Dr. Mia Cary (she, her, hers) specializes in leadership, teamwork and inclusivity with the purpose of activating others to thrive. Her professional experience includes leadership and education roles at the American Veterinary Medical Association, the North American Veterinary Community, Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis Animal Health. She serves as CEO and change agent for Cary Consulting and as CEO for the Pride Veterinary Medical Community.Read Articles Written by Mia Cary
You have likely heard the phrase “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It means that to help create real change, to expand and grow, to be an antiracist, and to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized, we must invite and initiate tough conversations. We must speak up with radical candor. We must be active allies. If that rings true with you, but you’re not sure what to do next, you are in the right place. Read on.
The term “allyship” was first utilized in the mid-1800s. Fast-forward to 2021 and we see Dictionary.com naming it the word of the year. So, what was going on with the term, and with society, between 1850 and 2021?
“Allyship” first saw a peak in modern use when associated with straight allies joining the fight against LGBTQ+ marginalization and discrimination in the late 1960s and 1970s, and again in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd. While the definition has evolved over the years in parallel with social justice becoming more mainstream, the general idea has not. Allyship, in its most basic sense, is when someone from a non-marginalized group uses privilege to advocate for a marginalized group or individual. Allyship originates from a place of solidarity, not from identity.
The Four Elements of Allyship
Our actions decide whether we are allies and if our allyship is authentic. Here’s how to get there.
It is up to us to teach ourselves; it is not the job of the oppressed or marginalized to educate those who are not. So, diversify what you read and watch, and do the same for the children in your life and other people you influence. Accountability matters.
2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and leverage privilege.
Show up, stand up and speak up to leverage the power of privilege. It’s not always easy but do it anyway.
We know that when we get out of our comfort zone, we are in the space of optimal learning, growth and impact. It is a good place to be, even if it is a little scary. There are myriad ways we can show up and help create warm, welcoming, inclusive environments. It starts with caring about those who are different from ourselves, learning about them, and then creating an environment and culture that is welcoming and inclusive.
A few of the many simple and impactful ways we can increase the inclusivity of our culture and workplace include:
- Adding pronouns to our name badges, email signatures and
- Zoom profiles.
- Proactively sharing the languages spoken in our workplace.
- Using “parent” or “caregiver” instead of “mom” or “dad.”
- Saying “humankind” instead of “mankind.”
- Saying “children” or “everyone” instead of “boys” and “girls.”
- Ensuring that the images on our walls and websites are diverse.
3. Constantly reaffirm that allyship centers on the marginalized or oppressed, not the ally.
Avoiding performative allyship on social media is an integral part of this. For example, if you choose to highlight artists from marginalized groups on your Instagram account, make sure you are doing it to be an ally and not to garner more “likes.” Intention matters.
4. Be all in.
Fully commit to being an ally even if you do not fully understand everything you think you should. If we realized the number of things we do not know, our minds would be blown. Do not let this hold you back. We also should decide on our approach to allyship. While keeping the facts and realities front of mind, we can search for the upside and find wins and champions to celebrate.
Fully commit to being an ally, even if you are afraid. Be courageous.
What If I Slip Up?
If you do not make a mistake on your journey to being a better ally, you are likely not all in. Mistakes will happen when you push yourself beyond the edge of your comfort zone.
When a mistake happens or you overstep, apologize authentically and genuinely, learn from it and move on. Do not become so mired in guilt and shame that you stall out and inadvertently turn all the attention onto you. Guilt and shame are useless. Apologize, learn, move on.
Who Can Be an Ally?
Good news, folks! Anyone can be an ally, and anyone can benefit from an ally. As a cisgender, heterosexual, white woman, I can ally with many. I can benefit from allyship when, for example, a male colleague or non-binary friend intentionally makes an introduction that leads to a new collaboration or client. We can all be allies, and we can all benefit from allies. It starts with caring.
As we close this inaugural Activating Allyship article, I share this reminder: At any point, while dealing with any opportunity or challenge, we are either part of the solution or part of the problem. It is an active choice, as is allyship.
I am in. Will you join me?
A PERSONAL NOTE
While “ally” can be used as a noun or verb, “allyship” is a noun. Because the most impactful allyship is centered on action, the call to action to activate allyship is fitting. That’s why I named this new column “Activating Allyship.” My objectives are to:
- Inspire readers to be active allies.
- Amplify people, organizations and resources that are part of the solution.
- Emphasize that play and laughter belong everywhere.
PRIDE MONTH AND PRIDEVMC
In the spirit of allyship and amplification, happy pride month! Why June? Because of the protest march dubbed the Stonewall Uprising, which began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Members of the LGBTQ+ community came together to stand up for their overdue rights. For many people, the march was then, and is now, a way to be seen and a chance to live authentically.
In 1977, the Pride Veterinary Medical Community (PrideVMC) was founded on that history with the mission of creating a better world for the LGBTQ+ veterinary community and the vision for an empowered LGBTQ+ veterinary community that embraces well-being by being authentic.
Visit pridevmc.org/calendar to learn more about and join Pride 2022 activities and events. Everyone is welcome.