How You Can Be an Ally for Older Workers, and Other Actions for Allies

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

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Photo of the back of a man’s head of gray hair with the initial signs of a bald spot, via Canva

1. Make a list of older people who stay relevant

Software engineer Tilde Anne Thurium recently tweeted,

Tweet reading, “Does anybody have any good articles on how to be a good ally to tech workers over the age of 40? I’m finding a lot of ‘yup, ageism sure is a problem’ articles, not a lot of actionable takeaways for addressing the problem at the individual level.”

Here are some of our ideas:

  1. Make a list of older people who keep current and relevant, learn constantly, and refuse to be stagnant. To help disrupt any bias you may be harboring.
  2. Use objective criteria to consistently evaluate candidates during the screening and interview process. (Pro-tip: “Under the age of 40” should not be one of the criteria.)
  3. Offer training on new skills to ALL employees.
  4. Be loud and proud about what you learn from older employees. E.g., “Let me tell you what I learned from Nancy about open source chatbots.”
  5. Ask older colleagues, “What’s one thing I can do to better support you?”

Is there something you’d add to this list to be a better ally? Reply to this email. We’d like to hear from you.

2. Push back if you see someone discrediting another’s work

About a week ago, researchers published the first ever image of a black hole. One of the contributors, Dr. Katie Bouman, posted a photo of herself with the message, “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.”

Then the internet trolls descended, tearing into her and diminishing her contributions.

Whether it’s trolls taking action to discredit someone’s work, or someone dissing the work of an underrepresented colleague, we should push back. We can talk about their accomplishments or write social media posts in support. We can mention what we’ve learned from them. We can amplify their work.

To get started, consider heading over to your favorite social media channel and doing so for Dr. Bouman.

3. Support women who use their hard-earned honorifics

In a related story, Dr. Donna Malayeri, a product manager at Google, tweeted:

Tweet reading “Twitter is the only place I put my title, and I resisted for 5 years. Since doing so, men (only men!) have accused me of putting on airs. Or being too ‘academic.’ This week, we’ve seen exactly what happens to accomplished women who get ‘too famous.’ I’m keeping my title here.”

Well done, Dr. Malayeri!

4. Use stock photos of marginalized people

Our founder, Karen Catlin, remembers being happily surprised as she watched Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow, deliver a keynote at Pluralsight LIVE in 2017. Here’s why. When he spoke about software engineers, his slides had photos of women of color. Only women of color.

And using stock photos featuring people from underrepresented groups is something we can all do. To help bust stereotypes of what an engineer or other professional role “looks like.”

We’ve curated a list of stock photography sites that specialize in underrepresented groups. Some are free, some are for a fee. Check them out here.

5. Sponsor people who are a different race or gender than yourself

A recent article on Fortune reported that 71% of leaders surveyed said their top protégé is the same race or sex as they are.

And we wonder why the leadership of most companies is not getting more diverse.

Look at who you sponsor or mentor. If they’re “mini-me mentees” or remind you of your younger self, reach out to an employee resource group at your company and offer to mentor someone from a different demographic.

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

Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

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

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