First question: what is an “ally”?
“Allyship as a strategic mechanism used by individuals to become collaborators, accomplices, and coconspirators who fight injustice and promote equity in the workplace through supportive personal relationships and public acts of sponsorship and advocacy. Allies endeavor to drive systemic improvements to workplace policies, practices, and culture.” (Harvard Business Review)
Step 1: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Education: Study the history of systemic racism and consider how our own behaviors have perpetuated discrimination
Ask permission before jumping in with questions.
Understand that not all underrepresented groups have the same experiences. White women and women of color may have different challenges. And even within racial demographics, there can be a wide variety of experiences.
Pay vigilant attention to how women, people of color, and women of color experience group meetings, events, and gatherings. As a leader and an ally, it’s your job to transform your perspective so that you can better understand and advocate for your team.
Step 2: RECOGNIZE AND TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR OWN PRIVILEGE
Being an effective ally requires us to own our privilege. This doesn’t mean that you didn’t have to work hard to get where you are or that you don’t have your own unique challenges to overcome! It just means that you may have had advantages, opportunities, and resources that have systemically been unavailable to underrepresented groups.
Recognize them and find out how you can use your power to make your organization, your meeting, your recruiting efforts, more accepting to women, women of color, and individuals from across the gender spectrum.
Step 3: INVITE FEEDBACK
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to begin a conversation. I’ve often had questions from white friends or colleagues that begin with “I don’t know how to ask this in the right way.” But being an ally and putting yourself out there does mean that you might say or do the wrong thing. And that’s ok!
Organizations can begin by establishing a system that encourages and invites feedback. Having a leader who is willing to admit that there is room for improvement can give the entire organization space to know that thoughtful and sincere feedback is valued and heard.
Step 4: AMPLIFY VOICES OF DIVERSITY ALREADY AT YOUR TABLE
When you arrive to a meeting or an event, ask yourself if there are women or people of color in attendance.
Oftentimes, these groups have a feeling that they are the “only” one in the room. And this can lead to feelings of insecurity or imposter syndrome.
Allies can do something in that moment: ask leaders “whose perspectives are we missing?” or amplify the voices that already exist in your organization by encouraging their active participation and input.
Step 5: WHEN YOU WITNESS DISCRIMINATION, DO SOMETHING
Leaders set the tone. Set clear guidelines and prioritize having a system in place for reporting racist or sexist comments and behavior. When unacceptable behaviors or actions occur, staff should know immediately who and how to report this.
Don’t wait for the victim to be the one to react – often women or women of color worry about upsetting their co-workers or ‘playing the race or gender card.’
And in the moment, intervene. Your entire organization should take this personally and that this type of behavior is not acceptable.
At Nonprofit Resources, LLC, one of our core values is: Integrity. Doing the right thing, no exceptions. This type of clarity helps our team understand that while not always comfortable, it is vital for us to proactively create a culture of inclusion and a community of allies. The great part of this goal is that everyone has a role to play.
Find out more:
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/11/be-a-better-ally