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5 Ways To Be A Better Ally

By Guest Author February 25, 2022

There is a certain reverie that comes from starting to blaze your own trails. What’s even better is looking behind and seeing you’ve left a path to help others, or coming to the aid of someone who needs help on their personal journey up ahead. The goals of the DEI Open Source Commons team center around leveling the playing field for everyone in tech by increasing diversity and inclusion at Salesforce community events, in addition to creating and modeling a toolkit that groups can use towards their own diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

“I contribute to the DEI Open Source project because I want to help create events that are open and affirming to people who have traditionally been excluded from working in tech,” says Sarah Pilzer, a Salesforce Trailblazer and the director of operations at Country Dance & Song Society. “I believe that this project is a good way for me to use my privilege to be a multiplier and lift up the underrepresented voices in our community.”

The bottom line is that representation matters — it’s hard to be what you can’t see, after all — and Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people are underrepresented in the tech industry. This is something that our DEI Open Source Commons team is working to change. Through our work in trying to create a more level playing field in tech, we’ve landed on five ways to be a better ally — at any point in your journey.

Two women sitting at a desk looking at a computer
Representation matters — it’s hard to be what you can’t see, after all — and Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people are underrepresented in the tech industry.

1. Sponsor, Sponsor, Sponsor!

Get to know co-workers from underrepresented groups so you can speak their names and elevate their work in rooms and spaces they might not be in.

Don’t have co-workers from underrepresented groups? Volunteer to support one or more of the thousands of Trailblazers pivoting to Salesforce careers from other industries. You can review resumes, do mock interviews, or be a referral to job seekers through GEMs in Tech. You can mentor or teach a class with Tech Forward. There are a growing number of opportunities to show up as an ally in the Salesforce ecosystem that enable you to make a real difference.

2. Assume Good Intent — and Have the Tough Conversations

Imagine that a good friend wants to have a conversation with you about some perspectives and opinions you may have. Immediately, your mind perceives this as being ill intentioned, and when the conversation begins, you feel attacked and what they’re saying to you doesn’t process.

It’s imperative to walk into tough conversations without the feeling someone is out to get you or attack your character. The fact that this individual wants to have a conversation shows your thoughts and experiences matter to the big picture. Approaching a tough conversation with open mindedness and a willingness to listen is imperative for making long-lasting change and fostering a diverse culture where everyone feels safe, valued, and heard.

3. Listen for Facts, Feelings, and Needs — not Tone

Oftentimes, someone who’s well intentioned as an ally might feel strongly that the way they are being an ally is the “right way” to do it. Though unintentional, this inevitably changes the dynamic of the conversation and ends up centering the person seeking to be an ally, rather than the person or group of people they’re aiming to be an ally for. Listening to understand an individual’s needs and the facts of their lived experience will go much further, creating more space for healthy conversation.

4. Accept Responsibility for Unintended Impact

What you say and do as an ally will have a direct effect on marginalized groups asking for you to stand in solidarity with them. Deflecting, redirecting the blame, and not accepting responsibility can lead to a severance, and lack of understanding from an ally standpoint.

Part of being an effective ally is recognizing that just because you have a positive intent doesn’t always equate to a positive impact. Being able to take a step back and understand the difference in intent and impact builds trust and puts you in a better position to be an effective ally.

5. Consciously Use Diverse Images

Representation matters. For that reason, it’s incredibly more important to ensure undervalued and underrepresented groups are seen and represented. Trailblazer Karmel James says, “If a presentation is coming up, make a conscious effort to find images that display people of color, individuals with disabilities, different gender identities, etc. If you need an example of someone famous, look for individuals who were pioneers in undervalued communities.” Small changes like this show the dedication to ensure representation is not just a buzzword for companies and that allies in a position of leadership are dedicated to actively showing representation in all spaces.

Screenshot of virtual call
Trailblazers Karmel James, Kristin Medlin, Sarah Pilzer, and Tasha Rucker presenting at 21NTC on their volunteer work with the DEI Open Source Commons project with

I asked Charise Van Liew, Salesforce MVP, about the resources she’s used to support her allyship journey:

“One of the most useful trainings for me was a course called Whiteness at Work. Among many things, I gained a better understanding of how to use my position of power to transform spaces to be more equitable. It provided me with real life examples to increase my confidence in navigating conversations about race, gender, and class in professional settings.”

What’s next?

  • Follow the DEI Open Source Commons project on Twitter to learn about upcoming events, resources, and opportunities to volunteer.
  • See something? Say something. Anyone in the Trailblazer Community is welcome to contact the Community team at Salesforce with feedback or to report an incident by emailing [email protected].

For more, read How to Bring Systemic Change to DEI Challenges.

About the Author

Charyse Betts headshot

Charyse Betts is a new Trailblazer and member of the DEI Open Source Commons project. A former teacher impacted by the pandemic, Charyse hopes to use her existing project management skills, MA in creative writing, and growing knowledge of Marketing Cloud to make the career transition to a marketing or program management role at a Salesforce customer. Connect with her on LinkedIn.