You Need to Ask Tough Questions and Listen to Tough Answers — How to Be a Better Ally

Sponsored by Siemens Energy

Sarah Hashish

Photo courtesy of Siemens Energy.

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June 20, 2024 at 11:4PM UTC

“All it takes to be an ally is to pay attention to those around you,” says Sarah Hashish, Executive Positioning — Inclusion and Diversity at  Siemens Energy. “Learn to read the signs when someone is struggling and needs support.” And, when someone does need support, make sure you actively listen to what they have to say about how you can help. 

“Be there for the person and help in a way you would want someone to help you if you were facing hardships yourself,” Hashish continues. “One very important thing to do if you’re serious about being an ally is reading and educating yourself on the issues that members of that ethnicity, LGBTQIA+, disability or gender group go through.”

Allyship is a topic of personal importance to Hashish. “Without allies throughout my life journey at work and privately, I would never have made it this far,” she shares. “My father is one of my strongest supporters and allies. He doesn’t just advise me on private matters, but also on work-related matters.” And, Hashish reveals that she’s had many male managers that have supported her as allies throughout her career. “One specific story I always like to mention is how you can be an ally when a woman in your team faces sexual comments or jokes at work,” she states.

In this article, Hashish tells us more about becoming an ally, her own allyship journey and how Siemens Energy makes diversity and inclusion a priority.

What is an ally?

An ally is someone who wakes up every morning with the intention of being kind. Someone who actively listens, has the capability to walk in someone else’s shoes and be there for those in need of support. Those in need could be a colleague, a friend, a family member, maybe even one’s own manager. You never know what struggles people are going through and how you can help just by being supportive. 

When it comes to inclusion and diversity networks, an ally is someone who is willing to learn about the issues members of these networks face because by knowing more, you can better support others.

What has been your best learning moment in your journey to becoming an ally?

Siemens Energy is a young company. Back in June 2021, our Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) initiative was quite young. As you surely know, June marks Pride Month. That year, we saw members of the LGBTQIA+ community calling out companies for pink-washing and using the month to pose as inclusive employers for their own gain, when, in reality, they were not. 

I work for the Communications department, so I made a call that since we were still figuring out our I&D journey, we wouldn’t change the icons on our social media channels to represent the Pride flag. Back then, I did not feel like we had yet started to do enough to be seen as walking the talk. Despite my belief that my intentions were in the right place, our PRIDE network was quick to call me out on my decision. They told me that this sent a message that Siemens Energy did not care about their queer employees and that they were extremely disappointed. 

Looking back, this could simply have been avoided by talking with our network in an effort to understand what their preferences were before I made the decision. That is exactly what I mean when I say knowing better means doing better.

Do you have any suggestions for resources that share advice on being a better ally?

Siemens Energy launched an allyship campaign back in December 2021. The campaign revolves around the stories of employees, their colleagues, families and friends, and is about how their allies supported them and played a definitive role in their lives at work and privately. (You can view some of these beautiful and heart-warming videos here.)

There’s no better way to learn how you can be a better ally than by listening to stories people share on how their allies helped them. 

What do you do in your day-to-day work life (and beyond) to serve as an ally?

I have never understood why, in some cases, women take pleasure in putting other women down. This is one of the things that will never seize to baffle and sadden me. Throughout my career, I have often suffered because of jealous women around me more than I have suffered because of men with big egos and zero self-confidence. 

If you ask women around me, they will tell you that I do my best to push them forward, sing their praises and bring them up instead of down. That is how I serve as an ally to women at work and in private life.

Since June last year, I’ve also been part of our PRIDE network. After what happened, I wanted to bring the network and the company closer together. I wanted to act as their voice toward our management and employees, and vice-versa. I saw how important it was to ask them where we are doing bad, where we are doing good and where we can do better. I believe we have come a long way together. I consider our Pride network to be the company’s ally and the company to be the network’s ally. We work hand in hand to make sure we live up to our aspiration of becoming a truly inclusive company — a company where everyone feels safe to be their true self

Could you tell us more about how Siemens Energy fosters a culture of equality and fairness?

A few things that we have on our plate right now, include:

  • Siemens Energy announced a gender quota of 25% women in senior leadership positions by 2025 and 30% by 2030. 

  • Our Real Estate department is working on a large global project with the intention of ensuring all Siemens Energy locations are accessible to colleagues with disabilities. 

  • We announced a so-called Ombudsperson, who will specifically be looking into all discrimination-related complaints brought forward by our employees and ensure action is taken.

  • We continue to talk with all four networks about action items Siemens Energy can take on to successfully continue our journey of being truly inclusive.

    • Once the action items have been brought to us, the I&D team discusses them with the departments that would need to implement it. Sometimes these ideas work out and other times they don’t. But, the most important thing about this is to keep the dialogue ongoing with the employees. 

What do you think other companies can learn from how Siemens Energy handles allyship?

To drive inclusion and diversity successfully, you need to ask tough questions and listen to tough answers. That was the start of everything at Siemens Energy. You can read more about that here

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