Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of posts that will run this week, written by Chhavi Chauhan, Shaina Lange, and Tony Chen. Chhavi is Director of Scientific Outreach at the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and Director of the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Program at the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. Shaina is Manager of the Publishing Integrity Office at ACS Publications. She oversees the strategy, policies, and activities to support publishing integrity across the ACS journals portfolio. Tony is a Journal Publishing Manager at Wiley, where he manages a portfolio of journals in Oncology, Pathology, and Basic Medical Science under the Health Sciences banner.
In our previous posts in this series, we first defined the diversity tax and its effect on employees from marginalized groups and then presented some suggestions for individuals who are affected by the diversity tax. Today’s post will focus on how allies can respond to the all-too-real burdens of the diversity tax on their colleagues.
It’s important to note here that, even if you don’t feel this additional burden yourself and/or your colleagues have not told you that they feel burdened, this does not mean that they don’t feel it. Many members of marginalized communities have been dealing with this issue for most of their lives. So if you want to be an ally, how can you help reduce or eliminate diversity tax?
“In the spirit of active allyship, the burden to educate shouldn’t only fall on marginalized communities. It is up to every one of us to work to understand the challenges faced by members of diverse groups, while also finding ways to support them.” (Understanding the emotional tax on Black professionals in the workplace)
Recommendations for individual allies:
- Educate yourself and help increase awareness. Our series of posts includes several resources about the cost of the diversity tax. Please take the time and effort to educate yourself and your network about it. Remember that seeking guidance from directly-affected individual(s) to educate you may just increase their burden; please bring this awareness to your diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts and your interactions with colleagues.
- Acknowledge your own privilege. Consider that your experience may not match the experience of your marginalized colleagues. If someone from a marginalized community trusts you enough to express their concerns/frustrations, please take them seriously. Dismissing their concerns because they don’t match your experience is an example of poor allyship and may alienate them from you and/or the organization as shared by our anonymous contributor.
- Be intentional about who you are including. If you ask an individual from a marginalized community to serve on a project or committee, specify why you are asking them to participate so they don’t assume that they are being invited as a “token” contributor. If you can’t properly identify a specific reason for including them, please proactively reconsider your approach to the initiative.
“If you’re asking someone to participate in a DEI(A) activity, make it clear why they were chosen so they don’t feel tokenized.” — Anonymous Contributor
- Be willing to have uncomfortable or unpleasant conversations, and to focus on listening. If a member of a marginalized community refrains from participation, instead of retreating or not pursuing any further, take the time to reflect on the situation mindfully. In certain scenarios, you may want to ask if they’d be willing to talk about their decisions, listen and understand their answers, and be ready to accomodate any suggestions they may have for encouraging participation in future.
- Ensure that colleagues are properly acknowledged and rewarded for their contributions. If you are a manager or leader, take steps to ensure that individuals receive formal recognition for their contributions. If you’re a peer, seek opportunities to informally recognize them.
- Create and promote an inclusive company culture. In meetings, make sure there is a safe space for underrepresented individuals to share their thoughts candidly. Simply saying that you have an inclusive culture is not enough — you need to actively create this culture through your actions.
“If you want to hear from diverse voices, you need to make it a safe space for them to speak up. Understand that historically marginalized groups may not always feel comfortable being the sole dissenting voice in the room.” – Anonymous Contributor
We invite you to comment below (note that you can comment anonymously) on your experiences as an ally and/or as someone who has been on the receiving end of one of these tactics. What worked or didn’t work? Are there other recommendations you would make?
Many of these individual strategies require organizational support to be successful. In tomorrow’s post and the 4th of this series, we explore how organizations and those in leadership positions can help reduce the burden of diversity tax.