Note: This page is adapted from a blog post written by Bridget Hegarty for the Society of Women Engineers Graduate Leadership Team.

The form of the Equity in the Job Search Symposium comes from the realization that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups. We recognize that just as racism cannot be corrected by only engaging people of color, sexism cannot be corrected without involving men in the conversation.

We believe that once men engage in conversations about gender bias, they will become more invested in making positive changes in their own workplaces, thereby increasing gender inclusivity and benefiting all those involved.

For this reason, our symposium is open to individuals of all genders. We hope that all attendees will find the discussion surrounding gender bias enlightening and the workshops helpful as they navigate the job search.

Though this page is written with gender bias in mind, the resources provided will benefit anyone seeking to be a better advocate for another group. Numerous excellent guides exist on becoming a more effective ally or finding allies for yourself. If you would like to read more, the links at the bottom of this page are a great place to start.

What does it mean to be an ally? Why is it important?

At the most basic level, An ally is any person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people.”

Robin Hauser Reynolds, whose documentary Code: Debugging the Gender Gap explores the problems facing women in tech, as well as the solutions to these problems, gives a more practical definition: “A male ally is a man who will advocate for women even when there are no women in the room.”

This definition gets to the heart of why allies matter. Allies have power in settings where the members the group they are helping do not. They are often able to speak up on behalf of another group in a way that is more likely to be heard. This gives allies a unique ability to effect change.

I'm seeking allies—where do I start?

If you are seeking allies, the following articles provide many practical suggestions:


Key takeaways from these articles

  1. Look for individuals who have empathy.
  2. Meet new people and try to engage with people who are different from you.
  3. Seek out mentors outside of your group.
  4. Assume positive intent.

Finally, only cultivate a relationship with someone willing to listen to and learn from you. An effective ally won’t always be a perfect advocate; however, it is critical that they listen to and support you. If this is not the case, then seek elsewhere for a new ally—it is paramount to find someone who can empower you.

How do I become an effective ally?

Being an effective effective ally means recognizing, and then acting, when you have power in a situation to advocate for a marginalized group. It's easy to state that we should act in this way, but how do we actually do it?

It is impossible to be an effective ally if we assume we know what the group we are supporting wants without taking the time to listen to them and being willing to learn from those who are different from us. Moreover, this isn’t a one-time action. We must be willing to continually learn so that we can truly advocate on the behalf of others with different and complex needs.

Before being able to act as allies, we also have to examine our motivations. If we are acting from a place of guilt or, alternatively, from a place of superiority, it is impossible to be effective allies. We have to see ourselves as equal to those we seek to empower, and we have to be willing to learn from them.

Along the way, we will make mistakes. As allies, we have to be able to adapt and recognize when our well-intentioned actions are not helpful. Instead of giving up when this happens, we have to be able to apologize and learn from our mistakes.

Concluding thoughts

The value of allies is becoming increasingly recognized as more of us realize that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups and that developing truly inclusive academic and work environments is everyone’s responsibility.