How can I be an ally and not a saviour?

9 November 2020

In Episode 2 of The Aperture I talk with Leyla Okhai from Diverse Minds about the role allyship plays in creating and maintaining diverse and inclusive workplaces. We talk about power and privilege, and systems that create advantage. We also discuss a question we both get asked frequently, ‘How can I be sure I’m being an ally not a saviour?’

So, what is allyship, and how can we be a genuine ally and avoid being a saviour?

An ally is someone who is not a member of an under-represented group but who takes action to support that group. Allies maximise their position to create a more inclusive workplace, with opportunities for everyone to thrive. 

Here are a few key differences between allies and saviours:

  • Saviours talk more than they listen: allies listen more than they talk.
  • Saviours speak on behalf of others: allies amplify others’ voices
  • Saviours rush to help: allies step back and create opportunities.
  • Saviours make other people feel ‘othered’: allies find ways to make their privilege work for others

As an ally, you will consider when to be passive and when to be active. Examples of what to do and what to avoid are given in the podcast. Here are some further suggestions:

  • Recommend people from under-represented backgrounds for learning opportunities and leadership development.
  • Talk about the expertise you see in others, especially during performance and promotion discussions.
  • Share your colleague’s career goals with influencers.
  • When someone proposes a good idea, repeat it and give them credit for it. For example: “I agree with Rasheed’s recommendation for improving our returns policy”
  • Review the delegate lists for strategic planning meetings, events with key partners, and other career development opportunities. If people from marginalised groups are missing, advocate for them to be invited.
  • Ask someone from an under-represented group to collaborate on a proposal or project.
  • Read publications, blogs, or social media content by, and about, under-represented groups. Start by subscribing to The Aperture for regular social change thinking podcasts!
  • Speak up if you witness behaviour or comments that are degrading or offensive. Explain your position so that everyone is clear why you are raising the issue.
  • Believe the experiences of others, even though they may feel far removed from your own.
  • Listen and ask questions when someone describes an experience you have not had. Do not jump in with your own personal stories and avoid asking questions that amplify power dynamics

Being an ally requires committing to being on a journey. In the podcast Leyla says, “It’s not a one and done, it’s a rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat…”. It is ongoing because the driver for being an ally is to dismantle discriminatory structures, not to achieve personal goals.

The Aperture episode 2 – the one about allyship

The Aperture Podcast Episode 1 out now!

16 October 2020

I am pleased to share the first episode of The Aperture podcast. We’ve had great comments from those who live and breathe disability and those who haven’t given disability much consideration. Take a listen and see what you think…

The Aperture podcast flyer (1)

Social change podcast coming soon…

9 October 2020

The Aperture Logo

I am fortunate to have some amazing people in my networks who I regularly have creative and inspiring conversations with about how to change the world. These ‘putting the world to rights’ conversations usually take place over a coffee or a glass of wine and usually the ideas get left behind in the café or bar.

For a long time, I have wanted to find a way to share some of the conversations I have. Over lock down I decided to start a social change podcast as a way to share some of these conversations. It’s been a definite learning curve, which hasn’t been without its moments of stress. Back in lock down, everyone it seemed was after podcast starter packs and microphones, and you couldn’t get equipment for love nor money! I then had to learn how to use it and learn what makes a good podcast. You listen to the likes of Louis Theroux and Peter Crouch and they make it look so easy – trust me, it really isn’t.

There is so much more to creating and marketing a podcast than I ever could have imagined. Thankfully, I have had some incredible people on my side. My friend Jay has been a diamond as has another friend Paul from Vipodcasting, both have helped no end. However, it’s nothing without the guests and I have had some incredible people agree to be part of it.

this week I launch the first episode in series 1 of The Aperture. Each episode features me talking to someone on a topic close to them, about ideas on how to make systems and situations better to benefit society. I then hand over to a poet to produce a creative response to the conversation.

The Aperture is out soon so watch this space for ways to listen. In the meantime follow on twitter or on Facebook.


As lock down eases remember how it feels as barriers are removed.

6 July 2020

I recently ran a webinar entitled, ‘Post Covid-19 Disability Considerations in your Workplace’ in which I suggested that everyone has experienced disability over the Coronavirus period.

How come? Well, because I believe disability is the experience of barriers. It is a social model definition which suggests that if we reduce and remove barriers people become less disabled. It defines a disabled person as a person with an impairment who experiences disability.

Let me explain. A wheelchair user is disabled if a flight of stairs is the only entrance to a building. However, the same person with the same impairment can independently access the building if a ramp is also provided, so is not disabled in the second scenario.

It follows, that this definition also means that if barriers are increased, people become more disabled. The recent lockdown has been a unique experience as every one of us has faced barriers. Everyone has experienced being denied access to spaces and services; everyone has been excluded from seeing who they want, when they want; and many people have found themselves working from unsuitable work-stations in environments that do not serve them well. This is a small snapshot of many disabled people’s normal. Recently everyone has experienced barriers and so have been ‘situationally disabled’

Experiencing some additional barriers over a period of months does not mean you know what it is like to live and work with an impairment or long-term health condition. However, it does mean you now know:

· The energy and effort required to work around restrictions

· The skills required to navigate around barriers

· The impact working in this way can have on your mental health and wellbeing

· The positive impact when understanding and flexibility is shown to your situation.

As lockdown restrictions are eased and barriers begin to be removed, non-disabled people are becoming less ‘situationally disabled’. I hope a renewed respect develops for the skill sets that disabled people display every day in order to operate in a world and workplace where experiencing barriers is commonplace. Remember how adaptable you became; the ways you thought creatively; and how resourceful you were during this Coronavirus period? Perhaps you can now view disabled candidates and colleagues as having valuable assets based on their lived experience and will reduce or remove barriers where you know they exist.

Get in touch for further information about the webinar.

Here we go again!

18 April 2020

I have been running my inclusion consultancy, Making Lemonade, since 2003. This time two years ago I was approached to take up the position of Head of Employment at Thomas Pocklington Trust. My role was to lead on the charity’s planning and programming of all internal and external activities aimed at increasing the employment prospects of blind and partially sighted people in the UK.

I left this role and returned home to Making Lemonade at the end of 2019. I had made a good start at changing how we look at the employment gap faced by blind and partially sighted people and a strategy around new ways to address it. I was then offered freelance work delivering personal development training to disabled staff within a number of large corporates and as I love this work I returned to Making Lemonade.

Who would have thought in January as I began to build up my portfolio of work again that I’d be writing this with a clear diary? We’d barely heard of the Coronavirus back then, let alone known the impact it would have on all of us. As a result, I am open for business only for services that can be delivered remotely. What this means currently is that I am continuing my coaching, as this was delivered to my clients by phone anyway, and I am facilitating a remote action learning set. Gladly, it seems my personal development training will be rescheduled to when it is safe for all of us to
get out and about again.

We are only in March and 2020 has seen life deal most of us lemons! Now feels like the time to find an adaptable lemonade recipe that can be made around current Coronavirus restrictions.

Why the name?