Equity Challenge Reflections: Mary Gillman

Published on June 16, 2021 in ,

As a member of the Oakland County Equity Council, I jumped at the chance to participate in United Way’s 21-Day Equity Challenge. As a person who is deaf, LGBT and raising a deaf child, I believe the challenge will help others understand the impact of bias.

Bias has led to me being passed over for promotions, left out of conversations and treated unfairly. But that’s not where my story ends. I have also had a 22-year career in finance, loving relationships, raised two brilliant daughters and become an advocate for others who are deaf — helping them find jobs, get driver’s licenses and more.

Deaf people are so much more than their disability. And simply being able to hear does not make a person better than someone who is deaf. I always make it a point to focus on the many things deaf people can do instead of the one thing they cannot. I have also conducted several trainings with police to help them better understand how to approach deaf people in any situation.

The more we can empathize with one another and overcome what we think we know about each other, the more equitable society will be. We have come a long way, but we’ve got so much further to go.

The challenge has helped broaden my own understanding by putting me in other people’s shoes as I read their stories, helping me see history from their perspectives. There are so many enlightening stories to read and learn from.

I’m sharing the challenge experience with my CODA (child of deaf adult) daughter, and we love to debate with one another. My brother is also participating in the challenge, and it will be interesting to hear his perspective. I hope others participating will also share the content with family members and friends to build awareness.

I was an Air Force brat, so I constantly moved around the U.S. and Europe. It taught me a lot about different cultures. I know that not everyone has that experience, but we can all commit to stepping out of our comfort zones and intentionally gaining exposure to people who don’t live or look like us.

Understand that no question is ever stupid. Asking is the best way to get information and learn something that may impact your life and make you want to learn more.