Suzanne Maynard BHSC, ACP
Breaking the traditional molds within Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services (EMS) wasn’t something I aspired, or necessarily set out to do. I never considered my gender to be a barrier to success. But throughout my professional journey I have come to realize the disproportionate number of women in EMS leadership positions.
There were some around me who wanted to stifle my growth, refusing to see my worth – my knowledge, abilities and experience. I choose to focus on those who championed my pursuits to be in a leadership role. The most powerful examples of those allies didn’t come from people who looked like me. There were, in many cases, male colleagues who acknowledged the value of my perspective and helped me thrive.
I became a Director of EMS Operations; this marked the first time in the history of Alberta Health Services EMS a female was promoted to an Operations Director position. I was encouraged by my allies and their willingness to support me in my pursuit to disrupt the norm and encourage gender diversity. It led to some uncomfortable, but long overdue conversations. I realized that I had taken ownership of my career and soon became comfortable speaking up to take the lead and set the tone in workplace settings. As I navigated my career, I found allies in coworkers that are authentic and allowed me to space to learn, grow and exceed my own expectations. For all the allies who have been gracious, kind and given me space to be at the table with a voice, I will forever be thankful.
Shortly after assuming my current role, I realized a great deal about thriving in the protectionist culture that often exists. I recognized that now is the time to turn the spotlight away from myself and instead, amplify the voices of those who are continuously marginalized, underrepresented, silenced, and ignored. My own experiences of being a female leader allowed me to recognize my own privilege, triggering my own self-awareness to truly understand and appreciate what it means to be an ally. Knowing that I have the power and influence to stimulate positive change, I will use that awareness to challenge the power structures, to help dismantle the systems and processes that prevent my colleagues from having equal opportunities.
My personal mission is to confront discriminatory actions in hopes of creating an inclusive culture in the workplace. I strive to ensure equality, gender diversity and a sense of belonging in our organization.
This work fundamentally is about shifting mindsets. As ignorance persists I continue to encounter unwillingness of some to join me in these discussions, but despite this ingrained behavior, it won’t deter me from focusing on those willing to be inclusive. That work never stops.
Unconscious and unchecked bias cannot be fixed by one training session. It takes time and the building of trust and willingness to be held accountable, that’s the essence of growth. Being an ally means your awareness and understanding are constantly evolving and I acknowledge these efforts have to be unwavering. I am steadily working towards ending discrimination against marginalized groups; I want to lead by example. Allyship is beyond words, it’s about more than speaking out against injustice. It must be intentional, deliberate actions have the power to inspire an equitable and inclusive workplace for all.
It’s about hiring, retaining, and promoting across gender, racial and ethnic groups, the LGBTQ2+ community and more; real progress will come when we shift the culture. I know it isn’t possible to understand the lived experience of other minority groups but I do realize my responsibility to educate myself and to have the support of my own allies in my commitment to that learning. I will listen, learn and lift up those around me.