How to Be a Diversity Ally

4 min read
April 12, 2018

I love being a member of XYPN because I feel like we are a different breed of financial advisor. We aren’t afraid to push boundaries, do the unexpected or find ways to move the industry forward. Nothing proves that more than the work we’re doing on our Diversity Committee. We have a unique opportunity to make substantive changes in what our industry looks like and whom we serve.

The mission of XYPN’s Diversity Committee is to lead the industry by attracting, supporting, and developing a diverse group of financial planners. We want to help our community embrace our differences and make us all more knowledgeable, accepting and better people. We’ll take important steps towards that goal next week as we welcome Harvard fellow Andrew Greenia, who will be speaking on allyship and how we all can be better allies in the industry. Here’s a preview of what you can expect.

We’re All in This Together

As always, we start with why. We are exploring the topic of allyship because many of you have asked what you, as a person in the ethnic and/or gender majority, can do to help further diversity and inclusion in our industry. It’s important to have those difficult conversations about diversity. It’s critical to promote diversity within our firms, organizations and daily life. One of simplest and most effective ways to do that is to become an ally of those struggling for equality.

Many people of color, including myself, have experienced awkward moments in the workplace. Maybe someone makes an off-handed racist “joke” and no one quite knows how to react. Or perhaps a female colleague’s point is overlooked in a meeting, even though it’s a great insight. These situations happen a lot and you can’t always expect the person experiencing the discrimination to speak up. Learning how to empathize and navigate situations like these will make it easier and better for all of those involved. In the end, we all miss out when talented minorities leave our industry because it’s not welcoming or they are overlooked.

The underlying theme of Andrew’s presentation is to adopt a "both/and" approach instead of an "either/or" approach to understanding the complex, often conflicting world around us. There are a lot of ways to approach the subject of allyship and we can use all of them to create the change we want to see.

Additionally, in a lot of the conversations surrounding diversity we tend to take an “us against them” approach. The truth is we’re all in this together. Case in point, in a recent blog post, I explained how the racial wealth gap hurts our economy as a whole, not just the African American and Latino households who are directly affected.

Andrew will walk us through three great concepts of what it means to engage with allyship:

  • Being a better ally means engaging in both internal (reflection) and external (action) work;
  • Engaging in allyship involves both learning and unlearning, given the way in which the world has shaped our experiences and understanding; and
  • Directing attention not only to our intentionsbut also to the impact of our actions displays true allyship.

We will complete interactive exercises and self-assessments that will allow us to conduct a personal inquiry, own our identities and reflect on our own blind spots when it comes to allyship, diversity and inclusion.

Allyship Is a Consistent Practice

One of my favorite parts of Andrew’s presentation is the exploration of the definition of allyship. He starts the definition from the Anti-Oppression Network:

“Allyship is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in the position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group.” 

Andrew then breaks down each part of the definition to help us understand the importance of each and every concept within the definition. For instance, he explores the concept that allyship is a consistent and arduous practice. I have to remind myself of this fact often in the continued fight for equality and inclusion. The path to equality is long. It’s easy to become discouraged when a single step or action doesn’t lead to long-lasting change. But we’ll learn that allyship is a skill to be honed over time. It will take constant assessment and reflection. We will always have to think, act, reflect and then repeat to keep making progress. In doing so, we’ll see results along the way.

We will also explore other concepts like getting comfortable with discomfort and knowing that allyship is not a one-size-fits-all model, but rather a framework to apply to your own communities. 

The Takeaways

Andrew ends with several great takeaways and resources on how we can do our own learning, diversify our circles and put our money where our mouths are. One of the main things we want you to be able to do is put this knowledge into action—this conversation will help you do just that. Please join us next Thursday, April 19 at 1:30pm CST to learn more about how you can be a better diversity ally.


About the Author

Brian Thompson, JD, CFP® is the founder of Brian Thompson Financial LLC. His firm specializes in helping LGBTQ couples set and achieve their goals, protect and grow what they already have and guide them to the lifestyle that brings them fulfillment and happiness. Brian also serves as President of XYPN's Diversity Committee, whose mission is to lead the industry by attracting, supporting, and developing a diverse group of Financial Planners so our community can embrace our differences and make us all more knowledgeable, more accepting, and better people.

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