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Allyship Is Not A Noun; It's A Verb

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“We all need help.” Marshall Goldsmith, Ranked World’s Best Executive Coach

This journey we’re on isn’t always an easy one and the last 14 months have brought unexpected challenges on so many fronts. This is an opportune time to think about ally meaning. An ally is someone who is not a member of a marginalized group, but who supports inclusion through stated values and positive action for everyone’s benefit.

Women, blacks, latinx, LBGTQ and other groups who have historically been marginalized in the United States often feel alone just fighting to be heard. Everyone can advocate for underrepresented people in small ways, according to Melinda Epler, founder and CEO of Change Catalyst, a firm in San Francisco that works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion issues. "Your gender, your race, your ethnicity, your religion, your disability, your sexual orientation, your class, your geography—all of these can give you more or fewer opportunities for success”.

An ally is not someone whose “support” is limited to social media tweets. It is no longer enough to be passively anti-racist, for example. Posting in solidarity on social media means very little when the racist systems go unconfronted. True solidarity comes in the form of action to support marginalized people.

In the case of gender discrimination, having men act as positive examples to other men is critical for fostering diversity and inclusion, according to research from Catalyst. Among its suggestions for organizations: visibly recognize men for solution-building so other men have role models to emulate. This same approach would apply to many groups facing discrimination.

“He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years.”

The recent passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg, brought to mind his commitment as an incredible male ally to his wife, Elizabeth II, Queen of England. Whatever your feelings about the English Royalty, the 73-year marriage of these iconic figures consistently revealed his unwavering support of his wife. While being the Queen would seem to be a role that needs no ally, the changing perception of the role across seven decades made Philip’s personal and private support of Queen Elizabeth pivotal to her “leading woman” role. She recently said of him “he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years”

Being an active ally is about being open, having a generous heart, and taking action to back it up. “An allyship of sympathy isn’t very useful,” says Dr. Stephanie Creary, professor of management at the Wharton School.

Practical Tips For Becoming An Ally

Be open and honest with yourself

If you are a member of a privileged group, be honest with yourself. To be a good ally, understand that your actions may go against people who look like you as you begin supporting the underrepresented group. At times you will be uncomfortable.

Be an open listener

Being an active, involved listener or sounding board, can be a precursor to opening other doors. Proactively dedicate the time to listen to the struggle of the underrepresented to open your mind as to how you can help. Remember we have two ears and one mouth and the purpose is to learn.

Open your network

Cast a wide net for like-minded connections to help us to act. The more allies that are engaged in listening and opening their connections, this net can begin to support and actively lift up the underrepresented.

Open career doors

You don't have to be able to directly promote others. You can however actively serve as mentors or sponsors to people in underrepresented groups, as well as provide career nudges.

In closing, becoming a great ally does not happen overnight. It takes guts, dedication, and a long-term commitment to learning. It is okay to make mistakes or be unsure. The important thing is to allow yourself grace and time to learn more about discrimination and becoming the best ally you possibly can.


What topics do you want to discuss? Let us know in the comments below. #advancewithava

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