Allyship and Intersectionality

There are an infinite number of ways you can be an ally

Allyship and Intersectionality – these two topics are now indeed hot within the diversity, equity and inclusion world, and both these topics do truly come together.

Many more companies and organizations, for profit, non-profit and governmental are now focusing on the importance of allyship in building a cohesive work environment and better serving customers, clients, citizens and residents.

My favorite definition of allyship and being an ally was written by Katherine Turner of Global Citizen LLC, a leading diversity consultant and practitioner I enjoy collaborating with. Katherine defines an ally as “a person with relative privilege and power who builds trusting relationships and acts in solidarity and with accountability with people and/or groups with marginalized identities without detracting from their power and voices.”

A second diversity construct that is getting a lot more focus now is intersectionality, coined in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap. We cannot look at someone as only one dimension of their diversity, but that every person is their own unique combination of many different aspects of their diversity.

Each person is their own unique mix of diversity attributes (graphic courtesy of Syracuse University Libraries)

Some aspects of our complex diversity make up give us relative power and privilege in various settings, and some aspects give us relative marginalization. For example, being white and male provides me relative privilege, being gay relative marginalization, and being older can be either an advantage or disadvantage given different environments.

Because of intersectionality, every one of us can both be allies to some people, while others can be allies to us. Every one of us can simultaneous be an ally and use an ally.
• White men and white women can be allies to people of color
• Men can be allies to women
• Heterosexuals can be allies to members of the LGBTQ+ community
• Able-bodied people can be allies to people with disabilities

And so on.

And being an ally means taking action – standing with others, listening to them, supporting them and pushing for equitable treatment and respect for all. And being an ally is a two-way street – both the ally and the person being allied with gain insight and value from allyship. Do read my earlier blog “Allyship is a Two Way Street – 5 Points.”

And look at all the various aspects of your own diversity, and consider how you can be an active ally to others. You and the world will be better because of it.

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Total Engagement Consulting includes allyship and intersectionality in most of our diversity, inclusion and equity training, and we can also provide a deeper training on allyship for your organization.  Please do not hesitate to contact me [email protected]



A Diversity Book Truly for EVERYONE: “Empowering Differences” by Ashley T Brundage

Ashley T Brundage, author of “Empowering Differences.”

As a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant and trainer, I continue to lead with the positive message that every single person is a valuable part of our diversity tapestry, and that diversity is not about setting one group against another, but about all of us being in this together.  Yet so many people seem to fear diversity; that valuing and listening to people different from them will somehow make them “less than.”  I simply don’t get it.

And every single human being is comprised of their own unique combination of various diversity attributes.  The term intersectionality was coined in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap.

And now comes Ashley T Brundage’s new book, “Empowering Differences” where she explains how every single person should value every aspect of their diversity and leverage it for good.

Ashley first tells her own story of coming out as transgender woman and moving out of parent’s home at age 17 to be on her own.  She took on multiple jobs and long hours to fully support herself and worked her way up to a Boston Market store manager.  Ashley at a fairly young age did start a family and then embarked in her second career in banking, and quickly rose to become Vice President of Diversity at PNC Bank.  In her remarkable journey, Ashley discovered the power of leveraging her various dimensions of diversity instead of viewing certain characteristics as negatives.

In her book, Ashley then provides the four ground rules for empowering differences:

  • Knowing who you are
  • Knowing those around you
  • Using your differences strategically
  • Empowering others

Then a good portion of the book goes through various dimensions of diversity and how any attribute of a diversity area can be used for strategic advantage, and she provides short testimonials using a wide range of people.  Some of the dimensions include:

  • Empowering ability – whether you have no physical limitations or have disabilities
  • The value of age – whether you are younger, older or in between
  • Ethnicity – getting value out of being white or a person of color
  • Gender – leveraging your identity as female, male or nonbinary
  • And many more

The remaining sections then go into practical strategies for leveraging yours and others’ diversity, and then how to develop into a leader who can bring out the best in all the diverse people you interact with.

I highly recommend this practical and positive book.  Isn’t it time that we stop focusing on how differences divide us, but instead how a diverse team, community, country and world can achieve so much more when we all value each other and seek to bring out the best in ourselves and others?

To order Ashley’s book you can use this link: