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How to be a Better Black Ally



People are marching in the streets, buying books, writing their representatives, watching movies, demanding change, all while trying to understand and absorb where we are as a country right now. The world is pregnant with possibilities. People are asking. What can I do? This must stop! I want to help!


There are many groups that have been marginalized by our society. It’s time for us to just stop doing that. And that means a lot of us will need to shift our behavior to accelerate change. The question is how do we go about this? Here’s what can do you:


1) The best thing you can do is get to know your co-workers. You do this by talking to them. Be interested in them as people. They may have had very different experiences than you did, before landing in the chair next to you. Let them share the richness of their experiences with you.


2) Understand the issues this group faces. One way to do this is to attend events. Many companies have employee resource groups (ERGs) designed to allow people with similarities to come together in a safe space. There may conferences and other events that you can attend to educate yourself.


I have seen both of these actions done well and done very poorly, potentially making situations worse instead of better. I wanted to pass along some tips to help you. Any time you try a new behavior there is bound to be some anxiety and nervousness. Typically, this can cause us to lean back, not take action, perhaps while we mutter to ourselves, “I’ll do that, next time.” The advice below will make it easier for you to take action, now.


I interviewed David Smith when I was writing my book. He and Brad Johnson wrote Athena Rising. At some point, David sent me an email and it included the postscript, copied below. When I read this, I was so excited, I asked if I could include their advice in my book: You Can’t Fix What You Cant See: An Eye-Opening Toolkit to Cultivate Gender Harmony in Business. It was that powerful.


I messaged them to suggest they develop a post around that postscript. But, spoiler alert – they are both head down focusing on getting their next book published. ‘Good Guys’ is due out in October. (I’d say mark your calendars, but it’d be better just to put in your pre-order now and be re-surprised when it arrives on your doorstep or in your kindle in the fall.)


Below David and Brad offer their advice to men on the way to approach Women’s Conferences or ERGs for women. The other day I reread these and thought – “This is exactly what a lot of people need to know to help educate themselves regarding our African American co-workers or any other marginalized group.”


And so, I offer How Men can be Better Allies. Any place you see women, insert African-American, Latinx, etc… This really helps you put your head in the right space to support your co-workers and drive the changes that need to happen.


HOW MEN CAN BE BETTER ALLIES

Thoughtfully Shared by: David Smith & W. Brad Johnson authors of Athena Rising

Here are some tangible recommendations for men who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other ini­tiatives as allies for gender equality in the workplace. These are best practices for men who want to be better collaborators with women.

First, just listen! Consultant Chuck Shelton reminds men that listening to women’s voices in a way that inspires trust and respect is a fundamental relationship promise you must make, and then keep, with women who invite you to participate around equity. Generous, world-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing of both her experience and her willingness to share it with you.

Respect the space. Women’s conferences and employee resource groups (ERGs) are often one outgrowth of expe­riences of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination. Many of these experiences are painful. Large events and local resource groups have afforded women a powerful platform for sharing experiences, providing support, and strategizing equity initiatives. Tread respectfully into these spaces and, before you utter a word, revisit the recommendation above.

Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or usurp, existing gender parity efforts. A large dose of gender humility will help here. Decades of research on prosocial (helpful) behavior reveals a stark gender difference in how it is expressed. While women often express helpfulness communally and relationally, men show helpful intentions through action-oriented behaviors. Sometimes, we need to rein this impulse in. Refrain from taking center stage, speaking for women, or mansplaining how women should approach gender equity efforts.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psy­chological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interac­tion and learning, not less.

Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge, and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them—don’t assume—how you can best support their efforts.

Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.

People are marching in the streets, buying books, writing their representatives, watching movies, demanding change, all while trying to understand and absorb where we are as a country right now. The world is pregnant with possibilities. People are asking. What can I do? This must stop! I want to help!

There are many groups that have been marginalized by our society. It’s time for us to just stop doing that. And that means a lot of us will need to shift our behavior to accelerate change. The question is how do we go about this? Here’s what can do you:

1) The best thing you can do is get to know your co-workers. You do this by talking to them. Be interested in them as people. They may have had very different experiences than you did, before landing in the chair next to you. Let them share the richness of their experiences with you.

2) Understand the issues this group faces. One way to do this is to attend events. Many companies have employee resource groups (ERGs) designed to allow people with similarities to come together in a safe space. There may conferences and other events that you can attend to educate yourself.

I have seen both of these actions done well and done very poorly, potentially making situations worse instead of better. I wanted to pass along some tips to help you. Any time you try a new behavior there is bound to be some anxiety and nervousness. Typically, this can cause us to lean back, not take action, perhaps while we mutter to ourselves, “I’ll do that, next time.” The advice below will make it easier for you to take action, now.

I interviewed David Smith when I was writing my book. He and Brad Johnson wrote Athena Rising. At some point, David sent me an email and it included the postscript, copied below. When I read this, I was so excited, I asked if I could include their advice in my book: You Can’t Fix What You Cant See: An Eye-Opening Toolkit to Cultivate Gender Harmony in Business. It was that powerful.

I messaged them to suggest they develop a post around that postscript. But, spoiler alert – they are both head down focusing on getting their next book published. ‘Good Guys’ is due out in October. (I’d say mark your calendars, but it’d be better just to put in your pre-order now and be re-surprised when it arrives on your doorstep in the fall.)

Below David and Brad offer their advice to men on the way to approach Women’s Conferences or ERGs for women. The other day I reread these and thought – “This is exactly what a lot of people need to know to help educate themselves regarding our African American co-workers or any other marginalized group.”

And so, I offer How Men can be Better Allies. Any place you see women, insert African-American, Latinx, etc… This really helps you put your head in the right space to support your co-workers and drive the changes that need to happen.

HOW MEN CAN BE BETTER ALLIES

Thoughtfully Shared by: David Smith & W. Brad Johnson authors of Athena Rising

Here are some tangible recommendations for men who are invited to participate in women’s conferences or other ini­tiatives as allies for gender equality in the workplace. These are best practices for men who want to be better collaborators with women.

First, just listen! Consultant Chuck Shelton reminds men that listening to women’s voices in a way that inspires trust and respect is a fundamental relationship promise you must make, and then keep, with women who invite you to participate around equity. Generous, world-class listening requires focus, sincerity, empathy, refusal to interrupt, and genuine valuing of both her experience and her willingness to share it with you.

Respect the space. Women’s conferences and employee resource groups (ERGs) are often one outgrowth of expe­riences of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination. Many of these experiences are painful. Large events and local resource groups have afforded women a powerful platform for sharing experiences, providing support, and strategizing equity initiatives. Tread respectfully into these spaces and, before you utter a word, revisit the recommendation above.

Remember, it’s not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace or usurp, existing gender parity efforts. A large dose of gender humility will help here. Decades of research on prosocial (helpful) behavior reveals a stark gender difference in how it is expressed. While women often express helpfulness communally and relationally, men show helpful intentions through action-oriented behaviors. Sometimes, we need to rein this impulse in. Refrain from taking center stage, speaking for women, or mansplaining how women should approach gender equity efforts.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Developing psy­chological standing requires a commitment to learning and advocating for gender equity. Learning about the professional challenges of women may produce feelings of self-shame or self-blame that cause anxiety. The solution is more interac­tion and learning, not less.

Engage in supportive partnerships with women. The best cross-gender ally relationships are reciprocal and mutually growth-enhancing. Share your social capital (influence, information, knowledge, and organizational resources) with women’s groups but ask them—don’t assume—how you can best support their efforts.

Remember the two parts to allyship. Keep in mind that committing to express as little sexism as possible in your interactions with women is the easy part of allyship. The hard part requires you to take informed action. Use your experience in women’s events and initiatives to learn how you can best become a public ally for social justice around gender. When the time comes, this may require you to upset the status quo.


Thank You David & Brad for letting me Share!




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© 2020 by Karen F. Cornwell