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When it comes to setting the tone for diversity and inclusion in organizations, leaders play an important role. There is good reason for this: leaders have formal power, they help create the culture, and employees will frequently behave in ways that leaders model.
While the leader’s influence is clear, there is also research showing that other organizational members can and do influence an organization’s diversity and inclusion. These individuals are called allies, and they support diversity initiatives, social justice causes, and people from marginalized groups.
This support can take several forms, including compliance, cooperation, and championing. It is the championing behavior that is most desired. Here, allies use their power and privilege to strongly advocate for diversity and inclusion in organizations. It is the highest form of discretionary behavior and entails sacrifices and effort on the part of the ally.
Given allies’ importance, researchers from the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport undertook a study to understand what prompted them to champion diversity. In one study, they collected data from student leaders, and in another, they collected data from organizational employees.
The researchers found that women, racial minorities, and members of the LGBT community were likely to champion diversity. Personality was also important, as extroverts were most likely to champion. Finally, others in the workplace mattered: people who worked alongside others who also supported diversity were more likely to do so themselves.
Results show that a number of factors are linked with championing behavior. Importantly, the study findings illustrate that diversity and inclusion is not solely the responsible of formal leaders. Instead, other organizational members can and do play a role in promoting a more just workplace.