Ally Skills Workshop

Can we get more training like that? —Anonymous workshop participant

Looking for practical, actionable diversity and inclusion training that people love? The Ally Skills Workshop teaches simple everyday techniques you can use to make your workplace more inclusive. This workshop teaches people how to recognize when they have power and influence—when they can best act as an ally—and how to take effective action to make their workplace better.

The workshop helped build confidence amongst individuals on the team to take practical everyday steps […] to create an inclusive culture. I would recommend it to any team, as a regular practice, to take the workshop and learn some new skills. — Brandon Philips, CTO and co-founder of CoreOS

Workshop format

The workshop is 3 hours long. After a 30 minute introduction, most of the workshop is spent discussing real-world scenarios in which an ally could take action in small groups. Each group shares their solutions in a group report-out led by the facilitator. Participants learn ally skills by practicing them in discussion groups: listening, amplifying voices, apologizing and correcting themselves, and more. The workshop ends with each participant setting a specific goal for their future ally work. The workshop can be taught in-person or online.

Loved the format, it was super interactive and didn’t feel like a drag, 3 hours just flew by. — Anonymous participant

Workshop attendance

The Ally Skills Workshop works best with:

  • 20 – 30 participants
  • Voluntary attendance only (non-negotiable)
  • Attendance open to as broad a mix of people as possible
  • Attendance limited to three levels of hierarchy (e.g., individual contributors, their managers, and their managers’ managers)

We’ve run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many “a-ha” moments. People who understood bias exists in a very logical way, were able to see, through the conversation with peers about the very relevant scenarios, and connect emotionally with the impact bias has on the colleagues they respect and interact with daily. — Anonymous participant

Example materials

All of the workshop materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.  They are based on the Ada Initiative’s Ally Skills Workshop, originally designed to teach men how to support women in open technology and culture, and now expanded to cover oppression along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, body size, parental/caretaker status, and age. The scenarios are customized for each client as part of the workshop fee.

Materials for participants:

  • Slides (PDF) (PPT)
  • Handout (PDF) (DOCX)
  • Identifying power and privilege exercise (PDF) (DOCX)
  • Scenario discussion prompts (PDF) (DOCX)
  • Goal setting exercise (PDF) (DOCX)
  • Tips for online workshops for attendees (PDF)

Other resources:

Valerie did an amazing job of helping us articulate our cultural values in ways that are true to who we are and also sensitive to the realities that less privileged people face. Her feedback was consistently thoughtful and compassionate. I’m proud of what we ended up with and very grateful for the role that Valerie played in ensuring that we’re representing ourselves both honestly and sensitively. —Gideon Wald, CEO Welkin Health

To learn more about hosting an Ally Skills Workshop at your organization, contact us at


In addition to offering the workshop ourselves, we teach people to facilitate the Ally Skills Workshop, so your organization can run the Ally Skills Workshop on an on-going basis and customize it to support your unique situation. Companies that teach the Ally Skills Workshop internally include Google, Square, Airbnb, and AppNexus. All of the workshop materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable.

The class is 6 hours total, ideally spread out over 2 days. The organizations which have had the most success with teaching the workshop internally started with 1 – 3 workshops taught by an outside facilitator to build trust and engagement, followed by training 15 – 20 people to facilitate, along with a plan for training new facilitators on a yearly basis. We recommend that two people co-facilitate the workshop.

To schedule a private train-the-trainers for up to 20 people at your organization, contact us at

To learn when the next public train-the-trainers opens for registration, sign up to our low traffic mailing list. You can also fill out the expression of interest form to help us decide when to schedule the next public train-the-trainers. Ticket prices vary, but are generally on a sliding scale up to about $2500 for a single ticket for the public train-the-trainers.


The workshop is most effective when led by an instructor with first-hand experience working in a similar field to that of the participants. Our instructors have experience working at technology companies and in software engineering in particular. We also collaborate with several diversity and inclusion experts with experience in academia and other fields. We will match you with the best facilitator for your organization. To book any of the below facilitators, email

Valerie AuroraValerie Aurora is Frame Shift’s founder and principal consultant. She worked as a software engineer for more than a decade, specializing in operating systems, and co-founded and led the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. She is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Valerie here.

Kendall HowseKendall Howse is a senior designer at CoreOS, a software infrastructure startup acquired by Red Hat. At CoreOS, he was co-founder of the company’s Diversity Council, where he worked alongside the CTO to foster a company culture of inclusivity and empathy. He is a member of AIGA San Francisco, the professional association for designers, and Bay Area Black Designers. He is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Kendall here.

Cynthia TeeCynthia Tee is a senior director of engineering at Nordstrom. She was Executive Director of Ada Developers Academy, which teaches programming to women, trans, and non-binary people. She worked as a software engineer and product manager. She is located in the Seattle area. Learn more about Cynthia here.

Sheila AddisonDr. Sheila Addison is President of Margin to Center Consulting, and a Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist in California. She has a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University and taught full-time for several years before going into private practice. She is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Sheila here.