Equality is a core value at Salesforce, and a key way we drive equality in our company is by building a culture of belonging where everyone feels seen, heard, and empowered to succeed. Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are nearly five-times (4.6X) more likely to perform their best work. Everyone has a role to play in creating a culture of belonging and driving equality in the workplace. That's where allies come in. In this post, we’ll walk you through what allyship is and how to become an ally.

 

What is an Ally?

An ally is someone who may not be a member of a community, but supports them. Anyone can be an equality ally. You don’t need to identify entirely with a community or share the same interests or background. It doesn’t mean that you need to agree on every single issue, but it does mean that as an ally, you support and show up for others. 

Being an ally is to embark on a journey of lifelong learning. Start with an understanding that as humans, we all have biases, and we can educate ourselves on the impact of unconscious bias as an early step on our journey. 

Regardless of where you are on your journey, we encourage you all to move forward as an ally. In this post, we will look at the journey from being a curious to a courageous ally. 

Below is a video that demonstrates the power of allies, both in the workplace and in our everyday lives:

 
 

How to be an ally: your journey from curious to courageous

 

We see allies on a journey that range from curious to courageous. Allies may be on all stops along this journey. Some may be curious — they want to learn more about how to become a better ally, but may not know which questions to ask. Others may be further along the journey and be courageous allies, ready to use their platform to advocate for a community. Let’s take a look at this ally journey in action:

 

1. Curious allies ask questions 

The ally journey begins with being inquisitive and asking about other’s experiences with the understanding that it’s okay to be vulnerable and admit you don't know everything. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and ask questions. We can’t know or truly understand until we ask.

 

Start with a sincere curiosity to learn about a community — seek out authentic voices either through conversations, watching a documentary, reading a book, or scheduling a coffee chat with leaders from your employee resource groups. Be mindful and remember that not everyone from an underrepresented community wants to be a spokesperson – ask questions within relationships that feel sincere to both of you and do so respectfully. 

Here are some opening questions to get you started on your journey:

  • “What does it mean to be an ally?”
  • “What’s the preferred term for ____ in your community?”
  •  “What can I read or watch to understand your lived experience?”
 

2. Curious allies listen to other communities

After we ask, it’s important to practice deep and empathetic listening. Listen to learn, not to respond. Practice pausing and reflecting on what you’ve just learned. Be intentional about making space for others. As we do this, we begin to develop empathy for other communities by understanding their lived experience. 

 

Here are some ideas to get you started on your listening journey:

  • “Can you tell me what a typical day is like for you?”
  • “What makes you feel included and empowered?”
  • “What do you wish I knew about your lived experience?”
 

3. Courageous allies show up for communities

Showing up for our communities is a key step to being an ally. It shows commitment and gives allies a chance to better understand a particular affinity group. 

BOLDforce, which stands for Black Organization for Leadership and Development
and allies attend the Martin Luther King Jr. march in San Francisco, 2019.

 

In 2017, Salesforce employees led by BOLDforce, our Black employee resource group, attended the Martin Lurther King Jr. march in San Francisco. We had 100 employees show up, most were employees who identified as black. Then two years later, after evangelizing the message of being allies for others, 1,200 employees showed up, mostly allies. This was a significant moment, particularly for our underrepresented employees. After seeing so many colleagues show up as allies, many employees felt this support created a deeper sense of belonging for them at work. This is invaluable and demonstrates the power of allies. 

Here are some ideas on how you can show up as an ally:

  • “What can I do as an ally?”
  • “What meetings or events can I attend to support you?”
  • “What are some causes I can show up to by donating and supporting?”
 

4. Courageous allies speak up and elevate communities

Now that you’re equipped with a better understanding of a community, it’s time to move along the journey by being brave and courageous. Use your platform to speak up for a community — whether it’s on stage, in a meeting, or on social media. 

 

 

At Salesforce, we host an annual racial equality summit which features professionals from typically underrepresented communities on stage. We also practice inclusive meetings to ensure everyone is seen and heard, and often use our platforms such as social media or our public lobby screens to advocate for communities that have been discriminated against.

Here are some ways you can use your voice to speak up:

  • If you notice that someone is speaking over another person in a meeting, intentionally or not, speak up and practice inclusive meetings.
  • If your team is planning to go to a happy hour — speak up if the activity is not inclusive of everyone’s religious beliefs or parental responsibilities. (Here are 5 inclusive team bonding activities)
  • Point out an action that discriminates against a community

We are all on this journey towards Equality for all — learning and moving forward together, united as one. Regardless of where you may be on this journey, we ask everyone to be intentional and deepen their understanding of others as they move forward. We encourage you to be brave, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and take action. 

Learn more about our ally strategies by taking our free Trailhead module.