Culture3 min read

Speak up, not over

Good allyship is standing up for someone who is underrepresented. Great allyship is giving them the chance to talk and shine.

Here are the easiest ways you can speak up for (and not over) someone.


In this section, we talk about informal sponsorship — the tiny things you can do to raise someone’s status.

📣 Give praise directly to the underrepresented person, but do so in a public message or forum.

Doing this means the praise isn’t just about confidence. It loops the person you are sponsoring into a wider conversation about their work and exposes them to acclaim from others.

🤗 Sponsorship can be pretty basic…

Better Allies TOP tip for men to be allies to women sounds so simple that it’s hard to believe it is effective! They ask males allies to use the name of female coworkers when they are not around.

Sponsorship can be that simple, talking about someone when they are not there. Remember to get pronouns and preferred labels right!

GIF by @libbyvanderploeg

Or shimmy if you’re with him, or them! GIF by @libbyvanderploeg.

💼 Sponsor a cause: lobby for issues

We couldn’t possibly list all the tweaks, policies and changes you can speak up about to make the workplace more inclusive.

Channel what you learn from listening deeply into conversations and places that sufferers of issues may not have access to, or may not be heard as loudly. Even include issues as agenda items in meetings!

Stay consistent and challenge an issue whenever you see it. For example, ask everyone about the accessibility of their presentation and handouts every time until you see positive change.


✋ Intervene when you see exclusionary or biased behaviour

We all hate to make things awkward, some personalities and nationalities more than others! But have you ever considered how powerful it is to speak up AND make it awkward?

Here are some phrases to do this respectfully.

  • “We can do better than that.”
  • “We don’t do that here.”
  • “I think that is/could be exclusionary.”
  • “I’ve been learning about the ways I am biased and I think your bias is showing, too.”
  • “What did you mean by that? That could come off the wrong way, you know?”
  • “I don’t think they have a problem, I think you have the problem!”
  • “That seemed unfair and I’d like to talk to you about it in more detail.”
  • “You’re normally so compassionate, this issue deserves your compassion, too!”
  • “You should be a better ally to ________.”

⚠️ Keep it simple

Don’t speak on behalf of other groups or people and don’t, if they are there, force them to expend effort or be vulnerable in that moment. Ask open questions that give them an easy “out” and move the conversation along if they have nothing they wish to say.

❌ “No woman likes that word! I bet Sophie is seriously upset! Aren’t you, Sophie?”

✅ “I think that could be exclusionary. Sophie, what’s your take?”


🎤 The pass-the-mic concept

It’s a Beastie Boys’ song. It’s a podcast. And it’s also a ludicrously simple but overlooked ally action that we all need to do all of the time.

🎯 “Pass the mic” means paying forward the nice opportunities and things we get, and being mindful to give them to someone who has fewer advantages than us.

Here are some ideas for how to share your platform, opportunities and spotlight.

✅ “Their story is even better”. When someone points out your success story, point out someone else’s, especially if they have been battling against the odds.

✅ “Have my seat”. If you are invited to a meeting, consider nominating a peer or teammate who would add to the diversity of perspectives to go in your place.

  • 💡 This is super important for events. Imagine you are invited to speak on a panel. You notice the line-up is not diverse and that you represent the status quo (for example, they are all white women in their thirties and so are you). Decline your position, point out the lack of diversity and recommend someone who isn’t yet represented to take your spot.

✅ “Why are we listening to me? This is cooler.” When you have everyone’s attention, plug underrepresented groups’ work, issues, and cultural events.

  • ⚠️ It’s not always right to put someone on the spot (“Come up here in front of dozens of people and pitch Disability Awareness Week!” = horrible). Digital spaces can be a great place to tag and involve others and allow them time and choice to respond.

✅ “Hey, don’t interrupt”. You see someone being talked over. You look at them and make eye contact, maybe with a friendly roll, so they see that you saw what happened and sympathise. You could say, “weren’t you saying something before, [name]? Do you want to continue?”. Better yet, you could point out that they were interrupted and it was totally unfair.

  • ⚠️ Do not repeat what they were saying as a way of getting their idea out, even if you attribute it to them. Passing the mic means letting them speak.

🗝️ Your key takeaway

Speaking up for and not over someone requires reading the situation and acting boldly but humbly. We can all actively sponsor the good work of others and call out damaging behaviour and slights. Top-tier allyship involves passing on a little of your opportunities to others.

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