Bridging the Gap to Leadership

A Guide to Allyship


A Guide to Allyship

Authors: Harriet Atkinson and Tasmin Jesse  

Disclaimer: The terminology used to describe ethnicity and race (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community) has its limitations and those who fall into this category may describe themselves differently.   

Allyship is …  

  • An individual who supports those from minority/marginalised groups   
  • A lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, accountability with marginalised individuals or groups of people   
  • A chance to reflect about our own views   
  • Giving those from minority groups a voice   

 Allyship is not …  

  • A badge of honour or title   
  • A (white) saviour complex where Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community individuals can be ‘saved’   
  • Being praised for your actions    
  • Only being an ally when there is a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community audience   

Importance of educators being allies:  

  • It is important for educators to be allies as they allow people to be seen and respected. Some characteristics of an ally include being supportive by providing someone with a listening ear, making a safe environment for everyone, challenge people who use language that may be offensive, recognise their personal mistakes and continue to grow and learn from them, are kind, and open. Holstine (2020) argues that educators need to be more than just allies They need to be advocates who fight for people’s rights, speak up in public spaces, create support groups and work alongside unions to support those from the BAME community.   

Pledge to be an Ally.

Strategies for practitioners to become allies to the Back, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities within their role as an educator to students on placement 

  1. Educate yourself.  

Take it upon yourself to learn about the experiences of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students/colleagues and the challenges they can face on placement and within the working environment. Do not expect to be taught or shown, answer your own questions by utilising the tools around you to become an ally. For instance, a variety of materials can be sourced including articles, books, podcasts and films.  

Whilst every experience is unique to the individual, taking the first step and educating yourself will provide you with a solid foundation to be a better listener and therefore a more receptive ally.   

  1. Be aware of your privilege.  

Privilege comes in many forms including gender, colour, race, ethnicity, health, sexual orientation and economic background. Being aware of how your privilege effects your personal and professional life can highlight the advantages that not all people are granted. These advantages can affect your occupations, your job, your education, your health and your relationships. The process of refection can be uncomfortable and evoke defensive feelings as people feel they have not asked for, or noticed, these advantages. It is, however, vital to be able to recognise your own privilege afforded by systematic discrimination in order to support those that do not have the same types of advantages as yourself. As an ally this awareness allows you to act more responsibly from a better-informed position.  

  1. Get comfortable with talking about it.   

Open conversations are essential to identify challenges, opportunities and solutions. Concerns regarding appropriate language and terminology can be a barrier to people discussing race, it is important to remember that assumptions based on people’s visible markers of identity can be misleading and that there is a huge amount of diversity and variance in race and culture. Being comfortable with listening, acknowledging mistakes and working to be familiar with appropriate language and terminology is what makes an effective ally.   

  1. Appreciate the diversity within your community.   

The experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and how they experience racism and prejudices greatly differs. Whilst there may be commonalities it is important to note that each person will have faced discrimination in very different ways. It is important not to group all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals together as one singular group. Being aware of the variances between, and within, ethnic groups will support an ally listen to a range of diverse voices without assumption.  

Above is an animation created by the students on the Bridging the Gap to Leadership project. The animation that explores microaggressions and how to be an ally. We recommend that you use the animation to reflect on your own practices and the practices within your organisation. The animation is based real case scenarios and can be used for training.
  1. Be present in your allyship.  

Step up to the responsibility by attending events which are aimed at promoting inclusion, be visible in supporting the community. For instance, this might be talking to your White counterparts about the events you have attended and what you learnt from these. Share with others your journey and the reasons why you have committed to developing your allyship.  

  1. Incorporate allyship within your role as an educator.  

The multi-faceted role of a placement educator is not only to teach but also to act as a leader, role model, mentor and assessor. To have an understanding of the challenges faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students whilst on placement and how to address these as an educator relies on allyship. It can be difficult for students to share their experiences with their educator, this is then amplified when educators do not take action to address matters or downplay and undermine the students encounter. By being an ally, educators can develop knowledge and skills in how to confront and support the challenges students can face including isolation, prejudice and racism. An educated and prepared educator is more likely to respond appropriately. As a person in a position of power, educators can inform White students of their allyship and role model this to facilitate the cascade of good practice and awareness.   

  1. Challenge unacceptable behaviour.  

When witness to unacceptable behaviour take action, do not merely be a bystander. Non-action implies implicit agreement with the perpetrator. As an educator in a privileged position there is power to address unacceptable behaviour towards individuals. Many educators have the privilege of being able to call out inappropriate behaviour without responses or assumptions being made based on their own ethnicity.  

  1. Influence change.  

Promote inclusive systems and processes within your organisation and liaise with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues and students for suggestions of how practice can be improved. Policies relating to equality and diversity may be in place however, there can still be structures in place which are unintentionally biased against marginalised groups. Being welcomed into an infrastructure which is continually reflecting on its inclusion needs provides a great basis for a student to grow and develop as an allied health professional on placement.  

  1. Make a pledge.   

Make a pledge whether this be to yourself or a publicised forum. Commit to tackling racism and promoting a society in which diversity is celebrated and racial inequalities are eradicated. An educator might make a pledge to:  

  • Give respect to others regardless of ethnicity or race.  
  • Take accountability of their part of developing a positive and inclusive placement setting for students in which diversity is celebrated.  
  • Take positive action to combat discrimination systems and practices.  
  • Educate themselves and others on race and racism.  
  • Stand up against racism.   

Read more about the Allyship programme at Canterbury Christ Church University and take a pledge to stand against racism here:  

If you identify as Black read and join the Canterbury Christ Church University IMATTER campaign here:  

Please note that the terminology used within this document to discuss ethnicity and race has limitations and each individual will have different personal associations with the language used in this area.   



Berry, M. and Garrett, S., 2018. Investing in Ethnicity & Race in the workplace. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Governance and Inclusive Leadership: (sine loco).  

Canterbury Christ Church University, 2021. Pledge to be an Ally – Canterbury Christ Church University. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 March 2021].  

Hammond, J., Williams, A., Walker, S. and Norris, M., 2019. Working hard to belong: a qualitative study exploring students from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds experiences of preregistration physiotherapy education. BMC Medical Education, 19(1), pp.1 – 11.  

Ostrove, JM, Brown, KT. Are allies who we think they are?: A comparative analysis. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2018; 48: 195– 204.   

Russ, K., 2019. What makes an effective ally?. Travers Smith: (sine loco).  

Spanierman, L. B. and Smith, L. (2017) ‘Roles and Responsibilities of White Allies: Implications for Research, Teaching, and Practice’, The Counseling Psychologist, 45(5), pp. 606–617.  

Pledge to be an Ally.

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