Language Matters. Are You An Ally?

When you want more equality and inclusion in your life, your company, the world, then you should think like an ally.

The terms ally, supporter and advocate are bandied about when talking about inclusion. During our Men’s Work webinar, Adam Quinton said that he preferred ally to supporter or advocate. So, we pulled up the definitions from Merriam-Webster for a closer look:

- Advocate is one who pleads the cause of another; specifically one who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.

- Supporter is one who promotes an interest or cause or upholds or defends something as valid or right.

- Ally means to join (yourself) with another person, group, etc., in order to get or give support.

In clarifying his preference Adam said, “I'm not doing what I do because I think I'm the cavalry come to the rescue of the poor women who need help. I think there's a danger, particularly if you're a guy wanting to pursue what is essentially, let's be blunt, sort of a feminist agenda of women having equal opportunity, then you need to not be the cavalry, you've got to be an ally and work with the other, in this case we're talking about gender, obviously, so work with women. So that would be my starting point.”

This reminds me of a change in terminology that Astia adopted a couple of years ago. Astia is a global network that supports women entrepreneurs and their companies.

Astia had been using the term mentors when talking about the global network that supported these entrepreneurs. They decided to change the wording from mentor to advisor. A mentor implies hierarchy and a position of power, and Astia didn’t want to perpetuate that structure.

Language matters, so think about using words that reflect your attitude and commitment.

Barbara Clarke