Finding a chosen family — and building new onesJune 28, 2022 | By Vicki Hyman
Mark O’Looney grew up in a traditional Catholic family in Ireland. An ocean away, Allison Kahn was raised by two New York City hippies. Both found support and acceptance from their families when they came out, and they also sought out — and found — new communities where they learned to be themselves.
“I did feel the need to find that chosen family as well,” says O’Looney, who joined Mastercard as an intern in Dublin and now works as a program manager in the company’s New York City Tech Hub. “There is that struggle that, no matter how accepting and how loving your family is, you are that little bit different.”
In the latest episode of “Inside the Circles,” Mastercard’s podcast about the future of work and the topics of now, host Latoya Bennett-Johnson chats with O’Looney and Kahn about what Pride Month means to them and how it shapes culture at Mastercard, as well as their coming-out journeys, how their concept of family has evolved and the importance of allyship and advocating for equity.
Kahn, a vice president for people and culture communications who has a 5-year-old with her wife, worked to make parental leave gender neutral. O’Looney’s advocacy during his personal three-year surrogacy journey helped expand reproductive benefits for nontraditional families.
A week before recording this podcast, he and his husband welcomed their daughter, Aria, via a gestational carrier. “It still feels like this isn’t real,” he says. “How is this happening? How do I have a baby?” (Check out O’Looney’s ever-growing Instagram account, @TwoMenandaSurrogacy, where he documents their journey toward parenthood.)
At a large organization like Mastercard, Kahn says, change doesn’t happen overnight, but “there is absolutely an openness to collaboration and ideas for innovation and inclusion and change to come from any corner of the organization, especially if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and help.”
“You don’t need to be an executive to be heard,” O’Looney says. “They basically want to listen to us and hear our voices and say, ‘How can we do better?’”
To hear more from Bennett-Johnson, Kahn and O’Looney, subscribe to “Inside the Circles” on Apple Podcasts or stream it directly in the player above.
Banner photo: Mark O'Looney, right, with husband Eoin Cannon and their newborn daughter Aria. (Photo credit: Elise Hurst/Woven Photo)