Understand the Meaning and Power of Allyship
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Describe what it means to be an Equality ally.
- Explain the impact of being an Equality ally.
- Summarize the terms people use when talking about Equality.
In this module, you learn about the Equality ally Practices, how you can be an Equality ally and how creating a community of allies helps drive Equality for all in our companies and communities. We also share our ally practice framework to help you succeed no matter where you are on your ally journey. It’s important to remember that this is a path with continuous learning. Mistakes are not only okay, they are welcomed—because this is how we learn. Let’s get started.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an ally is someone “joined with another for common purpose.” An ally is an individual who doesn’t identify as someone from an underrepresented, marginalized, or disenfranchised group—but seeks to understand the issues that impact these communities and use their platforms to create change.
Our Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet often talks about the time he went to visit his son at college. At the LGBTQ resource center, his son gave him a pin that said “Ally.” In that moment he realized both the responsibility and power of describing yourself as an ally. From that day forward, he committed to advocating for the LGBTQ community—and all communities—to help create a world where everybody has equal rights and opportunities.
One ally can be extremely powerful and make a difference in someone’s life—but imagine the power of a community of allies. If a large group of people can come together to amplify the voices of others and create a better environment for all, that’s when we can start to see tangible progress in Equality.
When we talk about Equality issues, it’s important that we start with shared language to discuss them. Below are some key terms to understand when we talk about allyship.
Underrepresented: This refers to a group whose representation in an organization is disproportionately lower than their proportion in the general population in the country and communities around them. In the tech industry, this often refers to women, black, and Latinx employees but can also refer to Hawaiian native, American Indian, and those who identify as two or more races.
Disenfranchised: A group that is often marginalized and lacks power within their political, legal, and economic systems. Groups such as the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, underrepresented minorities, people of lower socioeconomic statuses, and so on, are often considered disenfranchised.
Diversity and Inclusion: As defined in the Inclusive Leadership Practices module, Diversity is the presence of people from many different backgrounds and identities. Inclusion is when every single person in the community is valued, heard, respected, empowered, and feels a true sense of belonging. Only when you combine the two do you foster a true culture of Equality.
Employee Resource Group: Employee-led and employee-organized groups centered around people with common identities/backgrounds and their allies. At Salesforce, our groups are Abilityforce, Asiapacforce, BOLDforce, Earthforce, Faithforce, Latinoforce, Outforce, Salesforce Women’s Network, Southasiaforce, and Vetforce.
Microaggressions: According to Psychology Today, “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” These are often subtle but painful experiences for underrepresented groups—like getting thousands of paper cuts throughout the work week. As allies, we can create a more inclusive workplace by decreasing and interrupting microaggressions.
Advocate: Someone who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group, for example, an advocate for disability rights.
Activist: An activist goes beyond support of a cause or group by taking action to create political and social change in the form of leadership, protest, legislation, or public influence, for example, activists across the world organized local women’s marches.
Hear from today’s civil rights advocates and activists in this video of Equality Trailblazers on our Salesforce events stages.
Being an ally not only helps create a more equal society and world for all, it also helps us learn, grow, and find our voices. Being an ally empowers others and is also empowering. When we stand together as allies, we have the power to create an unstoppable movement to drive tangible societal change.
Underrepresented groups often cite the feeling of being “an only” in the room. It’s often described as feeling isolating and intimidating—especially if something happens that only impacts that specific group. This can include things like a male colleague saying something sexist to a woman in a meeting or a current event that harms a specific ethnic group. We have the power to ensure that even if someone may be an only in the room, they never feel powerless because they know that they are surrounded by passionate and caring allies.
A powerful example of this was the Salesforce employee turnout on Martin Luther King Day. BOLDforce, our black employee resource group, had organized a contingent of people to walk in the local march for the first time the year before. One hundred people attended that first walk—mostly people of color. The second year, after evangelizing what it means to be an ally and encouraging everyone to get involved, over 1,100 people showed up for the march! And most of them were people who didn’t identify as black—in other words, allies. BOLDforce members described the overwhelming sense of pride and support they felt, especially after feeling small or isolated as part of an underrepresented group. That is the power of allyship.
In the next unit, you’ll begin thinking about your ally journey and start becoming an Equality ally in your business and community.