An ally is someone who associates with another person or group of people as a supporter in their ongoing effort or struggle against being treated as insignificant. The struggle may include being marginalized because of their gender, sexual orientation, age or race. An ally has a servant heart when it comes to getting involved and waning to make a difference in the lives of others.

Allies are essential for any marginalized group in order for them to powerfully move beyond the circumstances and consequences of their condition. The ally provides a level of support that may not be available within the group; they may have access to resources that are not within the grasp of the disparaged group of people.

Allies who are in powerful positions in organizations or communities, may be able to lend their positional power to a marginalized group in order advance their cause. The power accelerates the movement towards equity and fairness. Solutions may be implemented faster when the full of rate of resources are put against the issues and challenges.

The importance of allies with marginalized groups cannot be underestimated or valued. Allies are able to see things within a dismissed group that they are not able to see for themselves. They are able to clearly bring out the strengths of the group and support how they can be leveraged to advance their mission and vision.

Allies may also see the weak spots or vulnerabilities of marginalized group because they are on the proverbial outside looking in. This view provides a perspective that is almost always valuable to the group. Adding clarity by observing the marginalized group, is just one of many ways the ally proves their worth and value.

In 1982, I started my corporate career with a big bang; I came out as a gay man on my first job within the first few months. At that time, it was a risky decision that could very well have cost me my job. I am grateful to say that I remained employed throughout my 35 year career as an openly gay man.

What I learned about allies from the beginning and throughout my career is, they are a valuable resource to include in a professional network. The allies that supported me as a gay man, showed me the best and sometimes, worst ways to show up and support others. I was keenly aware of the allies who were in my corner with me; they were more often than not women.

I was fortunate to work in an industry, for the first 25 years of my career, that was heavily populated with women. I learned a lot about how women lead and how women support others as leaders and colleagues. In many cases, women modeled for me some of the best ways to be an ally for others who are marginalized. The irony of this was not lost on me; women who were marginalized were my allies as a gay man.

As a result of my experiences, I was ready and willing to be an ally for women and LGBT colleagues when I advanced in my career into more senior leadership roles. I leveraged the power associated with my position to advance the agendas and mission of women and LGBT colleagues. I was honored and humbled to be the voice for others when they were not in the room, in order for their experiences to be enhanced.

One way that I was able to do this was, to be a member of the LGBT Employee Resource Groups with most of my employers. Advancing equity in pay and benefits was given tremendous visibility through these ERGs at several Fortune 100 Companies.

The drive for me to be an ally to others, was not only born out of my experience as a gay man supported my so many female allies; but also from my personal core values. Three of my values are activated in being an ally to women and LGBT colleagues: Empathy, Equity and Empowerment.

Each of these values on their own motivate me to make a difference in the lives of others, and when combined I am driven to serve and support others in any ways I can do it effectively. The impact on others can be significant when we work from our core values. Visibility, exposure, recognition and acceptance are just some of the outcomes that impact a marginalized person or group when values are in alignment.

Being supported by allies and being an ally to others will have some of the most profound effects of you and your view of the world that we share. The notion of paying it forward is no more significant than in the roles of the ally. When those who are being helped by allies themselves become an ally for others, the legacy is unfathomable. The power of allying with each other is limitless and boundless.

Each person has the potential for being an ally for whatever person or group connects to their core values and passion. The first step is the easiest in that it only requires that you listen to your heart and reach out and make contact. Doing this fearlessly, is ALWAYS rewarded in ALL WAYS.

Gratitude is one of the core values for anyone being supported by an ally; adding more gratitude to our lives brings about benefits that go beyond our wildest dreams. Consider the opportunities for being an ally for others in your life, today.