In an era of ‘cancel culture’ and heightened sensitivity, potential allies often hesitate to engage for fear of making mistakes. But real allyship requires going beyond words to actively participate in the struggles of communities. This is especially true for employee networks or ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), where allies can play a crucial role in fostering inclusion and driving positive change.
In this article, we’ll explore the key principles for effective and authentic allyship, from taking ownership and speaking out to transferring power and decentering.
- Take On The Issues: A casual ally might engage with a struggle when it is convenient or trendy. But authentic allyship demands an unwavering commitment to the cause. By taking ownership of the issues at hand, allies demonstrate their genuine dedication to a community. They understand that the struggles faced by marginalised groups cannot be switched off at will, and they actively work to address and rectify systemic inequalities.
- Speak Out: True allies recognise that the repercussions of calling out unfair behaviour are likely to be less detrimental to them than to the community they are supporting. Finding the courage to vocalise concerns, challenge biases, and call attention to injustices is key. Effective allyship involves expressing genuine beliefs and using one’s voice to amplify marginalised perspectives. In doing so, allies can help to create a more inclusive environment and facilitate positive change.
- Transfer Power: In any network, power dynamics play a significant role. Within employee networks, allies must recognise their privilege and actively seek to redistribute that power. It is not enough to step up to a platform alone; true allyship involves sharing that platform with others. Allies should strive to uplift marginalised voices, provide opportunities for growth, and support initiatives that empower underrepresented groups. By actively transferring power, allies help to create resilient, inclusive networks that thrive on collaboration and equal participation.
- Decentre Yourself: Authentic allyship requires humility and a commitment to decentering oneself. The focus should always be on addressing systemic issues rather than personal narratives. While inspirational stories may provide temporary motivation, meaningful change comes from consistent action, problem-solving, and actively challenging the status quo. By placing the systemic problem at the forefront, allies ensure that their efforts are dedicated to dismantling barriers and creating lasting impact.
- Own Your Education: Education is the foundation of effective allyship. Allies must continuously seek to learn, unlearn, and relearn. It is essential to understand the historical context, systemic biases, and the experiences of marginalised communities. In employee networks, allies – particularly sponsors and senior stakeholders – must take the lead in owning their education. Waiting for expectations to be communicated often leads to misunderstanding and inaction. By proactively pursuing knowledge, allies can drive meaningful change within their organisations and beyond.
In employee networks, authentic allyship can be a powerful catalyst for positive change. By taking ownership, speaking out, transferring power, decentering oneself, and embracing continuous education, allies can create inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and empowered. It is through these actions that allies contribute to dismantling systemic issues and fostering a culture of equality and belonging. By embracing the power of authentic allyship, we can work together to build a more inclusive future.