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How to Be an Ally

Develop allyship in the workplace by equipping employees with the knowledge and skills they need to become good allies to their colleagues.

  • An ally is someone who uses their power and privilege in society to advocate for marginalized people to empower themselves. In the workplace, allies play an important role in creating an inclusive work environment. However, becoming an ally can be scary and challenging.

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Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Cultivate inclusion across the organization by training employees to practice key allyship behaviors in the workplace.

Impact and Result

  • Equip employees with the knowledge and tools they need to be allies to create an inclusive work environment.

How to Be an Ally Research & Tools

1. How to be an ally

Equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to be allies to their colleagues.

How to Be an Ally

Equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to be allies to their colleagues.

Training Overview The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Target Audience: General employees

Target Length: Three hours

Training Materials

  • Speaker’s notes are included in the notes pane section of each slide. Use these to plan and practice the training session. Note: Text in italics are written to the facilitator and are not meant to be read aloud.
  • Activity slides are scattered throughout this training deck and are clearly marked “Activity” in a bar on the left side of the slide. Instructions for activity facilitation can be found in the notes section of each slide.

Recommended Customizations The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

  • Review all slides and adjust the language or content as needed to suit your organizational context and culture.
  • The pencil icon above denotes slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes, e.g. adding in an organization-specific process.
  • Customization instructions are found in the notes pane.
  • Prepare for this training by reviewing the speaker’s notes and instructions well in advance of delivery.
  • Conducting training over two sessions:
    • If you wish to conduct this training over two sessions, present Module 1 on the first day and Module 2 on the second. The Handbook will be the same for both modules.
    • Customize the agenda on slide 4 accordingly.

Training Session Materials


  1. Adjust the speaker’s notes on the slides before (or after) any slides you modify or delete to ensure logical transitions between slides.
  2. Update the agenda to reflect new timings if major modifications are made.
  3. Even seasoned leaders and employees need to be reminded of the basics now and again. Rather than delete more basic slides, cut back on the amount of time spent covering them and frame the content as a refresher.
  4. If you wish to connect this training to your 360-degree program or individual development plans, modify the speaker’s notes accordingly.
  5. There is an optional video on slide 36. If you wish to play this video, you will need audio functionality.

Agenda The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Time Topic
9:00am-9:15am Introduction
Learning Objectives
Ground Rules
9:15am-10:40am Module 1: What does it mean to be an ally?
10:40am-10:45am Break
10:45am-11:50am Module 2: Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities
11:50am-12:00pm Wrap-up

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Today we will be speaking about allyship. This is a high-level overview of the agenda for today.
  • We will take one five-minute break, approximately at the halfway point through the training.

For conducting the training over two sessions:

  • We will go over Module 2 on (insert date), when we’ll look at how we can identify the accountabilities and responsibilities of allies and how we’ll practice being an ally in our workplace.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define allyship and core concepts related to being an ally
  2. Recognize allyship accountabilities
  3. Learn how to practice allyship in the workplace

Speaker’s Notes:

Our goal today is to help you learn how to be an ally. With that aim in mind, we have laid out and will break down three key objectives for today’s training:

  • Our first, where we will begin, is to define allyship and core concepts related to being an ally.
  • Then, we’ll learn to recognize what your accountabilities as an ally are.
  • Finally, we’ll explore how to practice allyship in the workplace.

Ground Rules The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Allyship is a sensitive topic. Set ground rules before beginning the training.

  1. Respect each other and avoid judgment
  2. Share only what you are comfortable with and maintain confidentiality
  3. Everyone’s experience is valid
  4. Allow people to finish their thoughts
  5. Use “I” statements


What does it mean to be an ally?


Personal reflection

Think of a time when someone stood up for you or when you witnessed someone standing up for another person.

  • How did that make you feel?
  • How did it have an impact on your life?

What does allyship mean to you?

Speaker’s Notes:

We’re going to start today’s training with some self-reflection. I want you to reflect on the questions on the screen and note your answers down in the Handbook.

  • Take a few moments to think of a time when someone stood up for you or when you witnessed someone standing up for another person.
    • How did that feel?
    • How did it have an impact on your life?

I bet it felt good when someone stood up for you or when you witnessed someone standing up for another person! Even if that experience was a long time ago, I’m sure you all are able to still recall the feeling.

Now that you’ve thought about this. Take a couple minutes to think about what allyship means to you.

What does it mean to be an ally?





Always center on the impacted Listen and learn from the oppressed Leverage your privilege Yield the floor

(Source: Kayla Reed)

Speaker’s Notes:

Now that you’ve had some time to think about what allyship means to you, I’d like to start today’s training by defining it so that we’re all on the same page.

  • Allyship has become a buzzword in this day and age. But it’s definitely not a term that can be used loosely, so let’s take a look at the definition and what it entails.
    • Broadly speaking, an ally is someone who uses their power and privilege in society to advocate for marginalized people to empower themselves. Allyship is not about giving someone preferential treatment. It’s about recognizing that we all have some power to support others. However, some people have more power to share. To be an ally, you don’t have to share similar diversity dimensions like race, age, or gender. You don’t even have to fully understand what oppression feels like. Rather, it’s actively taking on the struggle as your own, not the experience. In other words, it’s standing beside the people you’re trying to support, not in front of them.
    • This is not to say that if you have more power and privilege you don’t face struggles or you’ve had it easy. It means that you’ve been given some unearned advantages based on some of your diversity dimensions. For example, a white person having privilege and power doesn’t mean they’ve had an easy life; rather, it means that their skin color gives them certain advantages in society that people of color living in the same society don’t have.

Think about this: Would you be okay standing by while watching someone get treated unfairly?

  • Having said that, however, it’s important to recognize that being an ally is not an identity that one can claim, and it is not a self-defined label. This means that being an ally is:
    • A continuous process of learning, relearning, and unlearning;
    • Consistently identifying how you can support marginalized groups by building trustful relationships and accountability; and
    • Being willing to be uncomfortable and challenge your learned behaviors and -isms that perpetuate discrimination.
  • Keep in mind that allyship must be consensual and intentional.
    • While allyship is a big stride in challenging oppression and systemic inequities, it is vital to remember and recognize the trauma and lived experiences of oppression held by marginalized groups. We must understand that some individuals or groups may feel resistant to accept you as an ally immediately because of past or present experiences of oppression.

Similarly, people have tried to practice allyship in many problematic ways. Although these may have been well-intentioned, they have often further perpetuated oppressions or created new ones. An example of this is performative allyship. This occurs when individuals from a privileged group support or advocate for marginalized groups in a way that draws attention away from the impact of the issue on the marginalized group. In other words, it’s the “look how big my heart is” mentality, which is actually harmful to marginalized groups. This type of approach fails to acknowledge personal responsibility and accountability for the systemic issues that impact marginalized groups. Instead, it only expresses your awareness.

As you can see, allyship is a lot of hard work, but it’s not impossible to learn how to be a genuine ally. One way to remember what it really means to be an ally is with this acronym:

A – Always center on the impacted.
L – Listen and learn from the oppressed.
L – Leverage your privilege.
Y – Yield the floor.
(Kayla Reed, 2016)

Allies foster inclusive work environments

Being different due to inherent diversity traits/identities (i.e. race, gender, etc.)


Being on guard against biases


Impacts on employee wellbeing and productivity

Speaker’s Notes:

So, why should we care about allyship at work? Well, research has found that having strong allies in the workplace has a number of significant benefits for the organization and for individuals who are trying to be allies.

Firstly, allyship helps:

  • Foster inter-group connections,
  • Build a more positive workplace culture, and
  • Challenge various forms of oppressions, like racism (City Press Office, 2020).

For allies specifically, benefits include:

  • Enhanced problem-solving abilities;
  • New insights, ideas, and skills; and
  • A strengthened sense of meaning and purpose (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 2019).

However, regardless of all the benefits that allyship brings to the workplace, the main reason we should care about it is because it’s the right thing to do. Serving as allies to fellow coworkers actually helps foster an inclusive work environment (SHRM, 2019). Imagine having to constantly be on guard about being treated unfairly or having to protect yourself from discrimination and biases at work. This is the reality for many employees from marginalized groups. Discrimination and biases are often their daily experiences (Catalyst, 2019). This imposes an emotional tax on employees from marginalized groups.

The emotional tax is a concept that highlights how feeling different from colleagues due to identity categories like gender, race, or sexual orientation impacts the ability to thrive at work and how this affects the health and wellbeing of employees from marginalized groups (Catalyst, 2019). In fact, employees who feel they have to be highly on guard because they anticipate experiencing biases are more likely to downplay or hide their identities and are more likely to leave the organization (Catalyst, 2019). So, it’s clear that having allies in the workplace is very important!

It’s not enough to think you’re an ally

I see myself as an ally to people of color colleagues

  • 81% White women
  • 82% White men

I have strong allies in my workplace

  • 55% Latina women
  • 45% Black women

Speaker’s Notes:

Allyship goes beyond understanding that it’s important. It needs to be actioned. On this slide, you’ll see some data that speaks to how allyship is perceived in the workplace. A recent study conducted by Lean In (2020), found that the majority of white men and women see themselves as allies to their people of color colleagues. However this hasn’t been translated into practice. In fact, women of color find that there is a lack of strong allyship in the workplace.

When asked if they see themselves as an ally to their people of color coworkers, over 80% of white men and women stated that they do. But when Latina and Black women were asked whether they have strong allies, only 55% of Latina women and 45% of Black women agreed (Lean In, 2020). There’s definitely a gap here.

Oftentimes, we may feel like we’re on the “right side” by not being a racist or not being discriminatory, but being an ally, as we mentioned, is action oriented, so it means actively challenging discrimination and racism. The same study found that only 4 out of 10 white employees have ever spoken up against racism at work. However, when people of color speak out against racism at work, they are more likely to be fired than their white colleagues (Lean In, 2020). Therefore, it’s evident why people of color, and women of color specifically, feel that they don’t have strong allies in the workplace.


To be or not to be

Individual Brainstorm

Complete the statements:

  • “I care about allyship because…”
  • “I am hesitant to be an ally because…”

Paired Discussion

Find a partner and discuss your statements.


Share your thoughts on your brainstorming and discussion.

  • Why do you think it’s important to reflect on why we want to be allies or why we may have some reservations?

  • The speaker’s notes below give you some examples of statements.
  • Allocate 15 minutes for this activity:
    • 2 minutes to complete statements
    • 5-7 minutes for paired discussion
    • Remaining time for debrief

Speaker’s Notes:
We’re going to do a small discussion activity to dive deeper into your perceptions on why one should be an ally and why some people may feel hesitant.

First we’ll answer these questions individually. You have two minutes to complete one or both statements:

  • “I care about allyship because…” or “I am hesitant to be an ally because…
  • Use the following examples if more guidance is required:
    • “I care about allyship because it’s the right thing to do, but I am hesitant not knowing what people’s reaction will be.”
    • “I am hesitant to be an ally because it’s a lot of responsibility and I’m afraid of making a mistake.”
    • “I care about being an ally because I know what it feels like to be discriminated against and it feels terrible.”

Now, find a partner and take five minutes to share your statements with them.


  • Does anyone want to share their motivations or hesitations?
  • Why do you think it’s important to reflect on why we want to be allies or why we may have some reservations?

Learn about the implications of social structures and systems of inequality

A series of coins labelled as 'Social Structures', and below are their respective 'Systems of Inequality'. Social Structures: Class, Race, Gender, Ability. Systems of Inequality: Classism, Racism, Sexism/Heterosexism, Ableism. This is not an exhaustive list of social structures/systems of inequality/privileges.

(Source: Adapted from BMC Public Health)

Speaker’s Notes:

You might have heard the saying “they are two sides of the same coin.” This idiom perfectly illustrates how the same social structures impact some individuals positively and others negatively.

Social structures refer to patterns of relationships, interactions, and constructed norms that make up the larger society. For example, class, gender, and race are some common social structures. While some structures are not visible, most if not all influence the dimensions of an individual’s life. These structures are products of years of human interaction and also determine how further interactions play out (ThoughtCo, 2019). In doing that, they produce and maintain certain systems of inequality like racism and sexism to name a few.

The Coin Framework developed by Stephanie Nixon (BMC Public Health, 2019) views the various social structures as coins to conceptualize how social structures benefit some while disadvantaging others, regardless of whether individuals are aware of the impact on them. As you can see on the screen, each social structure is represented as a coin, and stemming from each of the structures are certain systems of inequality like classism, racism, and sexism. Such systems of inequality privilege some individuals while oppressing others who don’t belong to the dominant groups within each social structure.

Let’s look at class as an example. Class refers to both social and economic status. This looks at how much money people have and how much access they have to opportunities like education or jobs. Think of how the media represents social and economic status through celebrities or how society views doctors and lawyers compared to other professionals.

If participants require a definition of the social structures or systems of inequality, you can use the following to navigate the conversation:

  • Classism is discriminating based on these statuses. Common status include upper, middle, and lower class.
  • Race is a concept that refers to groups of people based on their physical attributes like skin color. Racism refers to discriminating against individuals who are not from the dominant race (i.e. not white) because of their skin color.
  • Gender must be looked at as identity and expression. Gender identity refers to socially constructed roles and behaviors. It is fluid and can often be an identifying characteristic of how individuals perceive themselves and others. Gender identity is how individuals experience and express their self-perceptions; for example, male-ness, female-ness, or non-binary. Gender expression is how an individual presents their perceived gender identity outwardly; for example, their preferred pronoun or how they choose to dress. A number of inequalities stem from gender:
    • Sexism is discriminating against individuals based on their gender identity. Consider leadership roles. Often gender roles are used against women to assume that they are not capable leaders.
    • Heterosexism is prejudice and discrimination based on assuming that only male-female relationships are the norm and views individuals who are “straight” as superior. For example, often in children’s books, families are portrayed as mom, dad, and child.
  • Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities and is manifested through cultural beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that perceive them as inferior. Ableism is woven through social, economic, and political structures and perpetuates normalization of able-bodied discourse in such structures. Examples include inaccessible buildings and using discourse/terms like “climbing the corporate ladder” or “that’s crazy.”

Allyship begins with recognizing your privilege and power

A visualization of a coin representing the two sides of 'Systems of inequality'. The top is 'Privilege', the bottom is 'Oppression'. Top of the coin: privilege
  • You have advantages others do not
  • You did not earn it
  • You have it because of who you happen to be
The coin
  • The social structures that produce and maintain inequality (e.g. racism, sexism, ableism)
Bottom of the coin: oppression
  • You have disadvantages others do not
  • You did not earn it
  • You have it because of who you happen to be

Speaker’s Notes:

Nixon’s Coin Framework offers allies a frame of reference to understand how the experiences of those they’re building alliances with differ from their own when operating within the same social structures and what contributes to these different experiences. In this framework, the top of the coin is seen as privilege, the bottom of the coin as oppression, and the middle as the systems of inequality produced and maintained by the social structure.

As you saw from the definition of allyship, without acknowledging the privilege and power you hold, it’s impossible to stand in solidarity with those who experience oppression.

So, let’s take a moment to dive deeper into the concepts of privilege and oppression.

Privilege refers to the unearned advantages that dominant or white groups hold, which is often unconscious. Privilege manifests itself in several ways in social, economic, and political circumstances and is woven through systems and institutions that operate today, even within our workplaces. Individuals who benefit from these social structures did nothing to earn the resulting “advantages,” but they still receive them. While it can definitely be difficult to see the unearned advantages, the unearned disadvantages are often visibly experienced by marginalized groups.

Oppression, on the whole, is the institutional and systemic use of power over a marginalized group to maintain status quo and inequality. In fact, such inequalities are woven through social, economic, and political structures through hierarchical relationships, cultural hegemony, and dominant discourse – in other words, in our everyday lives.

The key word here is “unearned.” Both privilege and oppression are unearned – you experience it because of who you are.

This is why addressing privilege (the top of the coin), even though it may be uncomfortable, is extremely important. It highlights that inequity is relational. Compared to the top, the bottom of the coin is disadvantaged. In fact, being in a privileged position offers a continuous cycle of advantages. So, when privilege goes unchecked, the notion that it doesn’t exist becomes stronger. It leads to a belief that unearned advantages are individual merits and allows those who are privileged to disconnect themselves or stay outside of the systems of inequality that their privilege maintains. Instead of understanding their relationship to these inequities, unchecked privilege negates their responsibility to dismantle oppressive systems.

To demonstrate the importance of addressing privilege, a high school teacher conducted an experiment with their students. Each student was given a piece of paper to crumple up. Then the teacher moved the recycling bin to the front of the class. The students were told that each of them represents the country’s population and each has the chance to become rich and move into the upper class. In order to move into the upper class, the students had to successfully throw their crumpled-up paper into the bin. The students who sat at the back of the room found this to be unfair as they were further away from the bin and those who were at the front of the bin had a better chance. As expected, most of the students at the front were able to throw their paper into the bin but not all. Very few students who sat at the back of the class made it. The students in the front didn’t question where they sat even though it was an unfair advantage that was just given to them, but the students in the back had an unfair disadvantage. The objective of this activity was to teach students to be aware of their privilege and use it to advocate for those in the rows behind them (BuzzFeedVideo, 2014).

Anyone can be an ally

The privilege coin with a list of related groups in 'Privilege' and 'Oppression'. On the privilege side are 'Upper/middle class', 'White', 'Able-bodied', 'Straight', and 'Male', and on the oppression side, respectively, are 'Lower class', 'Not white/racialized', 'Disabled', 'Not straight/ LGBTQ2IA+', and 'Non-male/female'.

This is not an exhaustive list
(Source: BMC Public Health)

Speaker’s Notes:

Everybody can be an ally to someone else because privilege is intersectional. This means that white people can be allies to people of color (POC), straight people of color can be allies to white individuals who identify as a member of the LGBTQ2IA+ community and so on. To better understand this concept, let’s go back to Stephanie Nixon’s Coin Framework.

The framework considers how systems of inequality like racism, sexism, and ableism, among others, interact with each other to produce very complex circumstances of unearned advantage and disadvantage. As we discussed, each coin is a structure with the sides of privilege and oppression that produces and maintains inequalities. Typically, individuals occupy the top, privilege, on some coins, while occupying the bottom, oppression, on other coins at the same time (BMC Public Health, 2019). This illustrates the concept of intersectionality.

Kimberlé Crenshaw developed the concept of intersectionality, which explains why people experience inequality in society differently from others with whom they may share some identity categories. The concept highlights that characteristics of a person’s identity are not mutually exclusive but rather coexist to create unique experiences for each individual.

For example, women who identify as POC are faced with multiple points of converging oppressions and systems of inequality like racism and sexism. Their gender identity does not exist independently from their racial identity. Rather, these two identities are converged, making the experiences of POC women and the level at which they experience oppression different from POC men or white women.

Given these intersectionalities we each have, there is opportunity and responsibility on all of us to be allies by leveraging our dimensions of privilege to amplify those who face oppression.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at how privilege operates is that privilege, discrimination, and social groups all operate within interrelated hierarchies of power, dominance, and exclusion. Just because someone is privileged in one way doesn’t mean they may not be underprivileged in another (and vice versa). It is therefore important to be aware of the various groups to which one belongs in order to be able to question our own participation in a system of discrimination and privilege.

So, how can you use your privilege to elevate marginalized voices? Can you share a few examples?

If participants require a definition of the terms, you can use the following to navigate the conversation:

Upper Class: A type of socioeconomic stratification that refers to individuals with the greatest extent of power and wealth in the larger society.

Middle Class: A type of socioeconomic stratification that refers to individuals who fall between upper and lower class. This category is largely composed of working professionals who have some power in society and have a reasonable amount of disposable income to make investments (i.e. owning property, luxuries like vacations, etc.).

Lower Class: A type of socioeconomic stratification that refers to those with the least amount of power and disposable income when compared to the larger society. Often, this category is referred to as the “working class.”

White: A racial classification/skin color of Caucasian individuals.

Racialized: Individuals who are not Caucasian and often face discrimination and systemic barriers owing to prejudices against their identified race. Often, the term is used interchangeably with “visible minority” and “people of color.”

Disabled: An individual or people who identify as having a disability.

Able-bodied: An individual or people who do not identify as having a disability.

Straight: Someone who identifies as heterosexual.

LGBTQ2IA+: An acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Androgynous or Asexual, (+ includes Pansexual, Demisexual, etc.).

Male and Female: These terms are used to categorize sex, which refers to a set of biological and physiological attributes.


Privilege Self-Assessment

Individual Activity

Complete the self-assessment on page 7 of the Handbook.

Once complete, reflect on the following:

  • Have you ever considered any of the items you placed a checkmark beside as an advantage or a disadvantage?


Share your reflections with the group.

Speaker’s Notes:
We’re going to take 15 minutes to individually complete the self-assessment on page 7 of the Handbook.

Once you’ve completed the assessment, reflect on the items you placed a checkmark beside and whether you’ve ever considered any of these items as an advantage or disadvantage.


  • Would anyone like to share their reflections with the group?
  • How did you find the activity?
  • Have you considered any of those items as an advantage or a disadvantage?

Use the following examples as prompts to facilitate the debrief if required.

  • The most important thing to remember about privileges is that they’re not a result of just one part of your identity. Your identities are multidimensional, and the converging parts of your identities result in certain privileges. Think about accents, for example. English or European accents are often viewed as sophisticated, while South and East Asian accents are often mocked. While this is not something people usually think of when reflecting on how they may have some advantages while others don’t, it affects individuals with various converging identities differently. For instance, you may identify as a racialized individual but have an English accent, which may contribute to more call backs in interviews compared to a new immigrant who has an accent and also identifies as the same race as you.
  • You may wonder why your education may be a privilege. You worked hard for it and there’s no doubt about that. But education is a system that benefits some while disadvantaging others. Think about getting access to higher education. Whether you graduated high school, how many extra curricular activities you participated in, and if you had a life that was conducive to getting good grades in high school all play a role in determining if you have access to higher education. Higher education opens up a number of opportunities for careers and income that have implications for social class and offer an unearned credibility that because you’ve gone to college, you are a more valuable contributor to society.
  • Some may be thinking, “how is my gender identity a privilege?” Well, think of how media represents and perpetuates specific stereotypes about certain gender identities. It’s very rare to see positive representations of gender identities that are not dominant (i.e. male/female). When the media does portray diverse gender identities, these identities are shown in a negative light to mock, other, and further perpetuate discrimination.

Equip yourself to be an ally by learning key concepts


Anti-oppression is the active practice of challenging and resisting oppressive systems on an ongoing basis.


Anti-racism is the practice of opposing racism by challenging values, structures, systems, and behaviors that further perpetuate systemic racism and aiming to change the status quo. It is an active process that deconstructs power imbalances between racialized and white people.

Speaker’s Notes:

Remember that being an ally doesn’t mean knowing everything about how you can support marginalized groups. In fact, thinking you’ve learned everything about being an ally is counterintuitive to allyship. However, there are two key concepts that allies should actively learn about in their journey. One thing to note about both of these concepts is that they are verbs – actions that allies should practice!

I’m going to pause for a minute and let you read the definitions of anti-oppression and anti-racism.

Now that you’ve read the definitions, can you think of some example of each?

What if I make a mistake?

It's okay! Allyship is not about perfection. You won’t always get it right. It’s a journey of learning and unlearning.

Own your mistake

  • Apologize for your mistake, even if you didn’t intend harm.
  • Listen graciously while being called in or out and build your capacity to receive criticism.
  • Hold yourself accountable to changing your behavior.


  • Proactively educate yourself.
    • Don’t expect those you’re trying to ally with to educate you or show you the right way.

Keep trying

  • You’re going to keep making mistakes.
  • Embrace the process of allyship by constantly answering these statements:
    • “I want to learn more about…”
    • “I intend to listen more closely to…”
    • “I will pay more attention to….”
    • “I will get better at….”
    • “I will show up with…”
    • “I will do…”
    • “I will work on being more…”
    • (Source: S.P.A.R.K.)

Speaker’s Notes:
Those learning to be allies are often afraid of messing up. Often we fear being called a racist or sexist or a bigot if we make an error. But allyship is a journey of learning and unlearning, and the truth of the matter is that you will make a mistake. You might not always get it right and sometimes you might even hurt those you’re trying to ally with. You’re never going to be a perfect ally, and that’s okay! Mistakes are expected! However, how you react and recover is important.

The first step is to own your mistake.

  • Apologize for your mistake even though you didn’t intend to cause harm.
    • Making a mistake can be uncomfortable and painful, but don’t be defensive or deflect. Don’t make the apology about you. It’s not “I’m sorry if you’re offended by what I said,” it’s “I’m sorry I offended you.”
  • Listen graciously while being called in or out and build your capacity to receive criticism.
    • Don’t let a mistake stop you from learning how to be an ally! Resilience and humility go a long way. Learning about the experiences of those you’re trying to ally with is important, as it may even help you realize implicit biases that you may not have addressed yet.
  • Hold yourself accountable to changing your behavior.
    • This can be a hard process. While you’re entitled to feel pain and guilt when making a mistake, you are also responsible to develop and stop the pattern of your behavior.

The second step is to proactively educate yourself.

  • Don’t expect those you’re trying to ally with to educate you or show you the right way.
    • It is extremely difficult and burdening on marginalized people to have to educate others, as this expectation is a reaffirmation that they have to convince you that their oppression is valid.
    • Read, watch, and listen to resources that will help you learn about the experiences and histories of marginalized people.

The third step is to keep trying.

  • You’re going to keep making mistakes, so embrace the process of allyship by constantly asking and iterating these statements:
    • “I want to learn more about…”
    • “I intend to listen more closely to…”
    • “I will pay more attention to…”
    • “I will get better at…”
    • “I will show up with…”
    • “I will do…”
    • “I will work on being more…”
(Source: S.P.A.R.K., 2017)

Discussion Questions:

  • Now, let’s take a moment to reflect on making mistakes.
    • Can you think of a time you unintentionally harmed someone you were trying to support?
      • What were the outcomes of your actions?
      • How did you react?
      • How did you try to rectify the harm?


What would you do?

Group discussion

In your groups, select one or two scenarios and discuss how you would respond as an ally.

Scenario debrief

Share your thoughts on the scenarios you selected.


Take a moment to think about what factors may have contributed to your response as an ally.

Speaker’s Notes:

In small groups, work through 1-2 scenarios in the allotted time. Read each scenario and discuss together.

Scenario 1: A coworker on your team recently came out as trans and has shared their preferred name and pronouns. Another colleague on your team comes over to your desk and complains about how they don’t see the point of having to use the individual’s preferred pronouns and that they think it’s ridiculous to expect everyone to switch. How do you respond as an ally?

Scenario 2: Your organization has decided that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a priority and has arranged a number of lunch and learns where speakers will share their experiences. A Black colleague shares that they are disappointed that none of selected speakers are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color and that the speaker slate is only made up of white women. When she brought up her concerns with some senior leaders and colleagues, she received feedback that she was too abrasive and that she should appreciate the organization’s efforts. How do you respond as an ally?

Scenario 3: Rhea has just returned from maternity leave. During a team meeting, your manager presents an opportunity for a new project that requires some travel. The project is within Rhea’s expertise and she would be an excellent candidate. However, you hear your manager say to her at the meeting, “Now that you have a baby, you probably won’t be interested in traveling for work.” How could you be an ally to Rhea?

Scenario 4: Hasan suffers with anxiety and often struggles to speak up in social events or meetings. During a conversation with Hasan and another coworker, Hasan had a great idea to increase efficiency in the department. During a department-wide innovation event, everyone was asked to share their ideas. Because there were so many people at the event, Hasan felt even more anxious to share his idea. Instead, the other coworker shared Hasan’s idea without consent and was given credit for it. How could you respond as an ally?

Let’s get back together and share what that exercise was like for you.

  • What did you think of that activity?
  • Would someone from each group like to share your discussion?
  • What do other think? What would your approach be?
  • Do you recognize any of the systems of inequality we discussed before in these scenarios?

Scenario 1:

  • It’s particularly difficult to stand up to those you work with, especially if you’re on the same team. Some appropriate ways to respond are:
    • “Change is always difficult and it’s definitely challenging to switch to using new pronouns and names. However, it’s really important to respect the decisions about their gender identity and pronouns. How would you feel if someone called you a name that wasn’t yours?”
    • “I know I’m going to make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun too – but think about how difficult it must be for them to experience the transphobia and resistance to being themself. What they’re doing is much harder and we should be supporting them.”
  • Don’t respond with agreement to avoid conflict. Even if you feel uncomfortable in this situation, it’s important that you have a conversation with your colleague about their statements and point out to them that their behavior can be harmful.

Scenario 2:

  • It can be extremely burdening for individuals from marginalized groups to consistently validate why it’s important to have diverse representation in their workplaces. In fact, women, Black and POC women specifically, are often viewed as angry or aggressive for expressing their concerns and opinions. The same behaviors, however, are often labeled as ambitious when seen in individuals from dominant groups. Some appropriate ways to respond are by:
    • Activating your networks and using your platform to amplify your colleague’s voice and experiences.
    • Reaching out to the event organizers to address the systemic issues and pointing out the lack of diverse representation.
    • Challenging the underlying stereotype of “the angry Black woman” that was used to characterize your colleague by senior leaders and coworkers.
  • Don’t respond by:
    • Giving advice from a place of privilege (i.e. “maybe if you presented your argument less aggressively”).
    • Telling them to accept it for what it is.

Scenario 3:

  • The workplace is not always a friendly environment to women, and often women of color experience a high level of oppression and discrimination. This scenario points out one such example. Some appropriate ways to respond are:
    • Encouraging your manager to ask Rhea whether she’d be comfortable traveling or not.
    • Working with your manager to have a more streamlined process for determining travel preferences and how to support individuals who might want to travel but may have caregiving responsibilities.
  • Don’t respond by:
    • Only asking women on the team if they want to travel or not, as this reinforces gender norms and stereotypes.
    • Agreeing with your manager’s approach.
    • Making assumptions or deciding what is best for others.

Scenario 4:

  • Two key points must be noted in this scenario. There is definitely a systemic issue and an issue of consent. Hasan’s coworker’s intention may have been to help Hasan by sharing his idea. However, doing so without consent resulted in more harm than good and Hasan was not credited for his idea. Some appropriate ways to respond are:
    • Working with the department to create multiple feedback and idea channels where team members can contribute freely.
    • Having a conversation with the other coworker about why they thought they could share Hasan’s idea (but only after asking Hasan if it’s okay to have that conversation).
  • Don’t respond by:
    • Suggesting that Hasan has to adapt or “break out of his shell.”
    • Encouraging Hasan to speak up more.

Now that we’ve gone through the activity, take a few minutes on your own to think about what factors may have contributed to your response.

  • For example, did you hold any preconceived notions?
  • What lived experiences were a factor?
    • Other factors:
      • Religion
      • Education
      • Family status, etc.
      • Advertising

Allyship requires active behaviors

  • Learning and unlearning
    Find opportunities to learn about those who are different from you in order to unlearn and challenge your biases and assumptions.
  • Speaking Up
    Leverage your privilege and power by standing up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.
  • Owning your mistakes
    Graciously accept mistakes and take it as an opportunity to learn.
  • Uplifting those around you
    Raise those who are around you to ensure that they are accessing the same opportunities and experiences.
  • Supporting colleagues
    Listen to the experiences of your colleagues and identify opportunities to support them.

Speaker’s Notes:
Allyship requires you to do more than say that you are an ally. Think back to section 1 of our training deck and when you needed an ally. What did you need an ally to do?

In allyship, actions speak so much louder than words. Allies need to engage with active behaviors such as advocating for and supporting marginalized groups that face oppression. There are key active behaviors an ally engages with, including:

  • Speaking up.
    • This includes standing up for those in marginalized positions but also calling in others by engaging with educational conversations that promote inclusive behavior or to stop non-inclusive behaviors.
  • Learning and unlearning.
    • Allyship requires engaging with a continuous process of learning, relearning, and unlearning. People who want to be allies need to identify opportunities to learn about those who are different from themselves. This includes taking on the work to read books or watch movies or listen to stories about those who are different from themselves to understand the history that has significantly impacted diverse groups of people.
  • Owning your mistakes.
    • It’s okay to make mistakes, but allies need to own their mistakes in order to learn and correct their behaviors. Allies will be gracious when they are called out and identify ways to learn from their behavior.
  • Uplifting those around you.
    • Allies will use their position to ensure that those around them receive the same opportunity to grow. Allies can use their position to mentor, sponsor, or ensure those around them are being listened to. For example, if you notice in a meeting that a colleague is not being heard because someone is continuously speaking over them, you can redirect the conversation back to them by asking to hear their feedback or thoughts.
  • Supporting colleagues.
    • You may not always have first-hand experience with someone else's negative experience, but as an ally it’s important to recognize when you need to provide additional support to your colleague. This includes listening to them or supporting the causes they are a part of.

Can you think of some reasons as to why allies will need these behaviors?

As allies, we’ll all encounter challenging situations

  • Hearing an inappropriate joke
  • Watching someone be left out
  • Noticing that someone is spoken over
  • Witnessing someone be hostile

Speaker’s Notes

As an ally, you will encounter challenging situations that will sometimes feel uncomfortable. For example:

  • You may witness someone acting non-inclusively. Someone could make an inappropriate joke about someone else or another group of people that isn’t currently present.
  • You may notice that someone has been left out of your team’s socials, plans, meetings, or projects.
  • Sometimes you might notice that you have a colleague that is consistently being spoken over.
  • Or you may see someone be hostile to another individual or make inappropriate comments directly to them.

If someone from HR, a CEO, a manager, or the sibling of an employee is in the room, who do you think might be responsible for addressing the situation? The answer is that all people should be responsible.

Of course, responding to these situations can be difficult since the right response isn’t always clear. What are some reasons why it might be difficult to respond in these situations?

You may feel compelled to jump in and confront the aggressor or you might feel that someone else is more qualified to jump in, such as a manager, or you may just feel uncomfortable and it has left you frozen. You may worry that if you jump in, you may escalate the situation further.

Feeling scared and uncomfortable is normal, as these can be very challenging situations.

However, allies need to overcome their discomfort. One way to start is to ask yourself, what is the best way to address the situation in a way that doesn’t alienate or threaten anyone? This allows you to pause, assess the situation, and thoughtfully consider a response that won’t cause anyone harm or embarrass them.

Of course, there are exceptions, but we will get to that later on.


Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities

Agenda The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Time Topic
10:45am-11:50am Module 2: Allyship accountabilities and responsibilities
11:50am-12:00pm Wrap-up

Speaker’s Notes:

Welcome back to module 2 of our How to Be an Ally training. In today’s module, we’ll be going over the accountabilities and responsibilities you have as an ally.

We will build off the concepts we learned in module 1. Let’s recap module 1 before we dive into module 2. In our last session we:

  • Learned that an ally is someone who uses their power and privilege in society to advocate for marginalized people to empower themselves.
  • Dove deeper into the concepts of privilege and oppression. We learned that privilege refers to the unearned advantages that dominant groups hold, which is often unconscious. Today, we’ll learn how to use our privilege to advocate and support those who are different from us.
  • Identified key allyship behaviors, including how to speak up, owning and learning from our mistakes, uplifting our colleagues, and supporting our peers.

Was there anything you learned from module 1 that stood out to you?

Today we will familiarize ourselves with allyship accountabilities and responsibilities to help us practice the notion of being an ally.

Allies experience less retaliation when they speak up

A bar chart showing four demographics 'White men', 'White women', 'Black women', and 'Latinas' measuring how many answered 'I've spoken out against racial discrimination at work' versus how many faced retaliation in some way. White men: 41% spoke out vs 10% retaliated against. White women: 38% spoke out vs 10% retaliated against. Black women: 41% spoke out vs 36% retaliated against. Latinas: 35% spoke out vs 23% retaliated against. Source: Lean In, 2020

Speaker’s Notes:
Speaking up can be a very scary experience, especially when you think about the worst-case scenario, such as putting yourself and the other person in danger.

However, if you go back to the concepts of power and privilege that we learned earlier, you will see that because of our inherent power and privileges, we are likely to face different responses to the situation.

When Lean In asked people about whether they have spoken out against racial discrimination:

  • 41% of White men said they have.
  • 38% of White women said they have.
  • 41% of Black women said they have.
  • 35% of Latinas said they have.

However, when Lean In asked whether people have been retaliated against in some way (such as by being given a poor evaluation, termination, or being excluded from meetings) for speaking out against racial discrimination:

  • Only 10% of White men and White women said yes.
  • However, 36% of Black women and 23% of Latinas said yes.

Though the response in how many people have spoken out against racial discrimination at work is almost equal, we see that the response regarding who experiences the consequences is quite different.


What are some challenging situations you have encountered at work?

Brainstorm some challenging situations you’ve encountered at work. For each situation, write down why the situation was uncomfortable for you.
Someone made an inappropriate joke about a colleague’s cultural practices.
  • I didn’t know who the people involved were.
  • I didn’t know what to say at that moment.
  • I didn’t think it was my place to say anything.

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Being prepared to address uncomfortable situations can start with identifying what makes the situation uncomfortable. Identifying what makes you uncomfortable can help you determine how you will overcome these barriers when they appear.
  • In your Handbook, on slide 12, brainstorm 3-5 uncomfortable situations you have witnessed.
  • Next to each situation you have listed, write down a reason why you think you did not feel like you could stand up to the situation.
  • Later on, we will help each other identify tactics to overcome the situations we have witnessed.

Speak out against non-inclusive behavior

Calling In

  • A private and intentional conversation with a colleague regarding problematic behavior that needs to be addressed.
  • A learning opportunity for the colleague to reflect on their actions, understand the impact of their actions, and hold themselves accountable for improving their behavior in the future.

Calling Out

  • A public confrontation of a person’s non-inclusive or discriminatory behavior.
  • Call someone out when:
    • An individual isn’t receptive to call-in conversations.
    • An individual is becoming aggressive.
    • You need to prevent further offense or there is immediate danger.

Speaker’s Notes:
One of the ways you can address instances of non-inclusive behaviors is to actively speak out against them. There are two different approaches you can take to address someone’s non-inclusive behavior.

The first option is to call someone in.

  • Calling someone in is a private and intentional conversation regarding their behavior.
  • By calling someone in, you provide a learning opportunity to let the person reflect on their actions, understand the impact, and hold themselves accountable.
  • For example, say you’re in a meeting and someone makes a joke about a particular group of people. You can tell that they’re making the comment because they’ve made an assumption based on a common stereotype. After the meeting, you can say something like “John, I just have a couple of notes from the meeting and want to discuss them with you.” Use this as an opportunity to bring them into the conversation.

However, there may be instances where you cannot wait to have a private one-on-one conversation and you need to address the behavior immediately, even if there are others involved. Instances where you need to call someone out include when:

  • An individual isn’t receptive to the call-in conversations.
  • They are becoming aggressive.
  • You need to prevent further offense or there is immediate danger.
  • For example, you may notice that at an after-work social, a colleague is making a joke about another colleague’s caregiving commitments. You try to jump in and say that you think it’s great that they’re juggling caregiving work with their professional life, but the person continues to talk poorly about your other colleague. One thing you can do is jump in and simply tell them to stop and then continue to say how great it is that they can manage their two major responsibilities.

Handle difficult conversations with EASE






Speaker’s Notes:
Having a direct conversation about someone’s non-inclusive behavior can be scary. But this is where you can leverage the EASE framework.

Sometimes preparation is key. If you plan on calling someone in, this framework can help you turn the conversation into a learning opportunity.

When you prepare for this difficult conversation, think of why you’re having the conversation, the benefits or potential downsides of the conversation, and what resources or materials you could reference. Practice! Use your partner, a family member, a friend, or your manager to practice the conversation.

The first step of the EASE frame work is to ENGAGE.

  • Set the context by explaining:
    • Why you are meeting.
    • Your role/involvement.
    • The intended outcome.
  • Be sure to do prework.
  • Meet in a private setting and adhere to HR policies.
  • Speak in a calm and professional manner.
  • Be concise.
  • Focus on the behavior and not the assumed intent.

Secondly, you will ABSORB.

  • Seek to understand the issue from the employee’s perspective.
  • Learn new information.
  • Let the employee speak – don’t interrupt.
  • Use active listening (full attention, paraphrase).
  • Listen for commonalities.
  • Ask powerful questions.
  • Do not assume intent.

Third, you will want to SHARE.

  • Provide your point of view.
  • Create an open dialogue of sharing opinions, facts, and intentions.
  • Share the impact of the behavior.
  • Adjust your response based on employee’s emotional state.
  • Allow them to share their own reaction.
  • Give time and space for responses.
  • Use “I” statements when discussing emotions.

Lastly END the discussion:

  • Determine actionable next steps.
  • Set goals.
  • Book follow-up meetings as needed.
  • Work with the employee to develop solutions and alternatives – don’t just dictate the solution to them.
  • Ask the employee to summarize the discussion and agreed-upon actions in their own words and ask them to send it in writing.

Removing someone from a harmful situation

Two options for removing someone form a harmful situation: 'Remove the person doing the harm' or 'Remove the person being harmed'.

Speaker’s Notes:
Let’s go back to the situations we mentioned earlier.

In the workplace, you may find yourself in a situation where there may be harm done to someone. It could be emotional, physical, or psychological harm. In these situations, it is very important for allies to step in and remove the person being harmed. As an ally, you will have to assess the situation and decide if:

  • A, you can remove the person doing the harm from the situation. This could be done by using the “calling out” techniques we mentioned earlier where you let them know that what they’re doing is wrong. Or you could just ask them to leave. You might be able to distract them, or you could walk them away from the situation. Once the person has left, it’s important that you check in with the person who was being harmed. You could ask them if there’s anything they need or offer your ear in case they want to talk about what happened.
  • Alternatively, you have option B where you remove the person receiving the harm from the situation. This could be done by swooping in and asking the person who is being harmed to leave with you. You could make up an excuse to explain why this person needs to leave with you. For example, you can pretend that you need this person’s help. If you’re witnessing the situation from a distance, you can call out to them to come to you. Once you’ve removed the person from the situation, you can safely check in with them to make sure they are okay or identify additional support for them such as an ear to listen to, or whether they need HR support and a witness.

Leverage empathy to support your colleagues in the workplace

A graphic of two people with the words 'Says', 'Thinks', 'Does', and 'Feels' surrounding them.

“Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts of another person” (Psychology Today)

Empathy means refraining from focusing on yourself when others share

  • Recognize that it does not feel great to be left out, tokenized, or othered.
  • Do not provide solutions based on what you would do.
  • Avoid putting your similar experience in the center of someone else’s current experience.

Speaker’s Notes:
Empathy can be defined as the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person (Psychology Today). When we empathize with others, it helps us develop a connection and act with compassion.

It can be a very important tool for allies who need to support those who are different from themselves.

When we act as an ally, we not only create a feeling of belonging but can also feel more confident in the ways in which we support our colleagues and carry ourselves at work.

To empathize with your colleagues, you can apply design thinking techniques to put yourself into the shoes of your colleague. Using the knowledge you have been developing and active listening skills to understand what it’s like to be in your colleague's shoes:

  • Listen to what they are saying about the situation.
  • Try to understand how it impacts their thinking or thought processes.
  • Look at what they do to respond to the situation. For example, are they now pulling themselves back from the workplace or keeping to themselves?
  • Listen to how they feel. Sometimes, as allies, we get angry for someone else, however, we need to think of their feelings first. Try to understand how this experience has made them feel.

When some people act as an ally, they might look for commonalities to help themselves imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. However, this runs the risk of centering yourself in the experience of someone else. Remember that because of intersectionality there may actually be other factors affecting why someone else is oppressed.

  • For example, I may be a woman, just like my colleague, but there are other factors of identities such as our race, disability status, class, or religion that impact how we navigate the world and how the world sees us.
  • Sometimes what you would do in a situation is not possible for someone else.
    • For example, when we hear of a difficult workplace situation, we might think that we could easily quit or leave the situation. However, that can be much more difficult for others. We know that getting another opportunity can be difficult, especially for others from underserved groups. Some people may be the sole financial provider for their household.
    • This is why we cannot center ourselves in the experiences of others. The situation may be much more complex than we know.

What we can do is provide support and do the work to make environments inclusive and supportive for our colleagues.


Build your empathy map

Says Thinks
Does Feels

Think of a time when you needed an ally.

Complete the empathy based on your partner’s identity and situation.

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Take a moment to think of a time when you were left out, someone questioned your credibility, someone took credit for your work, or you felt discriminated against.
  • Once you’ve identified a moment, write it down and turn to the person next to you.
  • Take turns to share each other’s experience and use your partner’s experience to complete the empathy map in front of you.
    • Try to fill in each section of the empathy map.
  • Now that you have completed your empathy map, take a moment to reflect on what your partner shared with you and think about the following:
    • How did it feel to put yourself in the other person’s shoes?
    • Did listening to someone else’s experience make you appreciate or understand their challenge more?
    • How can you practice building empathy on an ongoing basis?

Save this empathy map, as it can provide you with the foundation you need to further your learning about those who are different from you.

Sometimes your support as an ally will be less obvious

  • Extend your network
  • Sponsor someone in the organization
  • Make yourself available to your colleagues
  • Mentor a peer
  • Recognize your colleague's efforts
  • Adopt inclusive work practices

Speaker’s Notes:
Sometimes our support will be less explicit. But these actions are not passive and can do wonders to help make the workplace much more inclusive.

A lot of these actions require you, as an ally, to use your inherent privileges and power to uplift those around you.

Some actions you can take include:

  • Extending your organizational network by partnering with organizations that uplift marginalized groups.
  • Using your position to sponsor someone in the organization. This means using your influence to champion another person’s development.
  • Mentoring a peer will allow you to share your learnings with someone else to help them with their own development.
  • Some people’s efforts are more likely to be ignored than others. When you recognize that this is happening, champion them.
  • Have an open door policy with colleagues and be there to lend an ear so that they know you support them.
  • Adopt inclusive work practices to make sure that the way you conduct work is not leaving people out or further perpetuating systems of oppression.
  • What else?


Allyship Tactics

How can you respond to certain situations as an ally?

  • Call the other person in
  • Have a meaningful conversation
  • Share the space

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Being prepared is one way you can be resilient and confident when you need to address an uncomfortable and challenging situation where you need to be an ally.
  • In groups of 2-3 people, take turns sharing the situations you have written down and why the situations were challenging to you or made you uncomfortable.
    • If the situation was something you witnessed in the workplace, you do not have to share names or identifying characteristics.
  • When your peers explain their situation, make sure you focus and listen to what made them uncomfortable. Avoid judgement, as we all have our own personal things that make us uncomfortable and scared.
  • Once everyone has shared their situations, go back and brainstorm tactics to be an ally.
    • For example, could you have tried calling them in? What would that look like? Would you book a meeting with them? How might you explain what is happening?
    • Are there any moments when you need to bring in another individual for support such as HR?

Adopt a dynamic learning mindset

Dynamic learning mindset (DLM)

  • Seeks to learn from mistakes
  • Open to feedback
  • Resilient in change through calculated risk
  • Committed to growth
  • Focused on the cumulative power of effort
  • (Adapted from Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success)

Speaker’s Notes:
There is no end to the learning journey when you are an ally. When we choose to consistently learn about those who are different from us, their experiences, and their challenges, along with other people’s mistakes, not only are we better allies but we are also building our own resilience.

One thing you can do is adopt a dynamic learning mindset, an idea developed by Carol Dweck.

About 20 years ago psychologist Carol Dweck discovered something powerful. She discovered that learning is not in fact driven by genetics, as had been so long assumed; rather, it is driven by mindset.

To come to this conclusion Dweck gave groups of kids hard problems – problems harder than they would normally have been able to solve at this age. She told one group of kids that the ability to solve the problem is based on hard work. To the other group of kids, she said that the ability to solve the problem was based on how smart they were. What she found was that the group of kids who thought that hard work was key to solving the problem persisted much longer and solved more problems than those who believed it was based on intelligence. This is because those who believed it was based on intelligence believed that they had reached their potential and just gave up. This caused Dweck to realize that the ability to learn is not predetermined but in fact is all about your mindset. Which is great news, because we can impact our mindset, and that means that we can constantly learn.

Based on this research, Dweck created the idea of a growth mindset. And there is a substantial difference between a fixed mindset, which is what many of us grew up with, and a growth mindset.

Firstly, in a fixed mindset there is the tendency to cover up mistakes, see successes as one-time wins, and see neither as a learning opportunity. Whereas in a growth mindset, a failure is simply seen as an opportunity to learn how to do something better next time. Think of it simply as hypothesis testing.

Secondly, a fixed mindset is closed to feedback – this individual is uninterested in giving or receiving feedback and thinks from the perspective of specific tasks rather than the big picture. Whereas with a growth mindset, an individual seeks out and absorbs feedback to better understand the larger system to come up with better ideas.

Thirdly, people with a fixed mindset needs routine. They are unable to thrive in a high-change environment because of their avoidance or risk and reliance on routine. With a growth mindset, an individual is resilient when faced with change and is able to take calculated risks.

Fourthly, with a fixed mindset we are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge. As with those kids, the driving belief is that we have reached the end of our abilities. With a growth mindset we see a challenge as an opportunity to learn and to grow and are able to communicate development needs.

And lastly, a fixed mindset is focused on inherent intelligence, whereas a growth mindset is focused on cumulative effort.

We move back and forth between these five tenets depending on the situations and the challenges we face. The trick is to identify when we are slipping back into a fixed mindset and to be aware of how we can push ourselves toward the growth mindset. As leaders it is your responsibility to develop this mindset not only in yourself but also in your team.

The five tenets of the DLM are:

  • Seeking to learn from your and other people’s mistakes
  • Being open to feedback. At times, you may find yourself on the receiving end of being called in or out. That’s okay: to be better allies, we need to see our mistakes, and sometimes our biases can act as blinders and that outside perspective is imperative.
  • Being resilient in change. For example, as an ally, you know that sometimes you have to take risks to support those around you, such as calling in or calling out people displaying non-inclusive behaviors.
  • A stronger commitment to growth.
  • A focus on the cumulative power of effort.

There are a number of ways we can continue to learn. This includes:

  • Listening to podcasts
  • Reading articles
  • Reading fiction or non-fictional stories with impactful lessons such as To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Watching movies or documentaries
  • Diversifying our networks


Create a learning mural

Take a couple of sticky notes and write down resources that you and your colleagues can use to continue learning on your allyship journey.

Speaker’s Notes:

  • As a group we are now going to build our learning repertoire.
  • All of the resources we gather here in this session will be shared so that you can reference them later on in your allyship journey.
  • Each of you will take a couple of sticky notes.
  • On each sticky note, write down a learning resource that you will use to supplement your allyship journey. These could be books, podcasts, music, any influencers, movies, and such.
  • Feel free to be as specific as possible.
  • Once you’re done, please post it on this board.
  • Now that we have all posted our resources, lets look at some of them:
    • Prompting questions to incite a discussion:
      • This is a great resource, would anyone like to share why its important to them?
      • Would someone like to share why they picked their specific resource?

[Organization’s name] Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion learning resources The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Speaker’s Notes:
Don’t forget, we have the following DEI learning resources already available.

How to use allyship to promote DEI at the organization The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

“Purl,” Pixar SparkShorts

Speaker’s Notes:

Before we start, let’s watch a quick YouTube video called “Purl” by Pixar SparkShorts:

Now let's have a discussion on what we just watched:

  • How did you feel when you watched that video?
  • What were your thoughts at the beginning? How do you think Purl felt at the beginning of the video?
  • Can you think of a time when you tried to fit in with a group?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What were your thoughts at the end of the video?

At the end of this video, we see that the organization made a huge culture change. Sometimes it takes that one person to make the change that will make the organization more inclusive.


How will you hold yourself accountable?

Goals Action Item
Support breaking glass ceilings Sponsor a junior employee in my department

Write down two or three personal allyship goals and share them with your group. As a team, identify actions to help each other reach your goals.

Speaker’s Notes:

  • Thinking about the video again, what can we do to act like Purl to make our workplaces more inclusive?
    • For example, could we break glass ceilings for others? Could we plan inclusive team-building activities? Maybe we can help diversify our candidate pipeline?
  • On page 18 of your Handbook you will find the allyship pledge.
  • Go back to the allyship behaviors and think of goals that will help you be a better ally.
  • Next to each of your goals write down specific actions that will help you achieve that goal.
    • For example, if you want to support breaking the glass ceiling you could sponsor a junior employee in your department and be responsible for their development.
  • Other goals and actions you could implement include:
    • Building an inclusive team culture. Your action items could include planning team-building activities that are inclusive to all by taking into consideration everyone’s scheduling needs and abilities that might prevent someone from participating in the activities for reasons outside of interest.
    • Diversifying the organization’s candidate pipeline. You could join external organizations that support diverse candidates who are trying to build their professional networks. This can help you identify diverse candidates to refer to the organization.
  • Now that you’ve taken the time to write down your goals, split up into larger groups to share them.
  • Take turns sharing your action items. Solicit additional action items.

You’re not in this alone The pencil icon denoting slides requiring customization of the slide and/or the speaker’s notes

Speaker’s Notes:

We’re all in this together. Don’t forget that you have support. When you need additional help you can go to HR, your DEI committee, or you manager or consult the following resources.


Training Session Evaluation

Speaker’s Notes:

  • That concludes today’s session on allyship.
  • Before you leave, please take the time to fill out these training evaluation forms and return them to me.

Works Cited

Crossman, Ashley. “The Concept of Social Structure in Sociology?" ThoughtCo, 28 June 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballentine Books, 2007.

"Empathy." Psychology Today, n.d. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

"Empowering Workplaces Combat Emotional Tax For People of Colour in Canada." Catalyst, 4 July 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

Erskine, Samantha E., and Diana Bilimoria. "White Allyship of Afro-Diasporic Women in the Workplace: A Transformative Strategy for Organizational Change." Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 26, no. 3, 2019, pp. 319-338.

Gurchiek, Kathy. "Workplace Allies Serve as Ambassadors for Change." SHRM, 1 Mar. 2019. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

Jha, Rega, and Tommy Wesely. "How Privileged Are You?" BuzzFeed, 10 Apr. 2014. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

Nixon, Stephanie A. "The coin model of privilege and critical allyship: implications for health." BMC Public Health, vol. 19, no. 1, 2019.

"Purl." YouTube, uploaded by Pixar SparkShorts, 14 Feb. 2019.

Reed, Kayla. “Ally." Twitter,13 June 2016. Accessed 09 Nov. 2020.

Spark4Community. "Why I Don’t Call Myself an ‘Ally’." S.P.A.R.K., 24 July 2017. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

Spicer, Andre. "The Psychology of Being a Better Ally in the Office – and Beyond." City Press Office – City, University of London, 8 July 2020, Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

"Students Learn A Powerful Lesson About Privilege." YouTube, uploaded by BuzzFeedVideo, 9 Dec. 2014, Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

"White employees see themselves as allies—but Black women and Latinas disagree." Lean In, 2020. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

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  • Call 1: Equip employees with the knowledge and skills they need to be allies to their colleagues.