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Understanding Allyship at PhonePe

PhonePe Editor|4 min read|23 June, 2022

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Our newest intern, Charvi shares her observations on workplace inclusion at the office

I have experienced stereotypes often.

I guess we all have, at some point in our lives. If we are to box everyone in rigid categories, then what sets us apart? Could we create a workplace that is inclusive and where differences are celebrated as strengths? Could we all create a workplace that allows us to be the best version of ourselves?

Such questions intrigued me to realize my passion for Workplace Inclusion.

As a student of Psychology & Human Resource Management, I have been eager to understand how diverse individuals and groups interact with one another within an organizational context. Before joining PhonePe, I had heard about the organization’s inclusive practices. Working here and experiencing it first-hand has been a delight. It has only been a few months but it seems to be a learning experience of a lifetime already. My definition of Inclusion and Allyship has evolved and continues to be evolving. Here I am penning down my thoughts as I learn, unlearn, and relearn each day at the company.

It was Day 1 for me at PhonePe. I was pleasantly surprised to meet Veda, a transwoman, at the PhonePe reception, who guided me to the induction room. I met other colleagues wearing lanyards with gender pronouns written over them. I was amazed to see that close attention has been paid to such details. Moving ahead, I observed Gender-neutral washrooms and braille signs on each room.

As I went to the cafeteria, I saw beautifully painted walls depicting various visuals representing diverse groups. On enquiring about the artists, I got to know that PhonePe had commissioned Aravani, a women, and transwomen’s collective to create these murals for the company — a unique and empowering concept. But the most striking part of my day was my interaction with a few of my colleagues — who could not only recognize but also genuinely understand the struggles of various minority/diverse groups.

My fantastic and thought-provoking first day at PhonePe pushed me further to think and define my concept of Allyship.

Who is an Ally, and what is Allyship? How to become actionable allies? What does it mean at the workplace?

I believe any individual who directly or indirectly supports or acts in a manner that leads to creating a more comfortable, conducive and safe space can be considered an Ally.

Everyone can be an ally. That is the best thing about allyship. However, to be allies, words and action must be in sync. And so wherever one can find it, they can use that privilege to help someone who has been excluded or marginalized or under-represented. Allies play a very active role in personally stepping up and making organizations fairer and more inclusive.

During my subsequent conversation at PhonePe, my colleague Akshaya from HR described allyship as not just standing up for the dignity and respect of your inner circles but everyone else around you. This led me to think about the importance of active allyship in the workplace.

The way I see it, it is a lifetime process of developing authentic connections with your under-represented colleagues based on trust, consistency and responsibility. It could entail a continuous amount of time and effort in helping others, holding ourselves responsible when we make errors, apologizing when needed, and being open to rethinking our actions to adapt. Every workplace brings people from different backgrounds together. Allies in the workplace aid minority colleagues and acquaintances by empathizing with their struggles. Recognizing and owning one’s privilege might be the most difficult component of acting as an ally for some people.

The visual markers that I could see in my organization are constant reminders of the fact that people at PhonePe wish to build a stronger, more positive environment by letting you know that your presence matters in the team. This enables you to be honest and true to yourself, and by doing so, it fosters a culture of trust, just like a good ally. And I think, knowing that you are welcomed irrespective of your ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation eases anxiousness and enables you to focus entirely on your job.

In another conversation on how one can be a better ally, Devika from the Internal Communications team, said, “Say something when you notice anything. The more you educate yourself, the more prepared you will be to see patterns and feel confident stepping in.”

And I agree with her.

My takeaways and, quite honestly, reminders to myself are:

  • Listen to what people are saying — face-to-face, on your social media feed or in the articles you read. It’s less about you, your feelings or opinions and more about hearing theirs.
  • Look up books, articles, videos, and other material regarding the past and present challenges affecting under-represented groups.
  • Call out a friend, family member, coworker, or stranger when they say anything disrespectful. The continuation of oppressive power is enabled through silence, let’s not do that.
  • Don’t brush off anything that makes you uncomfortable. Sit with it, ask yourself “why?” and accept it as a chance to learn.

I know that some of these definitions will evolve and grow. But for now, I am happy to be working in an organization that is ready to put an effort into setting audacious goals. It is ready to learn from its failures and bring concrete changes and more importantly take on a journey of sensitizing and educating all employees through dramas, panel discussions, literature, exclusive microsites for these conversations, sessions, dialogues etc. It’s a nice feeling to be a part of a workplace that doesn’t put people in boxes, that doesn’t stereotype and one that encourages people to be their authentic selves.

About the Author:

Charvi is pursuing her dual Masters in MSc (Psychology-Human Resource Development and Management) from Christ (Deemed to be University) and MA (Business and Organizational Psychology) from Steinbeis University, Germany. In her leisure time, she loves to learn, unlearn and relearn by having conversations that bring people out of their comfort zones. Her areas of interest include discussions around caste, patriarchy, gender, sexuality, intersectionality and mental health.

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