Got Board Games? Plus Other Actions for Allies

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

A table setup with the boardgame, Settlers of Catan
A table setup with the boardgame, Settlers of Catan
A game of Settlers of Catan by Yonghokim, license CC BY-SA 4.0

1. Provide board games at your next event

At networking events and conference receptions, not everyone enjoys working the room with a drink in their hands. Why not provide an alternative? Here’s a fun, inclusive idea we learned from Hannah Foxwell, organizer of the London DevOpsDays conference: offer a quiet area with board games. Such a simple way to make a difference.

While we’re on the subject of more inclusive events…

2. Offer mocktails with those cocktails

We’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again. If your event has a budget for fancy cocktails, premium wine, and craft beers, there’s budget for more than just the usual assortment of soft drinks. Think mocktails, kombucha, bubble tea, and so forth. Make your event inclusive and special to people who can’t or don’t drink alcohol.

3. Use their titles

In 6 Steps Everyone Can Take to Become an Ally in Male Dominated Workplaces, Dr. Ethan Siegel captured our attention with a story about first names. Because he believes “Dr. Siegel” creates an extra distance between his students and himself, he asks them to call him “Ethan.” In turn, he calls everyone by their first name, too, including his colleagues.

Yet, he’s realized this isn’t the best approach, especially with colleagues who are underrepresented in his field. For example, a few years ago when he was attending an astronomy press conference, the following took place:

“I was very interested in one of the presentations, given by a woman scientist in my field, and I casually referred to her by her first name, asked my questions, and got some wonderful knowledge out of it.

But this wasn’t in private; this was in public. In front of dozens of other professionals in our male-dominated field, I addressed a woman scientist by her first name. In isolation, perhaps that would be no big deal, and maybe even today she doesn’t think it was a big deal. But it’s such a small behavioral change to just be a little bit thoughtful — to care enough about their experiences to change your own actions slightly — to give URMs in your field the respect that is so often withheld from them, and to recognize that the respect freely given to you may not be so freely given to them.”

Allies, let’s all be a bit more thoughtful and use titles, especially for those who are underrepresented in our fields.

4. Stand up to harassers (and report them)

At a conference last weekend, Dr Kathleen Bachynski, an assistant professor of public health, was presenting a poster session when someone started flirting:

“One conference conversation that was not so fun this afternoon — somebody circled back to my poster to ask me my age, then said he guessed he was too old for me. All I could muster was in the moment was ”yes, you are.” Please do not do this to anybody at a professional conference.”

If you witness this kind of harassment at an event, pull the person aside and point out, “We don’t do that here.”

Then check back with the person being harassed, and ask if you can report this code of conduct violation on their behalf.

5. Use the singular “they” in everyday conversation

With the latest edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, it’s now officially good practice to use the singular “they” in scholarly writing. For example, instead of writing,

“A person should enjoy his or her vacation.”

We can write,

“A person should enjoy their vacation.”

The APA made this change because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.

While it may take some getting used to, allies can (and should) strive to use the singular “they” in everyday conversation, too.

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

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✉️ This content originally appeared in our newsletter, 5 Ally Actions. Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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

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