Understanding and navigating Allyship for personal and professional success
Author: Ty Scott, Sr. HR Business Partner and DEI Program Manager
Allyship may have different meanings depending on whom you ask. To some, it’s about intervening to disrupt microaggressions and implicit biases to ensure those with less influence have seats and voices at the table. To others, allyship is about increasing awareness by preemptively speaking out against inequities that disproportionately impact People of Color, women and other underrepresented groups in hopes of motivating people to take action to eliminate the inequities. Still, others see allyship as being available to mentor, coach and sponsor, providing just-in-time support when a specific request is made. At times, these different viewpoints can cause inaction or conflict as people argue about which perspective is correct.
While we try to create the perfectly measured approach by asking questions like, What is it? What should be done? What is the proper way to do it? people that need support tend to remain marginalized.
I believe it is important to understand intellectually what allyship is. However, I do not believe there is one exclusive definition and way to show up as an ally. Nor do I think we need to be subject matter experts and feel like we have it all figured out in order to get involved. What is important is that we all take a step down the allyship road. Once we have taken that step, we should look to see how our vantage point has changed and ask, Where are we now? Did our step create the intended impact? What can we see now that we could not see before taking the step? We can then adjust our approach if needed and continue our journey.
Being an ally to champion career development
I’m reminded of when this approach played out in my own life. I was about ten years into my human resources career and felt like it had stalled. I knew I was just as talented as my peers and was producing excellent results in my role; however, I could not seem to get the recognition and advancement I saw others getting. Not knowing where to start, I asked my then-mentor for her honest opinion of my performance.
She said, “Ty, the right people don’t know what you are doing or what impacts you are having on the organization. You need to find people that will champion you in front of decision-makers in business meetings that matter.” We closed the meeting with her telling me she sees me and believes in me, and that’s how we left it.
A month or so later, I started receiving emails and calls requesting my support on high-profile projects and to facilitate high-stakes training and discussions.
Of course, I said yes to the opportunities and initially did not link them back to my conversation with my mentor a month before. It was not until a colleague shared that I was being favorably mentioned in recent high-level meetings that I realized my mentor had also served as my ally. She championed my growth and development opportunities by advocating for me in meaningful ways. My ally’s step resulted in a chain reaction that eventually led to promotions and career growth.
Paying allyship forward
I learned how impactful allyship could be and how much I wanted to pay it forward by being an ally to others.
All of this started with my mentor taking a step and standing up for what she believed was the right thing to do. It has led to a pretty fun career ride filled with exciting opportunities.
Allyship can and will take on different forms. What is important is that we feel empowered to take a step to support others.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Connect with and understand your colleagues by joining or starting an Employee Resource Group
- Look for opportunities to serve as a mentor or coach at work or in your personal life
- Serve your community through volunteering your time to help others
- Be human first — lead with empathy, make it personal and be open to change
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable, don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from trying
- Give grace every chance you get because you will need it too
So what are you waiting for? Take action and make an impact!
Click here to learn more about allyship.