The second annual Women of Color and Their Allies event took place Oct.2 in Atlanta. DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson initiated a conversation at last year’s WOCA around women of color and white women moving forward together and supporting one another.
The conversation continued with Cox Communications’ (No. 11 on the DiversityInc Top 50 List) Karen Bennett, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer. She gave her insight on how best to support people of color, given her role combined with the importance of her knowledge to do so.
An ally is defined as someone who helps and supports someone else.
As a leader, Bennett explained what it took to be considered an ally. She also gave an in-depth explanation of how to become an ally.
“If you think about ally, and I noticed the posters that you had in the room that gave a definition to that, but rather than defining it, I would ask you to think back of times [sic] in your, I’ll say life, in your career, in your life outside of work, that you had people that you realized you could count on,” Bennett said. “You could trust, that you could go to with an opinion that you needed, or some advice, or they were always the person that, without being asked, kind of cheered for you in their corner.”
Being an ally is intentional. It is the development of ancillary relationships that allows a person to become successful or grow. Being an ally is also reciprocal.
Bennett elaborated on the reciprocity aspect of being an ally.
“How do you pivot and bring someone along on that same journey by you becoming an ally?” she asked.
“So I can’t walk up to you and introduce myself ‘Hi, I’m Karen. I want to be your ally,’” she said.“That’s not how it works. That’s not how it worked when you think back to those people who were instrumental in your career. So you don’t identify yourself as that.”
DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson asked the exec to discuss the ways in which female allies have helped her in her life.
Bennett recalled her first job in retail. She mentioned how older Black women groomed her while she worked there. She reflected on how those lessons taught her how to be a professional. Bennett also mentioned how women have assisted her throughout her 30-year career.
Bennett spoke openly about the disproportionate number of women compared with men in the workplace. She detailed her experiences at Cox as well.
In essence, she stressed the importance of women coming together in the workplace to create change and that can only be done by forming strong, meaningful alliances with other women.