How Do I Take Real Action as An Ally?
That’s right! I define Allyship as Action, not Thy Savoir. On a basic level, you are a human that cares. On a deeper level, it means you have watched inequities take place far too long and won’t watch on the sidelines any longer.
Let’s take a step back. Have you ever witnessed someone being talked over in a meeting? Who was it? How many times? Who did it? Why was it happening? Did you sit there and stare? Did you stay silent? Why were you silent? This is the moment you can be brutally honest with yourself. Have you ever reflected on why you didn’t say anything? Did you speak with the macroaggressor? Did you check-in with your colleague that experienced being macroaggressed? Write your feelings down. What are you nervous about?
These questions may make you feel uncomfortable. You may be feeling a bit guilty, but let's turn that guilt into action. To practice allyship, you must listen, learn and act.
I once had a manager notice my frustration during an executive meeting. Many executives were speaking over me and questioning my credibility. What my manager did next is how I would describe allyship. He interrupted the conversation and reminded the other executives to listen to me actively. He did not paraphrase my message, but instead reminded the other executives that I was a credible source.
My manager acknowledged his privilege and power. At that very moment, he acknowledged the lack of respect and power dynamic taking place and shared his power with me. I’ve never felt more seen and heard in a room where I was the “ONLY!” Being the only is lonely, frustrating, and comes with constant pain. My manager didn't want praise. He wanted the folks in the room to give me my undivided attention and he demanded.
I want to share why it is crucial to support allyship at work and articulate it differently.
Allyship is about actively stopping injustices, genuinely building platforms, and implementing policies that shape the multiethnic workforce. An example would be with your staff or senior management, implementing workshops, setting up audits, bringing DEI experts in, and other action-oriented initiatives to establish a DEI pipeline.
You must drive systemic change. This means a complete and total overhaul of the current structures and replacing them with a fairer equitable system that benefits all. It’s the arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating all forms of power, challenging the status quo, and showcasing solidarity with systemically overlooked employees in the pursuit of an equitable future.
To fully prepare and delve deep into systemic issues, start paying attention to your behavior when injustice arises. How do you respond to various injustices? Learn how society and your company responds to injustices of various systemically overlooked groups. What’s the disparity within that? How long did a solution take or lack thereof for various systemically overlooked groups? Have you openly mentioned the lack of response to your company? This will help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement.
Let’s transition to how you can articulate allyship in different ways.
You should build a community where you can have open, frank conversations about the meaning and purpose of allyship. My recommendation is to create a community of folks to speak openly about the systemic issues you want to address.
Be sure to collaborate with experts; whether it is bringing in a prominent DEI expert or hosting a workshop, programming is an excellent way for staff to learn and collaborate on allyship techniques. For example, many leaders with minimal budgets start book clubs to begin having open discussions around texts from leading experts in the field. I will add that this is a good starting point, but this work requires more action than participating in a book club. Focus on attending virtual or in-person events where you are the only one and listen! If you are not putting yourself in spaces with systemically overlooked people, then you are not serious about actionable allyship just yet. Focus on uncovering potential areas of improvement.
The purpose of allyship is to build support and solidarity with your colleagues, especially employees of color.
I'd like you to take this month to develop an action plan and take action on your plan. Once you do, I’d love for you to post them in the comment section.
You got this!
A leading voice in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion field whose soaring audience of about 100,000+ followers on LinkedIn engagement was doubtless a key factor in Forbes naming her as one of the top 7 anti-racism consultants in the world. One of Netta’s LinkedIn posts went viral and has received over 25+ million views. Netta was featured in CIO Views publication as “The Top 10 Most Influential Black Women in Business to Follow in 2021”. She was listed as LinkedIn Top Voice for equity within the workplace content. An acclaimed author with a deep background in communications, leadership, and behavioral psychology, Netta has been advising corporations and audiences of all kinds for more than 15 years on the most effective strategies to address systemic barriers, its traumatic impact, and the path to social justice through Holistic Inclusion Consulting LLC; www.holisticinclusion.com.