With February and March colliding, today marks Black History Month’s end and Women’s History’s Month’s beginning. Supporting and empowering your women and Black colleagues, as well as members of any other minority group or marginalized community, is incredibly important to learn to do. At Bentley, both women students and Black students are underrepresented groups, which carries through into the corporate business world. As we all partake in changing that reality, we must be allies, and effective ones at that, whether we’re at school or work.
To be an ally, an individual must understand what minority groups and marginalized communities are. While both definitions are sometimes used interchangeably because there is often a relationship between them, the terms are slightly different.
A minority group is defined as a group of individuals who share a characteristic, whose number of members is lesser than that of other groups of individuals that share a characteristic in that category. If the category is race, Black people are a minority group at (12.2% of the USA’s population compared to 60.1% of Non-Hispanic Whites in 2019). Additionally, minority groups can be defined as having a relative disadvantage when compared to members of dominant social groups.
A marginalized community is one that is excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational, and/or cultural life, due to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, language, and immigration status, and other discrimination factors. This occurs due to imbalanced power relationships between social groups. When disaster strikes, it often hits marginalized communities HARD. To read some research on how COVID-19 in particular has affected marginalized communities, click here.
A minority group can be a marginalized community and vice-versa. In fact, those are the likeliest scenarios. It’s also true that there are many minority groups and marginalized communities, and that individuals can be apart of several different ones, which is defined as intersectionality.
Individuals part of any minority group and marginalized community depend and appreciate the help that those with privilege can offer. Without further ado, here are some ways to be an ally:
- Start small or start big. Just start. Start what? Well…
- Start recognizing your privilege and use it to benefit BIPOC and other marginalized communities. Use your voice to amplify marginalized individuals and show support, realizing the true weight of your actions. Truly think about the responsibility of having the privilege, which allows you to have a HUGE impact on the way social issues are handled. Do not let your privilege go to waste. Help people.
- Start listening and educating yourself. Nobody expects you to know everything and to never make mistakes. However, you should not be making the same, ignorant mistakes multiple times. If you happen to accidentally offend someone while on your journey to learn more and truly get involved, apologize immediately and explain that you are educating yourself. It’s likely that the individual will understand and even be willing to help you learn. Just make sure that you are open to constructive-criticism.
- Start matching your actions with your words (using your research). As a small step, posting more and becoming more vocal on your social media platforms is somewhere to start. Build up to donating either money to marginalized communities or time through volunteering. Become a resource to your marginalized peers by calling out people who say offensive stuff – even if those people are your friends and it’s hard. To support BIPOC, make sure to be pointing out and intervening in racist interactions, or even interactions that contain unconscious biases. To help women you meet at Bentley, support them in becoming leaders in the classroom and give them a chance to shine during group projects. At work, encourage the hiring or promotion of marginalized individuals and make sure you’re contributing to building an inclusive and diverse environment.
- Start being even more accepting. Many of us are already being more accepting and understanding of people’s many identities and experiences. However, there’s constantly new information on how to better be more inclusive and make every individual feel comfortable and seen. Since many of us grew up without access to this information and may have not realized the importance of inclusivity, it’s nice to remind yourself often “how can I make this individual feel more comfortable,” and completing that action, whether it’s saying your pronouns or complimenting their work in front of higher-ups.
Happy Women’s History Month. Let’s have a great, inclusive March 2021 and beyond. CareerEdge will be highlighting resources specifically for different affinity groups, so keep an eye out for that in the navigation bar in the future. To check out more resources on how to be an ally, how to be a better ally, and 7 different kinds of allies to be, click the links.