In war, your allies are the friendly nations you can trust. They protect you and fight by your side, even though they are different from you.
The concept has been co-opted by conversations around fairness and justice, only with less warfare involved. We hope.
🌡️ Poll time
🎯 Being an ally is supporting members of underrepresented groups (that you are not in) in the fight for equal advantage.
Often, allyship is spoken about in relation to broad demographic groups like women, people of colour or the LGBTQ+ community.
While focus on specific issues is really important, you can be an ally to anyone with an underrepresented characteristic, such as a personality type that is the “odd-one-out” in your team.
The second poll above covers some common stages of allyship. We’re all at different points in our allyship journey. It’s also sort of fluid since the obvious opportunities to be an active ally come and go.
To really make ground with D&I issues in our company and society, we should aim to confidently say that we carry out actions to shine a light on issues whenever we can, even stepping out of the way and passing our opportunities to others (which isn’t as scary or martyring as it sounds!)
Helping Hand by Anthony Collier via Dribbble.
🏃 What do allies actually do?
- They take on a struggle for representation, opportunity and inclusion as if that struggle was their own.
- They stand up, speak up and show up, even when they feel negative emotions about doing so.
- They share the advantages of their privilege with those who lack it. (“Share” isn’t quite the right word as it doesn’t usually take away from the ally’s privilege… it’s more like multiplying privilege!)
- They acknowledge that even though they feel uncomfortable, confused or upset (due to their personal struggles, or directly because of D&I conversations), the conversation is not about them.
Awareness and reflection are really powerful. But ultimately the best allies take action. Being an active ally comes hand-in-hand with accepting that you are always learning, you are are an ally “in training”.
👇 Confused? Read the comic below.
🏋️ Why we’re all in training
There is no manual or script for a being a good ally. In fact, weathering uncertainty and deciding what to do in a sensitive situation is what makes you a brilliant ally.
That means we’re all getting better all the time. And if you’re committing to learning as you practise then at least you are, well, practising!
The enemy of effective allyship is thinking you’re an expert and/or a good person™️ and, as a result, being complacent. This sort of inaction can be even tougher to break through than someone not caring or knowing about the related issues at all!
🗝️ Your key takeaway
Being an ally is advocating alongside or on the behalf of groups and individuals that are underrepresented. The two keys to allyship are to be active and to be always learning which, fortunately, come hand in hand.