11 Characteristics of an Effective Ally

Article contributed by guest author Rosalie Chamberlain

There is much written these days about being an Ally and Allyship. They are necessary to elevate the visibility, opportunity, and equity for marginalized groups.

Allyship is defined as “a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.”

It is an active process – not just a name or an idea.

An Ally is someone who actively works to end systemic inequity in organizations and communities, the country, and the world. They actively support members of marginalized and oppressed groups.

These 11 characteristics will boost one’s ability to be an effective Ally.

1. Self-Awareness

There must be deep awareness of one’s own biases, assumptions, limiting beliefs and pre-judgments that happen in an instant, mostly unconsciously. Biases create obstacles to being able to see the real needs, potential and circumstances of those in a marginalized group.

Understanding our own biases and the impact of inequity is the impetus to address and change policies, procedures, behaviors, and habits that are often taken for granted – policies that have a negative impact on underrepresented individuals.

Predetermined beliefs get in the way of active listening and can lead to Gaslighting – “trying to get someone…to question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories.”

2. Commitment

There must be full commitment to actively do the work needed to advocate and support. Without active involvement, it becomes another check-the-box statement with no action, which is too often the case.

3. Facing Reality

The reality we must face is that the playing field is not level. Giving everyone the same thing (equality) is not the same as equity, which means providing someone access to opportunities that they need to succeed.

4. Accepting One’s Privilege

An Ally uses their power/privilege to help others. Privilege can come in various forms, including seniority and/or being well-connected. If you are part of the white majority, you have an inherent advantage when you walk into a space. Accepting one’s inherent privilege is not denying privilege earned because you had to work hard.

5. Vulnerability

Allyship requires getting out of your comfort zone and getting comfortable with discomfort. It requires speaking up for someone even when they are not in the room.

6. Prioritizing

It requires stopping making excuses such as there is not enough time for allyship. I work with many clients in very fast-paced industries where time is a commodity. A mindset of insufficient time does not recognize that people are resources that need support.

7. Bias Interrupting

It requires knowing the difference between microaffirmations,  microinequities and microaggressions and being aware when these inequities and aggressions take place and stepping in and speaking up.

8. Courage

It requires courage to challenge the status quo and a willingness to get in the weeds to change systemic issues.

9. Accountability

We need more people taking on the role of Allyship. It requires individual responsibility and consistency. It takes top-down leadership, and it also takes action from the bottom up across an organization.

10. Empathy

Empathy opens the door for one to take action as though another’s struggle is their own – to work to understand to the best of one’s ability to say Enough!

11. Compassion

Compassion is the ability to see another person, understand their situation and pain and caring deeply enough to actively do something to assist in their circumstances.

Explore where you can make a difference, take action, and create change. Another’s success could depend on it!

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