Diversity and Inclusion have long been core values of the CWBA. We are, after all, a diversity bar association founded on the mission to promote women in the legal profession and the interests of women generally. The vision of the CWBA’s founders has resulted in extensive and exhaustive work to promote gender equality in the legal profession, but also to fight discrimination more broadly. It may go without saying, therefore, that incorporating the values of diversity and inclusion permeates all the work we do both internally and externally. Even as a diversity bar association, however, it is crucial that we consistently strive for excellence when it comes to how we truly walk the walk of diversity and inclusion not just for and with women but more broadly.
To that end, the Board had the distinct pleasure of hearing from Jennifer Guzman during our February Board meeting. Jennifer presented on The Sliding Scale of Activism: Performative Activism to Active Allyship, commenting that right now is a crucial time to recognize the difference between activism and what she referred to as “slacktivism.” While social media has opened myriad doors when it comes to opportunities for discussions, the sharing of information, and more, it has also created a platform for the concept of Performative Activism: increasing one’s social capitalism for personal gain rather than genuine support toward a movement or issues.
On the surface, Performative Activism may seem like taking action toward broader change, but as a form of slacktivism it can also be harmful by encouraging complacency, encouraging shaming, and providing a façade behind which sharers can promote themselves without having to engage in actual and difficult dialogue. At the end of the day, it can serve to actually discourage any real growth.
Active Allyship, on the other hand, does not direct attention to the activist, but rather seeks to support and uplift movements, issues, or causes. Active Allyship is a raw and honest discussion toward constant learning when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity. It is speaking up when it is important and challenging even when people might not agree with you. It is staying informed, recognizing the power imbalance, and being honest with ourselves. This is hard work – we must be vulnerable, let go of a self-idealized image, and truly let go of privilege.
In an age of social media, how can we take steps away from Performative Activism and toward Active Allyship? Take a step back, Jennifer suggested, and answer these questions: Are the actions we are taking doing enough, or are we just talking? Whose voice is being uplifted? Who or what are we actually helping? Do we truly understand the cause and its impact on society?
As Jennifer eloquently remarked, “there is grace in learning and unlearning…even when it is uncomfortable.”
Our President, Miranda Hawkins, has encouraged the type of tough-love growth Jennifer discussed. In a year when we are all striving to Lead Beyond, Miranda has incorporated monthly training and coaching into our Board meetings and challenges us to find ways to come together toward true change.
Jennifer Guzman is a corporate and real estate attorney with Hogan Lovells US LLP and serves as the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager.
Elizabeth Meck is a Vice President and member of the Trust Advisory team at the Northern Trust Company. She provides fiduciary and legal expertise in the implementation of financial, estate and tax plans for high net-worth individuals, entrepreneurs, and families. Planning topics frequently include family education and governance, charitable planning, and business succession planning. Prior to joining Northern Trust in 2015, Elizabeth practiced as an attorney, specializing in all areas of trusts and estates, most recently as a member of the Fiduciary Solutions group at Holland & Hart LLP in Denver. She spent several years in education before pursuing her J.D. from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. She also holds an M.A. in Education from the University of Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia. A native Coloradan, Elizabeth enjoys skiing, hiking, and spending time outside with her husband and two young children. Elizabeth is an active member of the Trust & Estate Section of the Colorado Bar Association. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Women’s Bar Association and the Professional Advisor’s Council for the Denver Foundation.