The word “ally” is simply that — a word — until an individual puts it into action. As such, allyship takes on various forms and meanings based on one’s lived experience.
Just ask Raytheon’s Vivian Ramos, senior manager of operations program manager, Allison Whitaker, senior manager of program management, and Dan Gaylord (he/him), senior engineer. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they’ve each developed a unique view of what it means to be an ally — and how to do it well.
At our PRIDE: Championing LGBTQIA+ Leaders & Allies summit, we sat down with Vivian, Allison, and Dan to learn more about their views on allyship, including how Raytheon encourages active allyship in the workplace.
What is allyship
As a community member, Vivian talks about how a label is only as good as the intention behind it.
“I see allyship as a way of taking action,” Vivian explains. “It can go from something as simple as putting your pronouns out there to participating in activities and taking an activist role. And there’s a lot in between.”
For Dan, entering the government contractor environment in 2018 as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community posed a new challenge: helping a traditionally “reserved” culture, as he puts it, feel more open. Alongside Raytheon, he’s made an effort to create an authentic and welcoming environment where people can bring their whole selves to the workplace.
That, he says, is allyship.
“One of my talents is that I show up, I am respectful, I make friends and build relationships, and am consistent and constant in my passion and love for people,” he explains. “That’s how I reel in participants and create allyship.”
And for Allison, a community member, allyship is a choice. “You choose to engage. You choose to be that person who stands up for others. It becomes a responsibility,” she says. “You don’t have to know somebody who’s Black, Brown, an immigrant, female, trans, gay, lesbian, so on and so forth. It’s just choosing to be a good person.”
How to be an active ally
Allison believes that active allyship involves standing up for others, even when you may not have a personal connection to that person’s identity.
She shares the example of someone posting on social media about transgender rights despite not having any transgender family members or friends.
“When you see other people actively speaking out when they have no responsibility bestowed on them to do so, that means they’re choosing to be an ally,” Allison says.
Vivian adds how active allyship can start with the smallest of actions, from choosing not to take part in derogatory jokes to correcting someone when they mistakenly use the wrong pronouns.
“It can be simple things. And maybe, one day, you can grow into doing something with a very significant impact on the community,” she says.
“They don’t have to be these tremendously large moments,” Dan piggybacks off of Vivian. “A woman in my church once mentioned to me that her granddaughter was transitioning. I was the first person she told. And that’s because of how accepting and welcoming I am. It was those little acts that built up.”
Fostering inclusion at Raytheon
At Raytheon, ensuring all employees feel respected and supported is a pillar of their culture.
“For example, giving us the opportunity to talk and engage in this conversation says a lot,” explains Allison. “I think part of the problem at other organizations is they don’t know how to engage those that aren’t as involved to help them become allies.”
She talks about how actions like creating a template for employees to put their pronouns in their email signatures can foster an accepting environment.
“You don’t have to fear or have anxiety around putting a picture of your same-sex partner on your desk,” Allison says. “When you get a company that engages and allows people to bring their whole self to work, to engage in conversations like this, that’s allyship.”To hear the full conversation on “What Allyship Means to Us,” you can watch the recording here. And if you’re interested in joining a company that fosters a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming work environment, check out the opportunities with Raytheon here.