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   Ally Toolkit to Support Diverse Leadership


Ally: Being an ally involves someone from a privileged group actively engaged in an on-going process of deconstructing their own privilege ( Case, 2013). Ally-ship is an ongoing process of learning and unlearning. In the context of women in science, men from all backgrounds can actively listen to and learn about how to create supportive environments for women in public sector science environments. Additionally, white women can learn about white privilege and work towards ally-ship with racialized and Indigenous women (see Indigenous Women and Two Spirit People).

According to the British Columbia’s Teachers Federation: “ Allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. Allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with.” See the BCTF website for more information.

Anti-racism: Anti-racism refers to the "the active process of identifying  and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures,  policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and  shared equitably." - the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre

Cultural appropriation: We are citing definitions of cultural appropriation shared by Dr. Adrienne Keene and Matika Wilbur on the All My Relations podcast. To learn more about cultural appropriation, listen to Episode #7 Native Appropriations on the All My Relations podcast or visit Dr. Adrienne Keene’s blog:

From Lenore Keeshig-Tobias (1990): “Taking from a culture that is not one’s own intellectual property, cultural expressions and artifacts, history, and ways of knowledge.” Wikipedia’s definition includes the understanding that “(cultural) appropriation is a form of colonialism: cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context—sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of members of the originating culture.”

Diversity : Rodriguez (2016) states that diversity involves “the recognition of the visible and invisible physical and social characteristics that make an individual or group of individuals different from one another, and by doing so, celebrating that difference as a source of strength for the community at large (p. 242).” Multiple scholars have described how diverse ways of knowing, reasoning, and engaging in knowledge production supports meaningful activity (Bang & Vossoughi 2016; Emberley 2013). In 2019 the Minister of Science, Honourable Kirsty Duncan, made this clear when she said: “diversity of thought, experience, background, breeds great research” (Moss, 2019).

Equity : Rodriguez (2016) explains that equity “refers to the enactment of specific policies and practices that ensure equitable access and opportunities for success for everyone” (p. 243). Often, we may conflate equity and equality, which can be detrimental to meeting and surpassing our diversity and inclusion goals. Rodriguez speaks to the difference between equity and equality when she writes that, “in order to be equitable, we cannot treat everyone the same. To be equitable, we must treat individuals according to their needs and provide multiple opportunities for success” (p. 243).

In the context of health sciences, for example, equity would have us provide childcare for scientists travelling with children, even though others may not need such services. Resources and policies do not need to be equal to be equitable.

Gender is our socially constructed behaviours, roles, and identities about girls, boys, women and men and gender diverse people. Gender can be thought of as a spectrum. Other gender identities are Two Spirit, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer and gender fluid; however, this list is not complete. Gender influences, and is influenced by, the distribution of power and resources in society. To read more about sex and gender research, refer to the Reading List at the end of this Toolkit. The “gender binary” is the idea that there are only two genders and that they are psychologically and physically distinct (Hyde et al., 2019). This widespread misconception about a gender binary continues to influence all aspects of scientific inquiry, including medical, psychological, and natural sciences.

Inclusion: According to Jordan (2011), “inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.” Mor Barak (2014) states that “[t]he concept of inclusion-exclusion in the workplace refers to the individual’s sense of being a part of the organizational system in both the formal processes, such as access to information and decision-making channels, and the informal processes, such as “water cooler” and lunch meetings where information exchange and decisions informally take place” (p. 155). An inclusive workplace goes beyond employing people from diverse backgrounds (racial, class, gender, nationality, religion, ability, etc.). Workplace inclusion involves being attuned to the organizational climate, as well as the “unwritten rules” that maintain workplace culture. If socializing amongst colleagues, for example, often takes place after office hours, and in bars or pubs, parents with young children and people who do not drink (for religious, health or other reasons) may not feel comfortable or supported by the organization.

Intersectionality is a theory and framework for action that was initially articulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991), a Black woman academic. Intersectionality is used to understand the systemic oppression of Black women within a particular socio-legal context. Additional theorists who also contributed to this important theory include members of the Combahee River Collective, Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks. 

LGBTQ2S is an acronym used in Canada to refer to various sexualities and gender identities that are not heterosexual and cisgender. In this case, the acronym refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, and Two Spirit. Related acronyms are LGBTQ or LQBTQI (I refers here to Intersex).

Privilege : is “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” This means that you don’t earn this right. It is an advantage that you have based on your social situation.

Racism is "encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and people of color (Hilliard, 1992)...Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over people of color" ( DiAngelo, 2011, p. 56).

Sex: According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), “ [s]ex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy.” Sex is usually dichotomous and categorized as female or male, however, there is more biological variation in how sexual characteristics are expressed (Heidari et al., 2016).

Sexism refers to the selectively unjustified negative behaviour against women, girls, and anyone not identifying as a man. Sexism is a term that is particularly used to denote discrimination against women and girls. Research has suggested there are four levels of sexism — individual, social/structural, institutional, and cultural — that interact with each other. 

Settler colonialism can be defined as a “ distinct type of colonialism that functions through the replacement of indigenous populations with an invasive settler society. Settler colonialism destroys to replace”. Indeed, it is a territorial project  – the accumulation of land – whose seemingly singular focus differentiates it from other types of colonialism... Because ‘Indigenous’ peoples are tied to the desired territories, they must be ‘eliminated’; in the settler-colonial model, ‘the settler never leaves’ (1999, 2006)” (from Patrick Wolfe, cited in Simpson, 2014, p. 19). Settler colonialism is an on-going project, and its impacts are widespread. Settler colonialism is based on, reinforces and interacts with white privilege. 

Tokenism is “. . . the practice of making only a token effort or doing no more than the minimum, especially in order to comply with a law” (Collins English Dictionary, 2003, “Tokenism”).  “Tokenism is most likely to occur when members of the minority group in any situation account for fewer than 15 percent of the total” (Gutiérrez y Muhs, 2012, p. 449). 

Transgender: According to the Ontario Human Rights Coalition, "trans or transgender is an umbrella term referring to people with diverse gender identities and expressions that differ from stereotypical gender norms. It includes but is not limited to people who identify as transgender, trans woman (male-to-female), trans man (female-to-male), transsexual, cross-dresser, gender non-conforming, gender variant or gender queer." 

Two Spirit is a term developed in 1990, at the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference, held in Winnipeg and is a term used exclusively by Indigenous Peoples. According to Chelsea Vowel, Two Spirit is a “pan-Indigenous concept encompassing sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity” ( Vowel, 2016, p.108). Not all Indigenous people identify with this term. Non-Indigenous people cannot use this term. 

White fragility “is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium” ( DiAngelo, 2011, p. 54). 

White privilege is “inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. unearned over advantage and conferred dominance.” White privilege works systematically to confer dominance on white people because of their race (McIntosh, 2003).  

White Supremacy : The Merriam Webster dictionary defines white supremacy as “the belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.” 


Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre (n.d.). What is Racism? Retrieved May 1, 2019, from 

Bang, M., & Vossoughi, S. (2016). Participatory design research and educational justice: Studying learning and relations within social change making. Cognition and Instruction. doi: 10.1080/07370008.2016.1181879

Case, K. (2013). Deconstructing privilege: Teaching and learning as allies in the classroom. New York: Routgers.

Collins, P. H. (2002). Black Feminist Thought (Second Edi). New York: Routledge. 

Combahee River Collective. (1995). A Black feminist statement. In B. G. Sheftall (Ed.), Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought. (pp. 232–240). New York: The New York Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241.

DiAngelo, Robin (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (3), pp 54-70. 

Emberley, J. (2013). Epistemic heterogeneity: Indigenous storytelling, testimonial practices, and the question of violence in Indian Residential Schools. In J. Henderson & P. Wakeman (Eds), Reconciling Canada: Critical perspectives on the culture of redress, (Chapter 8, pp.143-58), Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Gutiérrez y Muhs, G. (2012). Presumed incompetent: The intersections of race and class for women in academia. Boulder, Colo.: University Press of Colorado: Utah State University Press. 

Heidari, S., Babor, T. F., De Castro, P., Tort, S., & Curno, M. (2016). Sex and Gender Equity in Research: rationale for the SAGER guidelines and recommended use. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 1(1), 2. 

Jordan T Hudson (2011) Moving from diversity to inclusion. Diversity Journal. Accessed September 16, 2019

McIntosh, P. (2003). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In S. Plous (Ed.), Understanding prejudice and discrimination (pp. 191-196). New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

Mor Barak, M. E. (2014). Managing diversity: Toward a globally inclusive workplace (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d). Gender identity and gender expression (brochure). Retrieved May 30, 2019 from

Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d). Ableism, negative attitudes, stereotypes and stigma, Retrieved from

Rodriguez, A. J. (2016). For whom do we do equity and social justice work? Recasting the discourse about the Other to effect transformative change. In N. M. Joseph, C. Haynes, and F. Cobb (Eds), Interrogating whiteness and relinquishing power: White faculty’s commitment to racial consciousness in STEM classrooms (Chapter 14, pp. 241-252). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Simpson, A. (2014) Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Shakespeare, Tom (2018) Disability and Leadership, Global Disability Summit Speech, retrieved from :

Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. Wiley.

Vowel, C. (2016). Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. Winnipeg: Highwater Press.