Allyship: It's Not Just for the Gays

By Rachel Chamberlain, Class of 2017

By Rachel Chamberlain, Class of 2017

If we haven’t met, I’m Rachel. About me: I’m a woman, a lesbian, more-poet-than-quant (yes, at Booth), a recovering ex-collegiate athlete — and I’m an ally.

Yep, you read that right. As a member of the LGBTQ community and a Co-Chair of the Booth OUTreach club, I hear the word “ally” thrown around a lot. Heck, I throw it around a lot myself: “Let’s have an allyship event,” “How do we communicate more effectively with our allies at Booth?” “Thanks for performing at Pink Party, you’re a great ally!"

One thing I often share with people is I’ve never met someone who wakes up in the morning and says, “Thank goodness I’m gay! It’s made my life so much easier.” (If you know someone, introduce us!) Regardless of an LGBT individual’s background — cultural values, how supportive their family is — it’s just frickin’ hard sometimes. And with strong allies, you don’t have to go it alone. Life gets a lot better.

However, what I didn’t consider prior to Booth is the notion that allyship isn’t just for the gays. Sure, we may have the loudest voice when it comes to using the word. But the truth is allyship extends far beyond joining forces against homophobia. Last week’s African-American MBA Association(AAMBAA)-organized “wear black” day is the perfect example. I loved this event because it provided a visible way to stand against excessive police force toward unarmed black men and women, and show support for the Black community.

But I have to confess something.

Over the summer as events related to the loss of Black lives continued, I felt compelled to step up — to show my support and engage in dialogue. And I completely froze. After all, I’m white. Like really white. Was it my place to speak up about this? Was I expert enough? Would it offend my black friends? Is it even OK for a white person to say black instead of African American?

What’s worse is I was accidentally added to this summer GroupMe (you know, that awkward moment when you don’t want to interrupt a thread with “so and so has left the group”?) that was primarily for black and Hispanic MBA’s. As a silent observer, I watched as students from across the country engaged in a dialogue about how to approach non-minority classmates; how to gain allies. It hit me: they were voicing all of the same concerns my OUTreach crew voices when we talk about allyship. Yet I didn’t reach out to them. I didn’t get outside of my comfort zone to say “Hey, let me lend a hand” — which I know from experience is sometimes all it takes to be an ally.

Rachel Chamberlain '17 (center) and members of OUTreach, Booth's LGBT+ student group, "wear black" to show allyship for African-Americans and other minorities in the Booth community and around the country.

Rachel Chamberlain '17 (center) and members of OUTreach, Booth's LGBT+ student group, "wear black" to show allyship for African-Americans and other minorities in the Booth community and around the country.

So what did I do? I reached out to exactly one black friend over the summer with a text about it, asking him how I could be supportive. (As if it was his job to know?!) Asking him if AAMBAA was organizing anything. (As if only AAMBAA could organize something?!) It was easy; it was comfortable — he replied with the requisite “Thanks for reaching out.” I had checked the box. I made myself feel better about it.

Shame on me for taking the easy road, and for talking myself out of engaging in a more substantive dialogue. I’d argue that as we get older, we increasingly talk ourselves out of allyship, whatever form that might take. When we’re younger, we rationalize less — we let our instincts dictate our actions. We sit at lunch with the kid who has a lisp; we show the new student to her classroom without giving it a second thought. Over time as we absorb social norms, we look to avoid conflict and “make nice”. We even justify our inaction: “Someone in my squad is black and we’re friends, so I’m covered.” “I have a gay uncle.” “I volunteered at the Special Olympics with my college sorority once.” It’s as if to say I’m in the clear, don’t look at me like I’m not supportive. We shield ourselves — but what we’re really doing is stepping back supporting from those we care about most.

At Booth, we’re in classes (and um...other places with frosty beverages) every day with future leaders from all over the globe. Future managers, politicians, CEO’s, board members. We’re doing each other — and the world around us — a disservice if we don’t get over ourselves and talk about this stuff.

So don’t just check the box — get uncomfortable. Stand for something. Have the hard conversation. Challenge someone. Stand with someone. Because together, we are so much stronger than we are apart.

Rachel is a proud ally of people of color. She has a question: What does allyship mean to you? Post a picture or message on social media with the tag #BoothAlly. Let’s keep this conversation going.

I'm an LGBTQ Ally; You Should Be Too

By Geraldo Franco Gimenez, Class of 2017

By Geraldo Franco Gimenez, Class of 2017

I’m a proud member of OUTreach, Booth’s group of LGBTQ-identified students and allies. Sometimes people ask me why I’m a member since I’m straight. Well, it has been a great way to meet new people, make friends, and have fun – all of which are key to the MBA experience in my opinion. However, it’s much more than that actually. 

An ally is someone who is supportive of LGBTQ people. This can be a non-LGBTQ person who believes that sexuality and gender identity rights (like me), or LGBTQ-identified people who support one other (i.e., a lesbian who is an ally to the transgender community). I’m an ally because I believe that autonomy, freedom of choice, and primacy of judgement should be paramount in democratic societies. I believe that no right or opportunity – either civil rights or professional opportunities – should be conditioned by or limited to who someone is or how they live their personal lives. I believe that allies can not only help in the coming-out process, but also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance, and mutual respect.

It doesn’t matter where we’re from or what we did before Booth, we each likely know LGBTQ people, even if they’re not “out”. More than that, we have definitely engaged in enriching discussions and group projects with our LGBTQ classmates here at Booth. So, wearing pink during the month of May, attending the Allyship meeting, celebrating at the #PinkParty in Boystown (May 21), participating in numerous events throughout next year, and engaging with and/or even joining OUTreach--these are all ways to show your solidarity as an ally. And it’ll be lots of fun along the way!

Members of OUTreach, Booth's LGBTQ student group, strike a pose at the Pink LPF. 

Members of OUTreach, Booth's LGBTQ student group, strike a pose at the Pink LPF. 

Looking back in history (for instance, the African-American Civil Rights Movement or the fight against the Holocaust), “allies” in a broad sense have been vital in helping minority groups overcome oppression and gain the fair treatment they deserve. People should have equal rights and opportunities – that’s not just about being fair and inclusive, it’s about being human.

I like to believe that all of my fellow classmates have come to Booth to make an impact on the world, leaving it better than we have found it. I know that we will keep seeking this goal long after our two years here at Booth. Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. We have so many opportunities to start doing so today. 

The Allyship meeting is two days away and #PinkParty is this weekend. Both events will be some of the most memorable moments for me here at Booth. I hope to see you all there.

OUTreach’s Allyship meeting: Wednesday, May 18th @ 11:45am, HC01 (lunch served). #PinkParty: Saturday, May 21 @ 8:00pm, Sidetrack Nightclub, Boystown, $25 through Booth Groups.
Geraldo, originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is an advocate for human rights and civil liberties. He believes individuals can make a huge difference in the world through collaborative change.

The Road Less Taken

By Alyssa Jaffee, Class of 2016 Career Advisor

By Alyssa Jaffee, Class of 2016 Career Advisor

Spring quarter in a Booth student’s second year is a time for most students to kick back, relax, and enjoy their last bits of freedom before Corporate America takes hold. Students find more time for leisure activities than they ever had before, soaking in the beautiful views with sunshine, great friends, and tasty, frosty beverages.

I, however, chose to follow a different path. In my final months of business school, I decided to take on a full-time job. Not just any job, but a job to build a company within the New Venture Challenge (NVC), sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Chicago Booth.

I was recruited by my friend and CEO of TransparentMBA, Mitch Kirby, who shared with me the incredible vision he had for the business. Hesitant at first to give up my last moments of freedom, I had to weigh my options: Do I spend my last couple of months working hard, or do I head to the beach for the rest of the spring? Ultimately, I couldn’t resist the lure of doing something new and getting the NVC experience everyone spoke so fondly about. So, I came on board.

Class of 2016 TransparentMBA co-founders, Jeremy Selbst, Mitch Kirby, Alyssa Jaffee, and Kevin Marvinac, pose like bosses.

Class of 2016 TransparentMBA co-founders, Jeremy Selbst, Mitch Kirby, Alyssa Jaffee, and Kevin Marvinac, pose like bosses.

At first, I assumed I was just doing it to get a new experience and participate in NVC. However, soon after joining the team, I realized that this was an opportunity of a lifetime. I get to help build a company that I believe in wholeheartedly, and I get to do it with the backing and support of the entire Booth community.

TransparentMBA provides insights into compensation and satisfaction data for the MBA community. With thousands of MBA students on the platform, I have now seen the power of the data and feel lucky that I get to be a part of the team.

So, when you think about all that free time you might have or the abundance of experiences you might forgo, think again. Opportunities that allow you to really get a feel for a new experience are worth it, I promise!  Oh, and don’t worry, I do find time for those beach days too!

Alyssa is a Venture Capital Career Advisor who, as a child, was once in the circus. She has also been to 96 of the top 100 US cities!