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4 Roles You Can Play to be a Better Ally

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We all have a role to play to create a more diverse, equal and inclusive world. As shared by Sheldon Cummings, our Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, “Having a culture of inclusion where everyone feels they belong and can be their true selves, requires understanding and action from everyone.” 

One way in which we can demonstrate action is by showing up as an ally. We recently hosted our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Town Hall, open to all of our employees around the world, where we discussed the topic of allyship.

What is an Ally? 

Allies are people who actively choose to align themselves with those who are marginalized or disadvantaged with the aim of improving their circumstances in the workplace and world.

Allyship doesn’t always look the same, and that’s a good thing. Different people and different scenarios require different levels of support and understanding. When stepping up as an ally, it’s important to recognize that your role at its core is to create space for others and not to center around yourself.  

Here are 4 different roles you can play to be a better ally

Sponsor: When an ally takes on the role of the Sponsor, they vocally support the work of colleagues from underrepresented groups in all contexts, but specifically in situations that will help boost those colleagues’ standing and reputations.

Look for opportunities where you can actively bring others into the conversation or highlight work that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. As a manager, you can also reinforce a team member’s perspective as a subject matter expert to the larger team and during one-on-one meetings.

Leaders can demonstrate a commitment to diversity by role modeling inclusive leadership behaviors that can be as simple as acknowledging ongoing global events, demonstrating curiosity by asking questions, being willing to admit mistakes or blindspots, and increase visibility of diverse employees across the organization.

Amplifier: When an ally takes on the role of the Amplifier, that ally works to ensure that marginalized voices are both heard and respected. This type of allyship can take many forms, but is focused on representation within communication.

Step up, then take a step back to allow marginalized voices to be at the center. Privilege means that in some situations your voice can carry more respect from authority figures. Look for those opportunities to lift others up and pull them into the conversation.

Managers can encourage employees to bring their voices into a conversation by fostering a culture of open dialogue and supporting team members’ ideas in group discussions. Another way to further amplify others includes asking a specific person to share their feedback.

Upstander: Not a bystander. The Upstander is someone who sees wrongdoing and acts to combat it. This person pushes back on offensive comments or jokes, even if no one within earshot might be offended or hurt.

Speak up in your own social circles — As a person of privilege, you have access to social circles that others do not. Perhaps you have heard racist or derogatory language used by family members or friends? Take some time at your next social setting to shape peoples’ beliefs, and speak up for those who are not there.

Confidant: When an ally takes on the role of the Confidant, that ally creates a safe space for members of underrepresented groups to express their fears, frustrations, and needs. Simply listening to their stories and trusting that they’re being truthful creates a protective layer of support.

All of us can take steps to build stronger relationships with our peers. From scheduling one on one conversations with each other, having more informal conversations or check-ins to having direct conversations to share perspectives when more challenging and sensitive topics arise, we all have a part to play to create a more inclusive culture.

Everyone can be an ally and it’s never too late to get started.

Building a culture of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong and can be their true self requires understanding, action and commitment from everyone. Every piece of change counts and adds to the big picture. We can do great things when we come together.