Show Up

By: Michelle Bogan

If you are not a person of color, you may feel it’s not your place to say something about all the terrifying ways racism is playing out around us. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Demonstrate humanity. Show up.

Staying quiet, keeping your head down, acting like this is none of your business, all sends a message — even if totally unintentional — that you do not care, that because this does not affect you directly, it is not important. This is totally contrary to being an ally at a time allyship matters most. Allies show up.

We can’t proclaim “We’re all in this together” about the pandemic and pretend we’re not all impacted by the racism we’re seeing play out all around us. We are all part of this system, willing or unwilling, whether we like it or not, and we have the power to collectively change it.

[Related: Self-Awareness Tips for Leading With Positive Impact]

The pandemic has already shone a bright light on how deeply intertwined our personal and professional experiences are, and how dependent each of our wellbeing is on each others’. Racism is everyone’s problem. We have to show up and solve this together, now.

On May 27, AdWeek hosted an online webinar with CMOs across multiple organizations, a diverse collection of leaders in terms of race, gender, native language, country of origin, and path to the C-suite.

Several of these executives came to tears in front of an audience of several thousand people in reaction to the erupting violence, police brutality toward black people, and recent xenophobia toward those of Asian descent. These are senior executives who are polished and seasoned and know how to handle high-stress situations.

Yet they showed their humanity. Those moments of raw emotion made an incredibly powerful statement about how deeply impacted they felt, and provided an amazing call to action to every attendee on that call to figure out how each of us can do something. To show up.

[Related: Authenticity and Vulnerability at Work: Walking the Tightrope]

Showing up is radically impactful, no matter how small or grand the action, because you prioritize care over everything else. You show empathy, compassion, love. It also gives you a chance to show honesty — that even if you don’t know what to do, you are holding that person in your heart.

Acknowledge this is an incredibly painful and scary time. That you’re there for your people. That you care. That you know this is terrifying and exhausting and creates an amazingly vast set of worries that won’t be resolved overnight. That you are with them and support them. Ask how you can help, how your company can help, how you can leverage your leadership, access, and community to help.

Most of all, listen — really, really listen. Don’t feel compelled to jump to action. Listening is the most important part of the whole equation. Unless this is happening to you, you don’t know exactly how it feels.

And it is very likely that tough conversations need to happen — tough to hear, tough to share, maybe even tough to realize how something in your company is contributing, even subtly, to the problem. These conversations are a critical part of leadership’s work. Without them, you won’t know how to provide meaningful support.

And remember, this is not a once and done, check-the-box exercise. Keep showing up.

[Related: Internal and External Challenges Faced by Women and Ethnic Minorities that Make them More Vulnerable at Work]

Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Michelle Bogan has mentored colleagues and clients, founded and led women’s groups, and helped promote many women and men to leadership positions. In 2018, she founded Equity for Women to advance the mission of empowering women at work.

Originally published at



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