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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

The Strongest Ally You’ll Ever Have?


Because no one can advocate for you better than… You! There’s not a single time in my career that I took a new position without challenging the offer. I always did the research to know my market value. That knowledge was power. And I had the confidence to wield it.

Once you’re your own ally, you can support other Black and Brown women in their career journeys too — as long as you follow these 4 rules of true allyship.

4 Rules to Being a True Ally

What is a true ally? It’s not someone who simply offers sympathy for the plight of others; someone who says, “I get what you’re going through, and I hope things get better.” A true ally backs up words with action.

Here’s how:

Rule 1: Advocate for others

That’s what my dear friend, Cheryl Thompson, did for me.

When someone in her network reached out asking her for recommendations for a paid board position at a for-profit company, she gave my name and a list of reasons why I was a good candidate.

If she hadn’t recommended me, I wouldn’t have this position I’m so honored to hold. That’s true allyship. Just imagine if more people in positions of power did that? Would the U.S. finally have more than three women of color in CEO roles? Might the needle finally move on the mere 4.4% of Black women in management positions? Think about it.

Rule 2: Really Mentor Other Black Women

The pure gold people can’t buy on their career journey? Experience. The lessons you learned the hard way from mistakes and missteps.

And that’s why mentorship is so powerful.

Once you’ve made progress in your career, take other women of color under your wing. But don’t approach mentoring like another task on your to-do list. Invest in your mentee both personally and professionally. Only then will you truly make an impact.

Rule 3: Open Your Ears

It’s no secret that the path to the top is paved with roadblocks and landmines — like the time an older, White executive told me I’d never become Vice President because I was “too passionate.” Or when you’re the only person of color in the room, and your colleagues make sure to point it out with comments about your hair or “forgetting” to give you credit for your contributions.

It’s lonely being the ONLY.

And you know what else? YOU don’t know another woman’s experience: her traumas and her triumphs. Don’t assume. Take the time to ask the critical questions in a safe space. Listen. Act only after you’ve done the work to fully understand her.

Rule 4: Practice Acceptance

You can’t become allies with people you don’t really know, right? And the first rule of getting to know someone is accepting them for who they are — not expecting them to conform to the pantsuit-pearls-and-Type-2A-bob-cut-hair cliche for women in corporate America.

Even today, I still see Black women having to “have the courage” to share photos of themselves with their natural hair on LinkedIn. Because someone somewhere along the line told them their hair was “unprofessional.”

Never tear other women down. Period. Only when we accept and support each other can we make REAL progress.

Build Your Network of Support

Bottom line: we need people in our corner to progress personally and professionally. But before you can support your sisters, you need to have your own back. If you’re struggling to get on your own side, book your 1-1 now. We’ll get there together.

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