For the past three years, three Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business MBA clubs — Women in Business, Blacks in Business, and Net Impact — have cohosted a diversity, equity, and inclusion event focused on honest, real conversations about diversity and inclusion. This year, club presidents Kristen Brinson (Blacks in Business), Madison Bodiford (Net Impact), and Amanda Grupp (Women in Business) brought their organizations together to discuss allyship.
“A lot of times, DE&I events are not focused on what it means to be an ally, and people who come to those events already have basic knowledge,” said Brinson, a second-year Full-time MBA student. “We wanted to take a step back and give people that don’t understand allyship an opportunity to learn what it is and why it’s important.”
The virtual event included a mix of discussions and breakouts where groups talked about the collected stories submitted anonymously by students at Scheller. The two stories selected each had their own angle. In the first situation, the student wished she had an ally, and in the second, the student had an ally. The goal of the discussions was to learn how to become allies for people that might be in a challenging situation.
“We wanted people to think of the root cause of the situation and why it happened,” said Victoria Skinner, second-year Full-time MBA student and one of the organizers of the event. “I think it helps for people to think of an exact situation and put themselves in that person’s shoes.”
Two of the main takeaways of the event and what the groups circled back to was figuring out the root of the behavior and how power dynamics can plan a role. In the second scenario, the student had an ally in her boss, whereas in the first scenario, there was no ally.
“We took these stories as a starting point,” said Skinner. “How can we use them to become better allies, and what can we learn from them and the people involved?”
Another takeaway was that it doesn’t have to happen to you before you say something.
“We often relate strongly to something when we can personally understand the certain struggle. But if we only spoke to the things we related to, there wouldn’t be many allies,” said Skinner. “We talked about the idea of power a lot, and how you can come into the middle of the conversation and redirect something in a way that brings the conversation back to the facts.”
Brinson said the event had a positive outcome because everyone had different experiences and had seen allyship in different ways.
“It was good to hear the other side of people’s allyship experience and understand what it means to be an ally to someone else,” said Brinson. “As I move into my next role after I graduate, I think it has been helpful to start my brain thinking about the different ways I can help but also potentially hurt people with my allyship or lack thereof.
For resources on becoming a better ally, listen to the podcasts “Leading With Empathy and Allyship” and “Allies and Advocates: They are Not The Same And We Need Both with Amber Cabral.”