Looking Through Different Lenses

By Phoebe Marinakis

A man walks down the street, looks at his phone, it’s 6:30pm, the bus arrives in 10 minutes, sits at the bus stop and waits for the bus to arrive, he’s on his phone, thinking about what he wants to eat later. The bus arrives, he gets on, sits down, and makes it home. 

A mother of two small children, an energetic toddler and little baby, whom she pushes in a stroller, has just left daycare 45 minutes from her work. She struggles to get the stroller onto the sidewalk, as it’s raised, the sidewalk is uneven making it difficult to push the stroller. It’s 6:30pm, it’s getting dark she notices, and the stop is dimly lit. It’s also freezing out, she worries about the little ones catching a cold. She looks around and notices a dark alley behind the bus stop, she feels uneasy and waits patiently for the bus, scheduled to come in 10 minutes, hoping there will be a safe place to sit when she gets on.

Same date. Same time. Same bus stop. Different views.

Hello, My name is Phoebe, and I’m entering my 4th year of the Commerce Program, majoring in Human Resource Management at the U of A. For my stretch experience I somehow landed in the middle of diversity–Diversity and Inclusion that is. What does that really mean? What does that look like? Why are these terms so important? Questions I certainly had at the start of this stretch experience.

What I did know, is that these waters were unfamiliar, yet very important explore. So, then started my internship with the City of Edmonton. (I missed a few stops, but that’s the gist).

This summer I had the utmost pleasure and privilege to work alongside the incredible Respect in the Workplace Team on various projects being carried out with the City of Edmonton. GBA +, Art of inclusion and the Connected City Initiative. The team I worked with was knowledgeable, hilarious, supportive but willing to push me out of my comfort zone in order to grow. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend my internship with.

From a professional standpoint, I was exposed to the public sector from a different angle, and explored many topics such as flexible workplaces to increase equity and trauma informed care training to better assist front-line workers. But what had the largest impact on my perspective was my work supporting the diversity and inclusion research and the Gender-Based Analysis plus (GBA+) framework. Very simply put, GBA+ looks at approaching the world, work and projects with different lenses and perspectives and incorporating the information to create equitable outcomes. This to me, this hit me on a more on a personal level. 

Through some tough conversations with my supervisors and co-workers, GBA+ training and some serious self reflection, I began to learn and understand more about unconscious bias and how it potentially affects all aspects of my life and the people around me. How, with even the best intentions, the needs of certain groups are often not taken into consideration. How policies, projects and processes may have been developed without proper consultation, creating systemic barriers for marginalized groups. GBA+ helped me shift my way of thinking in order to ask some tough questions. Who is getting left out? What have we not considered? Who do we need to talk to? What are my biases in this situation? And also, how can I integrate this knowledge into my leadership?

Do I have all the answers to the questions I mentioned? No, but I have a better understanding, and I am motivated to keep learning. I’m grateful for the experience, and I know these skills and mindset will support me on my journey as a community member, professional and leader. Oh, and I’ll be addressing these questions with some different lenses.

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