Allyship at Work – Effects of Bias

Effects of Bias

Allyship is a popular concept, whose definition can vary. 

We define Allyship as taking action to support those who might otherwise be or feel excluded. 

Reactive Bias

Often when thinking about allyship, we think about reactive allyship – reacting to bias when we see it.

For gender-bias, this can look like:

  • Confronting disrespectful, biased comments
  • Addressing gender-related jokes
  • Calling out implicit stereotyping 
  • Questioning lack of women candidates on a job shortlist


Returning to our simulator, we can represent reactive allyship with a yellow arrow.

Imagine Ben says a gender-biased comment to Mei, but Hong steps in to confront Ben. This action would look like this:  

Previously, Mei was pushed out of the network. The allyship action can bring her back in, or keep her in the network.



Another key assumption of our simulator is that all allyship actions are effective (which is not always true in reality)

To be successful, allyship needs to recognized as supportive by those the action is intended to support (for more information see De Souza et al, forthcoming)

Intended allyship does not always result in experienced allyship. 

Back to our simulator – you’ll see an allied behavior slider added to the control panel. Change the percentage of allied behavior & see what happens to the inclusion level. 


What would happen if 15% of <<NAME’s>> coworkers took reactive allyship actions? 30%? 

These reactive actions can be effective in reducing the effects of bias in the company:

  • When allyship actions are taken & positively experienced by minority group members, the overall impact of bias is reduced
  • Members of the advantaged group can be very persuasive and influential as allies*** 


But, keep in mind that confronting bias directly is not always the most successful tactic; people who confront bias can be seen as over-reactive* or complainers**. 

So if reactive actions like confrontations are not always successful, what other options does <<NAME>> and her colleagues have?

Next Step: Proactive Allyship


*Czopp & Monteith, 2003; Rasinski & Czopp, 2010 

**Kaiser & Miller, 2001, 2003

***Rasinski & Czopp, 2010