Why you should be an ally for equality

When it comes to supporting equality, equal rights and equality in the workplace most people believe they are doing their part, however when it comes to visible action there is still a long way to go.

Today women, BAME, LGBT+ and disability groups are more likely to face discrimination or be disproportionality affected at work, in recruitment, pay, benefits, mentoring and promotion.

According to TUC studies, more than a third (37%) of BAME workers have been bullied or abused or experienced racial discrimination by their employer.

44% of workers with a disability claimed they had been refused a workplace reasonable adjustment without any rational from their employer and 52% of women workers and 68% of LGBT+  workers claim they have experienced some form of sexual harassment whilst at work.

In terms of pay, disabled workers earn £3,822 per year less than non-disabled workers,  women’s pay gaps are at 15.5%, meaning women work for free for 2 months of the year and nearly 160,000 BAME workers are on zero hours contracts – that’s one in six of the one million workers that are on them.

At home the unequal division of childcare, caring responsibilities and household labour normally falls on the shoulders of women.

Real sustainable change requires everyone to become full time partners and allies in supporting equality, ending discrimination and harassment and pay inequality for protected groups. It also requires everyone to understand how various intersectional identities such as BAME Women, BAME LGBT+ etc. may be further impacted by the equation.  For example around 1 in 8 (12.1%) BAME women working in the UK are employed in insecure jobs compared to 1 in 16 (6.4%) white women and 1 in 17 (5.5%) white men.

Evidence shows that when everyone meaningfully engages in equality and inclusion, benefits can improve by 96%.

Redesign and the new structural changes for equality have given us better opportunities to work more collectively to mainstream our equality work and priorities.

However, despite having this apparatus, not everyone demonstrates the same commitment towards achieving equality.

For example, most CWU members are aware and grasp the issues but have little engagement or are inactive in addressing them.  Some CWU members are well informed and are willing to engage actively but only when asked to do so and others are apathetic and disinterested.

As a union we must address this imbalanced approach within our union and encourage everyone to become an active ally for equality.

9 Ways to be a Better Ally for Equality


  1. Listen – Listening to individuals with different identities in a way that encourages trust and respect is key to understanding discrimination and oppression. Where possible seek opportunities to hear individual stories and experiences. Attend CWU Equality events and speak to representatives and members.
  2. Reflect & Challenge – Reflect on your own power and privileges. Being an ally requires recognising the advantages, opportunities, resources and power you’ve automatically been given while others have been denied them. Educate yourself on how inequality intersects with other identities such as Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation and Ability etc. and the look at the different forms of oppression.
  3. Recognise – Give credit to those who come up with good ideas or those that have carried out good union work, especially those that are often overlooked and under-represented. Small acts of encouragement go a long way. Research proves positive interaction between under-represented groups and their counterparts reduces prejudices and exclusion.
  4. Support proportional leadership – Support people from under-represented groups so they can become leaders, even if it’s unpopular. Challenge barriers and stereotypes that prevent progression. Encourage adjustments and positive actions to remove biases and illustrate your support for equality by working more collectively with Equality Officers and Leads and by pushing for better workplace policies e.g., better parental leave and pay, better reporting structures and processes for workplace sexual harassment, better flexibility rights etc.
  5. Call it out – Be an active participant of the CWU’s Call it out campaign and challenge sexist, homophobic, transphobic and racist attitudes and discuss stories of people who have faced multiple forms of discrimination to help humanise your reasoning. Make it clear that you do not support inappropriate language and ‘jokes’ and explain why they are offensive.
  6. Be Uncomfortable – Being an ally is about creating change, not about being comfortable. Be mindful that criticism about a certain race or gender or other identity through the story telling of lived experiences is not about you and are not personal attacks. Empathise and understand.
  7. Help out at home – Step up at home. Help achieve better work-life balances by equalising the division of labour at home and push for the advancement of workplace policies to support caring responsibilities, e.g. paid leave for carers and parents.
  8. Campaign for change – Get involved with CWU equality campaigns. Work with our Equality Officers and Equality Leads within our structures and help deliver change collectively.
  9. Become a CWU Mentor – Volunteer to become one of our CWU trained mentors and support under-represented members seeking to become representatives or get more involved in union activity.