Play The Ally Track Game, and Other Actions for Allies

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

Better Allies®
4 min readDec 4, 2020
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 taking a few minutes to play The Ally Track. The tool will then prompt you to choose which type of ally you want to be and some steps you can take.

2. Steer clear of the “racist greatest hits”

In 6 Phrases to Avoid Using in Conversations About Race, journalist Sheena Foster interviewed Minda Harts, the best-selling author of The Memo. As Minda shared on Twitter,

“When the writer interviewed me for this article… I said if there were a racist greatest hits album… these are the songs you would find.”

Allies, let’s steer clear of all of six of the phrases on her greatest hits list:

“You’re taking it the wrong way”
“I’m not racist”
“Don’t play the race card”
“Race has nothing to do with it”
“I have Black friends”
“I’m color-blind”

Not sure why? Read the full article over on the Reader’s Digest site.

3. Reimburse costs for virtual interviewing

Soon after the COVID-19 crisis struck, I attended a “What’s Next for Inclusive Hiring” webinar held by Joelle Emerson, CEO of Paradigm, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.

During the webinar, we brainstormed ways that bias can creep into the virtual interviews that are now commonplace. For example, interviewers can get a peek into a candidate’s life, which often reveals clues about their socio-economic or caregiving status. Do they have strong bandwidth? Do they have a laptop, or do they need to use the camera on their phone? What is the room like in the background? Are small children present?

To help reduce bias, one of the attendees said they updated their interview prep email to recommend candidates find a plain background for interviews. What a simple idea.

Recently, I heard about an approach to take it to the next level: Offer to reimburse candidates for childcare or adult care, rental costs for a laptop, and costs to travel to and use a meeting room in a coworking space. I love that tech company GitLab provides this kind of financial support to any candidate who needs it.

4. Publish salary ranges in job ads

In DE&I in hiring is a process, not a policy, Rachel Grahame shared the hiring strategy she helped create for her firm, Backed VC. While I bet you’ll find an idea (or ten) for your organization, here’s one that was new to me: Publish salary ranges in job ads. As Rachel wrote,

“All else aside, you’ll get around 30% more applicants this way, and you’ll avoid wasting everyone’s precious time because of mismatched expectations. But this also shows a commitment to fair and open recruitment practices. It’s the right kind of dog whistle.”

(Thanks to the Aleria team for sharing Rachel’s article in their weekly newsletter.)

5. Admit you’re not there yet

Since I appear to be on a roll with advice for the hiring process, here’s one more.

On Twitter, I saw a screenshot of a team that looked exclusively white and male, with a quote from their website: “Yellow Brick Games is proud to be an equal-opportunity employer, and strongly believe that the best creative teams are made up of diverse members.”

Folks, if you’re planning to make a grand diversity statement and aren’t there yet, admit it. Share the steps you’re taking to become more diverse. Make sure you’re walking the talk.

P.S. Don’t use stock photography to give the illusion you have more diversity than you do. It may be a tempting solution, but candidates can easily do an image search online and find that your “employee” is a model who appears on many job sites. Yes, this happens. In doing research for The Better Allies Approach to Hiring, I quickly spotted a stock photo of a Black male model featured as though he were an employee on a Fortune 500 company’s careers page.

That’s all for this week. I wish you strength and safety as we all move forward,

— Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies®

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Better Allies®

Everyday actions to create more inclusive, engaging workplaces: the Better Allies® approach from Karen Catlin.