Diversity Means More: The importance of allyship

December 8, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, , ,

This year has proven to be difficult and unpredictable — and in many ways, it has revealed the underlying impact of many years of systematic racism, underrepresentation and health inequity. From the toll of COVID-19 in underrepresented communities, to the death if George Floyd and others, 2020 has shown us the importance of diversity and solidarity.

Feeling safe, respected, heard and valued are key components to a healthy work environment — even while working remotely.

Michigan Medicine’s commitment toward anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion stretch beyond just one office, program or event. It is a collaborative effort, made possible by the boots on the ground — DEI leads, champions, advocates and allies across the entire health system. 

Allyship at the department and unit level helps to build a more inclusive health system, where those who work, learn and heal at Michigan Medicine feel valued. While there is much work that needs to be done, it is the demonstration of solidarity and allyship that continue to move the needle forward.

It may be difficult to know where to start, but you don’t have to be on a particular taskforce or hold a certain title to demonstrate allyship. These Michigan Medicine allies share how integrating DEI into their work has impacted their departments/units:

Incorporating allyship into day-to-day work:

“I would say that I have tried to be a lot more intentional about promoting inclusion. I’m a huge believer that a diversity of thought and perspective leads to better ideas and greater impact. And if you have fostered a diverse team but then fail to promote inclusion or failed to create an environment where team members feel comfortable and empowered to share their perspective, then you have really still failed to achieve the benefits of diversity.” – Keith Dickey, Ph.D., chief strategy officer

“I learn every day by engaging in the work. It isn’t a one and done, it is a life-long continuum of gaining knowledge and understanding … listening, sharing life experiences and stories. Cohesiveness, collaboration and communication are the key to allyship. As well as a willingness to help and speak up against bias, discrimination and racism.” – Peggy Wright, executive assistant, Office for Health Equity and Inclusion

The effects of allyship at the department/unit level:

“I think it has brought us closer together as a team. We did a lunch-and-learn series around anti-racism topics over the course of a few weeks. Engaging in discussion really allowed us all to reflect on our own identities and past, which gave each of us more insight into what makes each one of us unique. It also created a brave space for us to make mistakes and learn from each other.” – Pedro Coracides, project manager, Office of Patient Experience

“It has created a deeper level of understanding and comfort, ease and cohesiveness, and has led to a more authentic, collaborative team.” – Peggy Wright, executive assistant, Office for Health Equity and Inclusion

How to demonstrate allyship and solidarity:

“Just start having conversations. You don’t have to know all the right words and you may make mistakes or hit frustrating realities and barriers along the way, but if you are committed, nothing can stop us. We are in this together and stronger because we are even asking these questions here in this moment!” – Dana Habers, chief department administrator, Radiology

My advice would be to start by communicating the values you want your unit to represent and start living that within your unit related to committees you may set up or roles you may hire into.” – Keith Gran, chief patient experience officer

“Take the time to meet people where they are. This means having empathy in light of our differences.” – Pedro Coracides, project manager, Office of Patient Experience

“Try using the ‘three, then me’ rule of making sure at least three others have chimed in and commented in a meeting before you speak again.” – Keith Dickey, Ph.D., chief strategy officer

Additional resources on allyship and solidarity:

Want to learn more about how to be an ally? Here are a couple of resources that can help: