What comes to mind when you hear the word “ally”? For me, growing up, it most often tied to war, crisis or unrest as an “ally” was some country, person or group that came to aid in times of challenge or uncertainty.
Today, that meaning of ally still applies. While a broader application than in the unfortunate situation of a war, in day-to-day dealings that go on at home, at work and in my community, an ally is a person who comes to aid someone who is treated insignificantly or dismissively. By providing aid, an ally helps reduce the uncertainty or challenge that individual is facing.
Each day, we all likely come in contact with someone who needs an ally. As a spouse, we serve as an ally for our partner. As a parent, we ally for our child. As a caregiver, we are an ally for those for whom we are responsible. As a colleague, we are an ally for our business colleagues. As a friend, we serve in the role of ally for those near to us. Regardless of the situation or circumstance each of us can, and likely is, an ally to someone. Being an ally can be a conscious choice or an unconscious choice, as there are times when we might not even realize we are being that ally for someone.
An ally can support someone in a variety of ways. It can be by vocally supporting the work of colleagues specifically in situations that will help boost those colleagues’ standing and reputation. It can be willingly deferring to a colleague from underrepresented groups in a meeting, in a very visible way that sends a meaningful message to a large audience.
An ally can work to ensure that marginalized voices are both heard and respected. An ally can use his or her power and influence to bring peers from underrepresented groups into training and education opportunities, allowing access into previously exclusive circles, recognizing and addressing unjust omissions. Allies hold their peers and themselves accountable for including qualified colleagues of all genders, races, ethnicities, abilities, ages, body shapes or sizes, religions, and sexual orientations in career-advancing positions.
Sometimes an ally may stand back listening and learning by taking everything in and doing research seeking to gain as much knowledge as possible about the challenges and prejudices faced by someone from a marginalized group. Or maybe an ally acts as 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.
As you can see, there are lots of different ways you can be an ally and support those who are under-represented or marginalized.
As you go about your day, try to make a conscious effort to be aware of how you can be an ally for someone. You might learn more about yourself along with helping someone else feel appreciated and heard, knowing you were there supporting them.
What will you do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and every day in between to make a positive, impactful change? We all do better when we all do better.