building their skills. sponsorship assumes they already have the skills and just need help opening doors so they can use those skills. In other words, a mentor talks with you but a sponsor talks about you. A champion takes it even further.
  6. Normalize allyship – We all can work together to normalize allyship and ingrain it as part of our daily lives. Every action, no matter how small or subtle, is a step in the right direction.


I've been fortunate enough to have allies throughout my career, some of which I may not have even realized at the time. I've also started my own journey of allyship and while I still have a lot of work to do, I'm making progress and that's what matters. 

Those experiences, along with the honor of serving as the Workforce Lead for WWT's Women's Employee Resource Group over the last few years, has fueled my passion for educating our teams internally on the importance of allyship and making it part of our everyday lives. Remember, every action is a step in the right direction so let's work together to normalize allyship. 

Are you with me?!