Diversity and inclusion are essential to innovation. As a science company that harnesses the power of people to reimagine what’s possible to help solve the world’s greatest challenges, we know diverse perspectives can create extraordinary outcomes.
We seek and highly-value different skills, experiences, and abilities to create a dynamic workplace where every voice is heard and celebrated. When employees can be their true, authentic selves, they are able to unleash their creativity and reach their full potential.
That’s why 3M Canada has expanded to six Employee Resource Networks (ERNs). These are networks organized by employees for a common cause, community, or shared experience.
Current ERNs include:
- Abilities First
- Indigenous Employee Resource Network
- Multi-Cultural Network
- New Employee Opportunity Network (NEON)
- Women’s Leadership Forum
Members include people who personally identify with the communities represented by the ERNs, passionate allies, and individuals who want to be an active ally and learn more.
What is allyship?
To be an ally is to take intentional action to support equity so that everyone can thrive.
In the workplace, allyship is an awareness and appreciation of other people’s lived experiences and values. It means recognizing the challenges and discrimination people face and offering support ranging from empathetic listening to advocacy. Being an ally is a lifelong commitment to awareness and action.
The idea of active allyship can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to start. Here are three steps you can take to become a better ally.
1. Educate yourself.
The first step is simple: be a good listener. It’s important to let people speak for their own lived experiences, societal barriers, and possible solutions. This means seeking opportunities to hear from people about their own journeys, and the personal connection they have to their identities.
Launched in 2021, our new Indigenous ERN has opened the conversation about the Indigenous experience in Canada, creating a starting point for education and dialogue about difficult topics like the former residential school system in Canada. At a fireside chat, Indigenous employees shared their perspectives, giving colleagues an opportunity learn and ask questions in a safe space.
The Multicultural Network ERN is using the power of media, recommending books and movies from different countries, to help employees expand their worldview.
"The idea behind this campaign is to learn about the rich history, lifestyles, and customs of other countries. Travelling probably gives you the best exposure, but travelling is not always possible, so that exposure can come from a good book or movie."
-Ayan Chowdhury, Chair, Multi-Cultural Network
Whether through watching a movie or having a conversation reflecting on experiences outside our own, seeking to understand and learn can help us empathize with and appreciate the differences in the people around us.
2. Hold yourself and others accountable.
Discriminatory words and actions aren’t always obvious.
Microaggressions are subtle everyday interactions that communicate bias. Often unintentional, they can fly under the radar in the workplace. Assuming a coworker is straight by assuming the gender of a partner, paying special attention to a Black colleague’s hair, making sexist remarks or jokes, ignoring or consistently forgetting someone’s preferred pronouns, or assuming people with disabilities need help before they ask, are all common examples.
Microaggressions can impact people's sense of safety, self-worth, and even their ability to do their job effectively. Everyone has unconscious biases – they are our blind spots. It’s important to educate ourselves on what microaggressions we might accidentally deploy and challenge ourselves to recognize them and apologize when we make mistakes. Then, when we know better, we do better.
Although uncomfortable, it is important to address microaggressions made by others. Even if you believe no ill-will is intended, standing up when you hear instances of microaggressions, or other discriminatory behavior relieves marginalized employees of the duty to educate others and combat discrimination alone. This is true allyship.
"It’s about stepping in when you see something…standing next to someone with a really full heart, and sometimes, in front of them with a really strong back."
-Lindsey Cowan, Chair, PRIDE ERN
3. Join the conversation.
People can be held back from allyship by believing they have no connection to barriers faced by marginalized communities. The reality is that everyone knows someone who has experienced discrimination or inequality based on their appearance, gender, race, sexuality, ability, or cultural identity.
That’s why the Women’s Leadership Forum, has a “Men as Advocates” group, to involve everyone in the conversation surrounding gender equity.
"The key to success when advancing any kind of culture of equity is engaging everyone in the conversation. The WLF really does intersect with all 3M employees and across all the other ERNs, working to ensure equitable opportunities for women no matter how they identify."
-Amy Rummel, Chair, Women’s Leadership Forum
This intersection goes beyond direct personal experience or identity. The Abilities First ERN is focused on educating employees about the barriers faced by people with disabilities, which includes a wide range of experiences of visible and invisible disability, mental health, chronic pain, and more.
"Every person has a story – either them, or someone close to them has an experience that connects them to the Abilities First ERN. This is important because new stories bring new opportunities for support and allyship."
-Laura St Pierre, Chair, Abilities First ERN
Affecting real change, inside and out
Allyship is not just about reacting to discrimination and barriers found in the workplace. To affect real change, inequity must be challenged head-on, everywhere it exists.
This year, 3M Canada invited a group of diverse STEM experts to join an on-going 3M STEMtalk series. The goal of these discussions is to identify barriers in STEM education for underrepresented communities, and more importantly, to identify how we can initiate real change and drive action to remove those barriers.
Connecting at a deeper level
Creating spaces that are inclusive for everyone unlocks creativity, improves our job satisfaction, and fuels innovation.
And, when people feel included and valued, we build deeper connections.
When you lead with courage and empathy as an active ally you send the message: your whole self is welcome here.