Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Companies: we believe in meritocracy around here; but, image shows pyramid of faces, white males at top, woman and bipoc below
Companies: we believe in meritocracy around here; but, image shows pyramid of faces, white males at top, woman and bipoc below

1. Set up a reverse mentoring relationship

Many leaders genuinely believe they’re creating meritocracies, where women and people from other underrepresented groups can get ahead on their merits. However, when you look at the data, many organizations become “maler” and “paler” the closer you get to the C-Suite.

This image by Braveen Kumar, who works on growth at Shopify, says it all.

Whether your organization looks like Braveen’s image or not, here’s an idea for better allies everywhere. Set up a reverse mentoring relationship with a member…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Two people in separate screens with arrows pointing to each screen, representing online meetings
Two people in separate screens with arrows pointing to each screen, representing online meetings
Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni of unDraw

1. Be curious about others’ experiences in the workplace

In a recent article for Harvard Business Review, David Smith PhD and W. Brad Johnson PhD state something that should be obvious but bears repeating: “A humble and curious question goes a long way toward building better empathy and situational awareness.”

Specifically, they want men to acknowledge that there’s a lot they don’t understand and can’t possibly fathom about what women experience daily. They want more men to ask women about their experience in the workplace.

Smith and Johnson provided these helpful ideas to start a conversation:

  • I’m curious about some of the things women in this organization find most…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Person of color with a beard, holding a smartphone, writing on paper, at a desk
Person of color with a beard, holding a smartphone, writing on paper, at a desk
Photo by MetaLab for the Nappy All Hands Collection

1. Ensure all voices are heard

Last week, the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president and former Prime Minister of Japan made some controversial comments about women in meetings. As reported by Nikkei Asia, Yoshiro Mori said that board meetings with women “take so much time” and “Women have a strong sense of competition. If one person raises their hand, others probably think, I need to say something too. That’s why everyone speaks.”

Management scholar and author Adam Grant responded on Twitter with a different opinion, informed by research from Cornell University:

Regardless of the reasons — and regardless of the gender identity of the person…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Illustration titled “Celebrate Black History Month By Taking Action” with the five actions listed in this article on signs
Illustration titled “Celebrate Black History Month By Taking Action” with the five actions listed in this article on signs
Illustration by Brittany Alaniz of DigitalNEST

1. Celebrate Black History Month by taking action

As Nicole Cardoza wrote in the Anti-Racism Daily,

“This is a year for making the history books, not only for re-reading them. Education is essential, but we have to also take targeted actions to change the course of history.”

While changing the course of history may seem like big shoes to fill, let’s remember that change starts with a single act. Here’s just one idea: Mentor a Black person in your organization.

Last June, CNBC reported that six years after releasing their first diversity reports, Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter have shown only low single-digit increases in their percentage…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Person leaning against a desk, explaining their story, represented by flash cards, one with an image, one with an outline
Person leaning against a desk, explaining their story, represented by flash cards, one with an image, one with an outline
Illustration by Katerina Limpitsouni of unDraw

1. Leverage storytelling to improve belonging

This question in a recent Fortune raceAhead newsletter by Ellen McGirtis giving me pause.

“Of all those high performing, blended-right-in ‘diverse’ employees you are so proud of, whose truth have you not yet heard?”

McGirt explored the significance of belonging in the workplace. She wrote, “It has become the ultimate quest for anyone looking to build an inclusive culture and yet, its very nature is elusive.”
That said, it could have a simple starting point.

Dr. Brené Brown lays it out for us in a brief CBS This Morning clip:

“The opposite of belonging, from the research, is fitting in…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Amanda Gorman reading her poem at the 2021 presidential inauguration
Amanda Gorman reading her poem at the 2021 presidential inauguration
Credit Chris Coons via Wikimedia, Public Domain work

This week’s inauguration in the U.S. has given me much hope for a future that will be more equitable. The momentous poem by Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the U.S., embodies this hope. “And so we lift our gazes not To what stands between us, But what stands before us. We close the divide, Because we know to put Our future first, we must first Put our differences aside.”

I’ve got about a million ideas for how we can take action in the workplace to close the divide, but I’ll stick to just one theme for…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Hand writing on paper: Give recommendations with Confidence: No Hedging, No faint praises, No undermining.
Hand writing on paper: Give recommendations with Confidence: No Hedging, No faint praises, No undermining.

1. Make sure coworkers feel safe, heard, and cared for

Last week’s attack on the US Capitol still weighs heavily on me. Perhaps you feel the same way.

In addition to dealing with my personal feelings and concerns, I’m sorting out what guidance I can give the Better Allies community. How should an ally show up in these unprecedented times? What actions should one take to be inclusive, show support, and be empathetic to others’ concerns?

I was inspired by a blog post from Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. His key message is that we should be speaking up even when silence is far easier. As he…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Person throwing away a document into a trash can
Person throwing away a document into a trash can

1. Avoid “softening language”

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, was a day like no other, and I’m overwhelmed by the attack on my country’s democracy by white supremacists. Maybe you are as well.

While there’s much I’m processing about my own white privilege and the benefits I’ve received over my life because of my race, I decided to start today’s newsletter with just one takeaway from yesterday: Language matters.

As I learned from my friend and linguistic expert Dr. Suzanne Wertheim, “there is a lot of ‘softening language’ being used to describe this unprecedented violent attack on the American peaceful transfer of power.” In other…


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Men, your problem is not diversity hires. Your problem is ‘homogeneity hires’.
Men, your problem is not diversity hires. Your problem is ‘homogeneity hires’.
Photo from Cindy Gallop’s keynote at the 3% Conference in 2019

1. Nix concerns about being a diversity hire

The 3% Conference focuses on changing the ratio of women and people of color in advertising. At their event last year, Cindy Gallop delivered a powerful talk to the white men in the room about what their future will look like with more diversity.

While I recommend watching the entire talk, be sure to catch this brief clip where Cindy delivers a zinger of a message:

“When I hear women say to me, ‘Cindy, I don’t want to be hired just because I’m a woman,’ my response is, ‘Get over it. …


Each week, Karen Catlin shares five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

Words: The Alley Track, on a record surface
Words: The Alley Track, on a record surface
Illustration courtesy of the BBC

1. Understand your privilege with The Ally Track

Last week, the BBC launched a Creative Allies Tool to promote the concept of allyship in their organization, the creative industry, and beyond. I’m honored a thousand times over that they leveraged my work:

“Based on Karen Catlin’s ‘Better Allies’ process, the tool sets out seven types of ally — sponsor, champion, advocate, amplifier, scholar, upstander and confidant. Users are invited to choose which type of ally they would like to be personally. Over a month the tool will then give practical exercises, tips and best practice on how to be that ally.”

To explore the BBC’s tool, start by…

Better Allies®

Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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