Allies are those who use their own power and privilege to speak up in support of others from marginalised groups. They exist outside of a community but can recognise the barriers that that community faces, and they are willing to support them in the fight for equality.
Hate can only win out if people who are not from discriminated groups stand by and let it happen. You don’t have to be Black, gay, or a woman to stand up for the rights of those groups. That’s why allies are so important.
What does it mean to be an Ally?
Being an ally is not about being a saviour – someone who rides in to rescue others who can’t help themselves.
It’s about recognising the relative advantages you have and using them in whatever way you can to empower others.
Maybe that means introducing yourself with your pronouns so that trans and non-binary colleagues feel more comfortable to do it too. Or using your Facetime with a manager to give credit to a talented colleague from an underrepresented group, who maybe hasn’t been recognised for their hard work. Or pointing out to a male colleague when they’ve spoken over a woman in a meeting, and inviting that woman to finish her point.
There are lots of ways we can show our support for others at work without making it about ourselves.
Most importantly, being an ally is about listening and learning. People who face discrimination are the experts in their own experience, so the best thing you can do to show them your support is to accept what they are telling you, even if it’s hard to hear.
Listen when they tell you the ways you can support them, and do your own research into the struggles they’re facing.
Many businesses mark Pride month by incorporating rainbows into their logos and branding to support LGBTQ+ colleagues, but here’s some food for thought: for many in the LGBT community, the rainbow flag is a symbol of protest against discrimination.
If companies adopt the flag without listening to the real needs of the community, it becomes less about allyship and more about marketing or keeping up appearances. True allyship goes beyond using flags and symbols of a movement.
4 Steps You Can Take To Be a Great Ally:
1. Uplift the voices of others
Often, it’s those from marginalised groups who struggle to be heard, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they need you to tell their message. It can be more impactful to use your privilege to pass the mic, or share resources made by the marginalised community so that their message is heard more widely.
2. Remember, it’s OK to not understand someone else’s perspective
You’re not expected to ‘get’ everything about everybody. But by simply respecting their existence without asking them to explain or justify it, you can be an ally.
3. Don’t ignore casual “isms”
If you see someone being victimised on the grounds of race, sex, gender, sexuality, or any other characteristic, call it out. It’s often a whole lot less scary to do that as an ally or a privileged person than it is for the person being victimised.
4. Be consistent.
Allyship isn’t about celebrating a day or a month each year, or showing support only when something shocking or bad happens in the news. It’s about a long term commitment towards changing the status quo, so that life becomes fairer for us all.
Mix offers in-person and online training on Allyship, from board briefings to cross-company training. Contact us to find out more.