A Review of
How to Lead Your Company as a True Ally
Allyship for racial equity is a lifelong journey that starts with you
Online resource aims to help individuals learn, reflect, and act to lead their company as an accountable ally.
When Carter G. Woodson, the Black historian refered to as the Father of Black History, launched Negro History Week in 1926, he understood that the celebration of African American history and scholarship could not just be a one-week act. Instead, he insisted that the goal should be “studying the Negro throughout the school year, for thirty-six weeks rather than one week.” More than half a century later, historian and best-selling author of How to be Antiracist Ibram X. Kendi echoes Woodson’s call that unlearning the racism deeply embedded in our culture is a life-long, iterative process: “Being antiracist is not a destination but a journey—one that takes deliberate, consistent work.” Fifty years apart, these calls emphasize the reality that a month-long celebration or short reading list are important starts, but not enough to make meaningful change. True transformation is not a sprint–it is a marathon, a journey.
This is the main charge of How to Lead Your Company as a True Ally, an article providing recommendations for leaders seeking to become true allies in their own workplace. After Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd in May 2020, countless corporations including Amazon and Wal-Mart put out statements in solidarity with Black Americans. “I appreciate your Black Lives Matter post,” diversity consultant executive, Brickson Diamond, responded, “Now follow that up with a picture of your senior management team and your board.” This challenge highlights the reality that Black representation among executives is still alarmingly low, negative racial bias prevents Black applicants from getting jobs, and microaggressions and differential treatment at work inhibit Black employees’ ability to succeed. Until corporate leaders make substantive changes to address these grave disparities, any solidarity posts remain performative at best.
Based on the acute need for more accountable and reflective allyship, a team of researchers and practitioners at Stanford Graduate School of Business developed the 7-day Anti-Racism and Allyship Journey, a free online resource that helps leaders put allyship into real action. They have broken down this journey to allyship into three simple steps: education, reflection and action. This resource is particularly helpful for white people for engaging in racial equity and in building an accountable racial identity, and also a tool for Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Methods and Findings
The authors provide further detail behind the three steps you can take to put allyship into practice:
- Learn. It is important to root yourself within a historical context. The authors suggest watching this 18-minute video to initiate understanding and spark allyship.
- Reflect. Interrogate your own experiences and biases: what impact has race had on your life? Why do you think that is the case? How does talking about race and racism make you feel? When are you least equipped to engage in conversations about race?
- Act. Resources like Race Card Project and Racial Equity Playbook can help facilitate your active engagement.
True allyship requires action. That action must be a priority for leaders because an inclusive work culture is critical to equitably supporting all colleagues. And while it may be tempting to issue only forward looking statements, achieving that equity requires acknowledgement that the barriers of the past live on in the obstacles of the present. This is why leaders, especially white ones, must recognize that business as usual is not enough. True allies must commit to the personal and professional work necessary to chart a new path into the future.
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