We are the Champions, my friends

We are the Champions, my friends

Let’s not kid ourselves. The corporate world wasn’t designed with marginalized groups in mind. It’s still a playground for the privileged. We have been conditioned to believe the corporate world is a zero-sum game, and promoting diversity and inclusion somehow diminishes the opportunities for non-marginalized groups.

The truth is more people are willing to be an ally than a champion. A champion fights for the rights, representation, and fair treatment of marginalized folks. Champions ensure everyone gets a fair shot, regardless of their background, identity, or experience. They’re not just in the stands cheering—they’re in the trenches making change happen.

Storytime

During a company-wide women’s ERG panel, the moderator asked the panelists to, “Tell us about a time someone championed your efforts.” The entire panel was silent for a smooth 60 seconds. 🚩 Then suddenly, someone voiced how, at another company 🚩, a woman championed her.

Once this happened, there should have been a massive call to action for decision-makers to find and champion one of the panelists (at the very least). However, the status quo continued. No one spoke up. No change was made. It’s like seeing a burning building and not calling 911. That may seem like an extreme analogy, but these are crucial red flags that are being ignored, perpetuating systemic barriers against women that will continue to go ignored if someone does take a stand. The women at this company already did more than they needed by calling out the issue, but what a punch to the gut not to have leadership jump into action.

The Cold, Hard Truth

The truth is diverse teams are more innovative, creative, and productive. They bring different perspectives that lead to better problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, in today’s climate, consumers are becoming more socially conscious about supporting companies that align with their values. Not only does this attract a wider customer base, but it also attracts talent who want to work for a company that builds an environment where everyone feels like they can thrive.

If you’re not advocating for marginalized voices, you’re sabotaging your team’s potential. Championing marginalized groups doesn’t mean sidelining everyone else. It’s about leveling the field so everyone has a fair chance. It’s about removing systemic barriers that have kept marginalized folks from accessing the same opportunities.

It is a misconception that champions should take any marginalized person under their wing and make a way out of no way. That’s simply not the case. It is recognizing the potential or one’s abilities and advocating for them to take up space in the room, at the table, or the golf course.

Speaking of golf courses: When you hear the phrase “good ol’ boys club,” you may envision a bunch of old, bald white men in a country club (wood everywhere!) drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. And because you don’t see yourself in spaces like this, you don’t think the notion of a “good ol’ boys club” applies. News Flash! “Good ol’ boys club” still exists but has evolved! Not only are they not always old, but they are not white or boys! “Good ol’ boys club” can be any social connection that is bounded by shared experiences that exclude outsiders. Informal networks exclude others from social circles and encourage favoritism. When you are grabbing a drink after work, who are you inviting? When you solicit feedback, who are you asking? When you hand out projects, who are you handing them to? Oftentimes, actions are explained away with “Well, they know this area better.” or “It’s just easier if they do it.” or “I know you’ve been busy, so I gave it to them.” or the top of the list, pure silence.

If you can’t think of a time you championed someone, it’s time for you to! Being a champion means confronting the fact that you hold privilege in the space and advocating for fair policies to ensure marginalized voices are heard—not just in ERG meetings but in every aspect of the company. It’s essential for the health and success of the company. It’s time to stop seeing advocacy as an optional activity and start treating it as the critical business strategy it is.