What Does It Mean To Be An Ally?

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

Working in the diversity/gender and inclusion space, I work primarily with the women and diverse attorneys at my firm. Not surprisingly, the diverse attorneys are a small fraction of our very talented workforce. And that’s not just the case at my firm. It’s true for the legal industry as a whole, and for most industries generally.

Being part of a minority group comes with its own unique set of challenges. That’s why so many companies provide their diverse talent with opportunities to connect and develop through affinity networks, training programs, and mentor/sponsorship programs. These are all important, but if we want our workplaces – and our society – to become more supportive and inclusive for everyone, then the diverse folks can’t do it alone. Enter the Allies.

Allies are men who support gender equality, white individuals who advocate on behalf of racial and ethnic minorities, straight people who support LGBTQ friends and colleagues. In short, they may not personally identify with a particular gender, race, or sexual orientation, but they believe in fairness, equality and justice for those groups and lend their support to help achieve just that. Below are some ways you can be a good ally to the minority groups you want to support:

  1. Listen . Part of being a good ally is listening to your colleagues and giving them the space to share their challenges and frustrations.
  2. Identify your blind spots. We all have them. When you listen with an empathetic ear, you’ll be surprised at what you could learn and how it can challenge the unconscious biases you may not have even known you had.
  3. Show Up. Go to the affinity group meetings. Attend the networking events. Help organize a panel or brown bag lunch. Your presence is important and your support is valuable.
  4. Speak Up. If you see someone being treated unfairly, say something. If you notice that the women on your team are getting a disproportionate amount of administrative work, raise it with your team leaders and help create a more equitable assignment distribution system. Be an active bystander.
  5. Start an Allies Chapter. If your company has affinity networks or resource groups, join as an ally or start an ally chapter. Groups like the “Manbassadors” on businesses campuses around the country have helped to bring more men into gender equity conversations. Starting your own ally group can help recruit more people into wider inclusion efforts.

What are some ways you support the diverse groups in your workplace?

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