I've always said I'm like a willow, I'm strong like the willow, I'll bend, but I'm not going to break.
- Donnie Rosa
In this episode
In a work culture that expects employees to be constantly "on" and available, should our definition of success include being tethered to a phone 24/7?
How do we set healthy boundaries between our personal lives and our careers? And how can we advocate for ourselves while maintaining the balance? We'll explore two stories from people who had to define those boundaries in the workplace and the impact of those choices.
Deputy Chief of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services, Celene Lemire, talks about advocating for herself in a job interview with the police, telling them what she thought rather than what they wanted to hear.
Donnie Rosa discusses self-advocating throughout their career, from professional hockey player to general manager of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and the importance of balance and making commitments to loved ones and personal time.
Celene has more than 20 years experience in community service, government relations, strategic design, operational planning, and leadership. Over the last decade, she has focused on equity and inclusion work in large emergency service organizations, addressing systemic issues, supporting membership, and operational teams by identifying inequities in policies, practices, and programs.
Celene has developed curriculum for municipalities, private and public sector, provincial leaders, and for emergency services.
Celene is a graduate of the University of Calgary, holds Graduate degree in forensic psychology and is currently the deputy chief of People, Culture, and Equity with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services.
General Manager of Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation, Donnie Rosa, is committed to delivering on the board directive to decolonize the parks and recreation system in Vancouver. Further, they are leading the efforts to determine how to co-manage parks with the local Nations (Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh). With a commitment to equity and building resilient communities, Donnie has used their community development skills to meaningfully engage community in service delivery and build long lasting collaborative relationships.
Donnie was recently named as one of Vancouver’s Power 50 for their work with Canada’s largest park encampment and efforts to assist over 280 folks indoors from Strathcona Park with compassion and care.
Carla Grimann: Celine Lemire is the Deputy Chief of People Culture and Equity at the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. Celine supports the members and processes that address barriers and boundaries, and systemic challenges to help people be successful at the Fire Department. She supports over 800 firefighters, and she equates emergency services with bravery, heroism, and selfless people who are running towards the stuff when everyone else is running away. I'm Carla Grimann and this is Talk it Forward brought to you by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation with support from the City of Vancouver. On today's show, we're talking about self-advocacy and setting boundaries. Why it is so important for your mental health to set these boundaries. We are going to be talking with Celine Lemire and Donnie Rosa about how they have had to set boundaries and advocate for themselves in the workplace, the courage that they built to be able to do this for themselves and why it is so important for their mental health. Setting boundaries can be intimidating, and it can be nerve-racking but it is very important you know that you're not alone in doing this. Later in the show, we'll be talking to Donnie Rosa, the General Manager of the Vancouver Park Board. We'll be talking about setting boundaries, supporting queer people at work, and how important it is to disconnect from your job.
Thank you everyone, and welcome back to episode four of Talk It Forward; I am delighted to have Celine Lemire from the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services on our show today. And we're gonna be chatting a little bit about, you know, setting boundaries, and how do we advocate for ourselves, and hopefully, just want to get to know you a little bit more, Celine, because I know that you're somewhat new to Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and your role.
Celine Lemire: Yeah, I've been. I've been in the City of Vancouver, actually, only for, I think, just over seven months now; it's gone by pretty quickly. But I actually came from Alberta, and I had recently worked for a municipal policing agency in Alberta. So I've been in emergency services for a few years, but an amazing opportunity popped up and a friend of mine who is a former Deputy Chief of Fire in Edmonton sort of slid, slid the job description over to me, and I mean, I thought you don't get very many opportunities, the older you get for adventure, so I thought why not? And I, you know, threw my name in the hat and kind of just, you know, spent a day thinking about it and dreaming about it and kind of put it in the back of my brain where you unload, you know, the information you don't need to think about on a day to day basis and went through a really great process and met Chief Fry and it just seemed like it was going to be a good fit. So I sold my house and packed my stuff into U-Haul and drove to Vancouver, and yeah, and started fresh.
Carla Grimann: That's awesome. I love the fact that you call it an adventure, and it certainly sounds like it's been an adventure.
Celine Lemire: Oh, yeah.
Carla Grimann: So you mentioned that you you've been in emergency services and you work for it was Edmonton Police?
Celine Lemire: Yeah, I did. I worked for Edmonton Police Service for a few years, I worked within the Office of the Chief. I also worked in their Equity and Inclusion function as well as Stakeholder Relations and Strategic Planning. So I love emergency services. Personally, I'm not an incredibly brave person and I always wanted to be able to help the helpers so I've had the good fortune of being on both sides of it.
Carla Grimann: So you worked for Edmonton Police and a little bird told me about your job interview that you had with police. And I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about that because I think you were having an interview and you were like your true authentic self in that interview.
Celine Lemire: Yeah, you know, it's funny. So I had, I have taken some time to start my own business and I was doing some consulting work. And it was going pretty well. And I was doing the work I liked. But it kind of came to a point where I wasn't growing and developing because if you don't have someone to challenge you, you can't get better. And I was talking to my plants in an unhealthy amount of time. So I decided I wanted to get back into like working in a group setting, and position had opened up with Edmonton Police Service. And I feel like it was a manager of Stakeholder Relations position, but I could be wrong in the title. And so I put my application in, and I knew I was going to be a good fit for the role. And so I got it, I got to do like an online assessment and there to go in for an interview. And I got in for the interview. And I thought, you know, we do this thing where we put our best self forward in an interview, and we say what we think people want to hear. And then we get into a job, and we're not a fit for that team, or they're not a fit for us, or we don't like the work, or we can't do the work, and then you know, I didn't want to do that I thought I could stay working on my own or I could do something that's really a good fit. So I just thought, what the heck, just answer the questions. Excuse me like, really? And surely how you feel, so one of the questions was something like, you know, what is the community's perception are what do you think of police? And I was like, well, terrible, right? Like, nobody likes the police. Nobody really knows what you're doing. I honestly, you know, don't know who the Police Chief is; it's never really occurred to me and I think that I kind of went along the lines of this is the general perception of policing. And it was just my perception and the perception of the friends I had. And so it was my reality. And I thought I remember leaving the interview and thinking, yikes, like, so you probably don't want to say that in an interview, you probably don't want to say like, yeah, your company is terrible, or your company isn't connected to the community, or, you know, I perceive police to be XY and Z, particularly as someone who really didn't know much about the inner workings of a police system. And so I walked out, and I just was shaking my head. I remember I called my partner and I was like, yeah, so I definitely didn't get that job. In fact, I might get called in for a reprimand. And he kind of laughed. And a couple days later, when they called and offered me the job, I burst out laughing because I thought it was someone being funny because it was so ridiculous
Carla Grimann: It was a prank call.
Celine Lemire: Yeah, of course, I did get the job. And so I came back in, and I kind of said, Why, why did you offer me the job? And they said, everybody came in and just talked about, you know, how amazing we are and how we're doing such a great job. And the truth is, no organization is amazing and perfect. And when you find gaps or flaws, that's actually really, really great because then you know what you can change. And then that sort of became my job to work with different amazing groups of people within the organization and stakeholders on, you know, finding where the gaps are, and, and addressing them, because that's how you improve. And if you're not going to acknowledge what isn't working, you can't fix it.
Carla Grimann: I'm glad that you were like your true self in that interview. And because the interview process is about you interviewing them as much as them interviewing you. And you're right, you know, quite often we go into those interviews. And we tell them what they think that they want to hear. And you just might end up in a place where you don't want to be so.
Celine Lemire: Well, and that kind of circles back to boundaries, right? Because then you end up in a job where you're not doing the things that you're capable of doing or want to be doing. And you really have no one to blame but yourself.
Carla Grimann: So Celine, when you first started entering into leadership roles in your career, and sort of early in your career, how did you advocate for yourself in your workplace? Did you have to set boundaries? And what did that look like?
Celine Lemire: To be honest, I actually don't think I did, I think when I first started to take on leadership roles, particularly in private sector, where I didn't see a lot of women, the first thing I did was probably the same thing a lot of people do is I became what I thought I needed to be to fit in. So I became overly aggressive, I completely took emotion out of it, because I was told, you know, women are emotional women, women can be overdramatic when they lead so I wanted to do everything not to be that. Because of that, it actually destroyed any semblance of minor boundaries I might have had because then my desperate need to fit in and people please what I did was say yes to everything. So I agreed to take on work that was out of scope, that was definitely out of my you know, prioritization list, I agreed to do whatever I could to be viewed as like the go getter. The person, people wanted on their team, I wanted to be likable. And so I think that sort of, I think that's a mistake people do when they're young, just generally and not being confident. But also, I don't even think boundaries occurred to me then. So I ended up being constantly overwhelmed completely, like, you know, burnt out as well, really unhappy. And I let every other part of my life suffer because I just so desperately wanted to fit in. It didn't even occur to me if these were the jobs I wanted, or the roles I wanted, I just wanted to be, I remember going to a meeting. And I was in the hospitality industry years ago, and I was on the senior leadership team and we are opening a restaurant. I don't know, it could have been in Vancouver or Toronto, I can't even remember. And it was all men sitting around, and I went to sit to sit at the table with them. And everyone asked if I was there to bring them coffee. So the immediate assumption was I was there to serve coffee. But the worst part about it was instead of asserting the fact that I belonged there was, I wanted to be so agreeable, that I got up and served everyone coffee. So I would say didn't show up properly and I didn't have the right boundaries, but live and learn.
Carla Grimann: Yeah, live in. But and I have to say that you're probably not the only woman that has been asked to serve coffee or take the meeting minutes. I know this for a fact. Yeah, I've been in that situation before.
Celine Lemire: Yeah, for sure. And I think that I haven't been it's an evolving skill, but I can certainly tell that where I'm at now I'm quite a bit better at it. And I think I've done a lot of trial and error and setting boundaries for myself. And the biggest thing I found is that I have to make my boundaries about me and my own behavior, and not create boundaries for other people. And I think that shift for me mentally, and understanding what a boundary was has been really impactful and made it a bit more successful. So my best way to advocate for myself was to start to realize the pieces of work I was taking home that were impacting my mental and emotional health negatively. And then I had to get really clear on what the cause of those were. Quite often it was how how conversations were occurring, or how I was connecting with other people, because my portfolio is a difficult portfolio. So I think it's really about understanding what I need to take home and knowing what I'm getting into having this as my job. And then also limiting the nonsense that I don't need to be taking home. So, for example, I had a comment with one of your colleagues around my, my outgoing or out of office message. And people people seem to really like it so.
Carla Grimann: I actually, I have that in front of me. Are you okay if I read it out?
Celine Lemire: Yeah, of course. Okay. Because yeah, that was we were trying to get in touch with you. You know, I
think it was either January or February, and we received this out-of-office message. And we thought
Carla Grimann: Okay. Because yeah, that was we were trying to get in touch with you. You know, I
think it was either January or February, and we received this out-of-office message. And we thought
this is great like this is it was lovely to read because it wasn't the boring, I am out of office until February 19. So here is your out-of-office message that we received. I am away with limited access to my email. Hopefully, as you read this, I am wandering the great outdoors with my super cute dog. Because we are often faced with pressures to respond, particularly in a social climate where immediacy is expected, I will be making my best efforts to avoid accessing my emails. Patience is a virtue, or so I've been told. But if you require immediate assistance, please call 604. And I'm not going to say your phone number.
Celine Lemire: Please don't.
Carla Grimann: But so what has the response been when you know people read that? Or have they connected with you? Or what inspired you to put up that out-of-office message?
Celine Lemire: Well, I actually read one from the Chief Equity Office officer here, Aftab, and it was sort of a kind of an interesting one. I can't remember it verbatim. But I remember it made me sort of think about what am I really saying to people. And I feel like sometimes there's not an alignment there. Like, what I'm actually saying to people is, I'm on vacation, and I don't want to talk to you, I don't actually want to do work. Because this is my paid time off, it's essentially part of my employment contract. And I don't want to do this; however, like slash, I feel guilty and like I need to be accessible. So it's that mixed message. And I don't actually really like, think that I jive with that last part of it like I don't want to be available. So I like to give people that option to have that standard for themselves. Like if you're on vacation, be on vacation. I think that we create the sort of need that we have to be accessible to people all the time. And we don't, but when we start to do that, it becomes a standard of expectation and then we sort of often are like, Oh, my boss calls me on the weekend, or, you know, my colleague did sent me an email at 10. And it's like, well, first of all, did you open that email? Did you answer that phone call? Because if you did, you actually created that acceptable standard for communication. So I wanted people to know that I'm not going to be available. However, if there's an emergency, because I also understanding I'm in a position in an organization where I may need to be available, that there is that that opportunity to contact me for a while I used to put put the behavior back on people. So I used to say, you know, the choice is yours, if you choose to call me or chill, but like, just know, it better be an emergency. Like, if you're gonna press those numbers on the phone. So choose wisely.
Carla Grimann: Yeah, it better be a legitimate emergency. No, I love the out-of-office message; I am gonna craft my own. For when I go on vacation, definitely.
Celine Lemire: I think it's a good way to tell people a little bit about who you are as well. Like I like being in the outdoors. I'm from Jasper, and I, you know, I, I'm a person with no children, and I, you know, have a great partner. And he's amazing. And I have a great family, and I have a great dog. And that gives people a little bit of insight into my life, which I've had a lot of feedback from people within the organization, you know, Firefighters, Lieutenants, Captains, who I don't really know have reached out to me, and they really liked the message. And on a sort of a selfish personal level, it helps break down a barrier that I think being a female from an outside agency coming in can just naturally create for me with some of the firefighters here.
Carla Grimann: No, and it's, and it's great. I think it just, I like that you're doing it so that people can learn a little bit about you. And so that you're not just a position, you're a human with an outside life.
Celine Lemire: Yeah. Yeah.
Carla Grimann: Thank you so much for the tips. And I know you've said that you don't see yourself as a brave person. But you know, just chatting with you for the short time. I think bravery can have very different faces and very different looks. And the fact that you've been brave enough to have those challenging conversations, you've been brave enough to set those boundaries and stand by them, you know, that can cause a lot of conflict for some people. So, you know, I view you as a very brave person for you for doing those things. So thank you. And thank you again for sharing the tips. And thank you for joining us on our podcast today.
Celine Lemire: Well, thanks so much for having me. Just to be clear, though, like in the organization I'm in, there are people that are so much braver, and they actually put everybody else ahead of themselves and their family, and I would never want it to take away from what a firefighter's actual job is because it's going to every single overdose, every motor vehicle accident, every medical incident, every fire, every call for help or support that comes in. And that's much bigger than you know, having a difficult conversation and those conversations have value. But there are people here that are actually saving people's lives every day, and I don't want to take away from that. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great.
Carla Grimann: This is Talk It Forward, brought to you by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation with support from the City of Vancouver. On today's show, we're talking about self-advocacy and setting boundaries and the importance of doing this. Next, we'll be chatting with Donnie Rosa, General Manager of the Vancouver Park Board. Donnie Rosa is the general manager of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. They oversee 250 Parks, 24 community centers, three championship golf courses, and many destination and neighbourhood parks. Donnie was a professional hockey player and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. They were a coach for the Team Canada program for the International Ice Hockey Federation. They take great pride in the work that the Park Board does to make everyone feel welcome, safe, and included. And welcome back to Talk It Forward. On today's episode, we're chatting with Donnie Rosa, General Manager of the Vancouver Park Board. Welcome to the studio, Donnie.
Donnie Rosa: So once again Carla, I'm thrilled to be here.
Carla Grimann: Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join us. And you know, I know you've had sort of a unique career trajectory from a professional hockey player to now the General Manager of the Park Board. How have you had to advocate for yourself throughout your unique career?
Donnie Rosa: You know, I can look across my entire career, and I can't think of a time where I didn't have to advocate for myself. You know, playing women's hockey, and you know, I consider these air quotes for professional women's hockey. We had to fight to be seen as professional even though we were the highest level. The next level was Olympics. But really, we were the highest level of organized women's hockey. And, you know, we were fighting to get ice time; we were fighting to get respect. We were fighting to get airtime, and you know, publicly, so I can't remember a time in my career where I wasn't advocating for equality for equity.
Carla Grimann: That's tough. It sounds exhausting. Did you make any headway with that? Or, you know, does it look different now compared to back then?
Donnie Rosa: A 1,000%, it looks better now. And you know, I played my university hockey in like the late 80s, early 90s. And even then, there was a thing called Title Nine in the United States that said, Whatever you invest in men's hockey or men's sport, you had to invest in women's sport equal, but nobody enforced it. Today, it's enforced today; you're seeing women go public. I mean, you know, I'm aging myself, but we didn't have, you know, Twitter, we didn't have the social media that we have now, to expose these things we were we were kind of talking to each other, but nobody was hearing us. You know, I remember the men's football team would lose every game in the season and still have the front page while the women's hockey team went undefeated and was somewhere buried in the back pages. Today, women are realizing that you don't accept that you bring that to light and let people decide, is that right or wrong? And we're all deciding that that it's wrong. But throughout my career, there have been a number of things that I've seen, even having women as leaders in municipal government; when I was coming through, I didn't see that.
Carla Grimann: I'm glad to hear that it is starting to change your messaging, sort of like the social media and how you can use that to empower voices. You know, such as podcast, but technology has given us a lot of positives. But it's also given us some negatives like, for an example. I remember when I first started here at the Vancouver Park Board as a Fleet Supervisor. I think it was four or five months in on the job. So still under that probationary period. And at that point in time, I think I still felt like I had to impress, and I actually went on vacation to Maui, and you know, technology had my work cell phone with me. Not very good thing to do, I guess. And you know what, I opened it up. I opened it up, and I looked at some of my emails, and I read an email where I was like, Oh, this is you know, fleet related. I kind of am the only one that has this answer. So I answered the email. About two hours later. My Cell Phone rings. And at the time, Howard Norman was the director of operations. And so his name pops up, and I'm like, whoo, I better answer this. And so I answer it. And he's like, Hey, how's it going? And I'm like, good. He's like, how’s Maui? How was your vacation? Like, it's great. We did the Haleakala sunrise yesterday; tomorrow, we're going to do the road to Hana, so on and so forth. And he's like, that's awesome. So like, how close are you to the beach. And I'm like, Oh, pretty close. It's like a five-minute walk. And he's like, great, do me a favour, I want you to go walk to the beach. Right, after we hang up this phone, I want you to walk to the beach. And you're going to take your cell phone with you. And you're going to get as close to the water as possible. And you're going to fling this phone into the ocean. Actually don't really do that. But I want you to turn your phone off and promise me that you're not going to look at it. So I think it just, you know, goes to show how important it is that we need to disconnect. And I'm wondering, like, Have you ever thrown your phone into the beach? Do you disconnect when you are on vacation? And if not, why not? But it's important. Why do you think it's important that we fully disconnect?
Donnie Rosa: Carla, I'm so thrilled that he suggested you do that. I think it's the best advice. I absolutely disconnect. And what I've even set up with the team, my leadership team is look, let's not do emails after 5:30 or on weekends, if it's that important, pick up the phone and call me I'll take your call. But frankly, if I'm on vacation, and if you're on vacation, somebody else is capable of making those decisions. I am not the only one who holds the answer. It's got to be pretty much an emergency for them to call me. And, you know, I like to make myself available all the time. But I also know that if I do that, then my team expects that they're supposed to do that, and so on and so on. So I've made a commitment. You know, and I'll just tell you straight off. I've made a commitment that every morning, I will have coffee with my wife. I do everything I can to not change that sacred time to me. So I make sure we carve that time. I really want people working with us who are balanced. I don't want people who feel like they have to be tethered to a phone. And I don't want to be tethered.
Carla Grimann: So Donnie, like, what if someone is calling you after hours, and it's not an emergency, and they ring you on the phone? What do you do?
Donnie Rosa: Well, you know, what if they call after hours, I do answer because, you know, in our line, I mean, there could be critical things that happen after hours. But if it's not an emergency, I would definitely either say to them, can this wait till tomorrow? And I've had that happen where I've said yep, that thank you. Why don't we connect tomorrow on this? And then we have a conversation about hey, I need you to respect my time because I'm going to respect your time.
Carla Grimann: That's good.
Donnie Rosa: You know, I really respect when leaders respect people's time; you know, respecting time and family is important. Also, I mean, obviously respecting them as human beings, but specifically respecting people's time is a huge one.
Carla Grimann: Yeah, I agree. It's like there is more to life than just work.
Donnie Rosa: For goodness sake. There is, yeah, I heard somebody say, I am employed by the organization, but I work for my family. I work for this lifestyle, I work for them, but I'm employed by I don't. It's not my owner.
Carla Grimann: And you know, I think that also causes like, if you aren't operating that way, it can create that toxic environment, and it can create a lot of burnout. But what advice would you have for, say, a young woman, who is trying to get to that next level or trying to find, you know, that that opportunity to act in, you know, a leadership capacity to prove their worth? But there is that fear, you know, they are there are competing for leadership position. And they might be intimidated to say no or to set those boundaries or advocate for themselves because they're going to be seen as unavailable. And oh, well, if they're not available during an emergency situation, then you know, that's a problem, and they might not be the best person or the best candidate for this job. So how do we, how do we help them? How do we advocate for them? How can we give them courage to set those boundaries?
Donnie Rosa: Yeah, excellent points. So to me, and I'm the leader of this organization, to me, we need to be looking at what we are rewarding. What behaviour are we rewarding? If we are rewarding and looking as at success, the definition of success, in a way, that means you're tethered to your phone and your 24/7, then we're doing the wrong thing. I work very hard to make sure my team knows that I trust them. When I'm off, I trust them to make decisions. And I push them to take that attitude with their teams. If I can't be off and trust my team, then I have other issues I got to work on with my team. I want balanced people; I do not want people who are on the edge all the time, tethered to their phones, or tethered to their work, or losing out on opportunities. There are times when I had male leaders tell me, you know, you have to be more of a bee in order to be respected. And my response to that, and at the time, it was pretty ballsy, I would say was I would rather earn people's respect by giving respect than be something that I'm not interested in being we have, historically, and this organization is no different. We have historically said that in order to be a leader, you have to be a certain way. And you have to downplay your emotional intelligence. And I've held on. I had one or two mentors throughout my career who said, Nah, that's actually what sets you apart, your emotional intelligence, your ability to connect with people, your ability to put people first, and actually really care about the person more than you care about the output. That's what makes you a strong leader. And I'm leading with that heart now as much as I can. And what I'm coming to see around me is that the world is changing slowly, but it's changing. And so for those women who have been told before me, to lose that, to lose that side of you to become more like the patriarchy, that advice no longer stands. That actually is a weakness. And being you know, and I've always said, I'm like a willow. I'm strong, like the willow I’ll bend, but I'm not gonna break. But I'll bend and the bend for the people not for not for anything else, but you bend to do right by people. And I'll just finish with this. If you treat people right, they'll go the extra mile; you don't have to actually enforce it. You don't have to be, you know, a dictator; you can actually have people really love what they're doing. And then they, they're great performers.
Carla Grimann: That's beautiful and can I just say I'm, I'm so thankful that you're my General Manager. I am so fortunate. And we at the Park Board are so fortunate to have you leading and changing the face of leadership. So truly, thank you so much.
Donnie Rosa: I'm privileged, Carla. And I have to say it's folks like you, it's women like you who lift me up and remind me that, you know, I can with great power comes great responsibility; I can't lose this opportunity.
Carla Grimann: Thank you. So has there been any other times when you've had to sort of set or enforce boundaries in your work career, like at home, you know, work-life or how people treat and speak to you?
Donnie Rosa: Yeah, for sure. You know, I have a couple of stories come to mind. My wife has really helped me set boundaries. She's incredibly patient and incredibly supportive. But there are times when she'll say to me, I need your face now, which means put down your phone and be present. She says it in a nice way and so it makes me smile. And I'm like, Yep, I'm here, I'm present. And there's no job in this world that's more important to me than my relationship. So I prioritize that way. Yeah, you know, I'm reminded of a time, you know, setting the boundaries is interesting. I was running a community center and the person walked in a guy who needed to change the blade on the Zamboni. And he walked in, and he said to me, Hey, can you point me to where the guy in charge is? And I looked at him, and the guy who worked with me, who reported to me was kind of cut following up behind, and I looked at this guy, and I said, Well, I'm the guy in charge. And he didn't know what to say; he stumbled, and the staff person who walked up, who was actually going to go help him, you know, show him where to replace the blade, walked up, and he said, Yep, she's the guy in charge, talk to her and in that moment, I realized I had set boundaries. I had been clear. And my team, my team supported me, and I think that was a pretty important moment for me. It stands out to me as Yeah; I'm doing the right things with my team because they get the importance of women being able to hold positions of power and supporting that.
Carla Grimann: And it's also great to that you had allies within your team. I feel getting more and more common that way, I often meet with vendors, and I will invite some of my team members, you know, to look at new equipment, so on and so forth. And we would find that the vendors start, you know, positioning their bodies and directing the questions to my male colleagues, and this fellow has actually retired, but he was an older, white privilege male. And he would just constantly like, you know, stare into the vendor's eyes and be like, Well, I don't know if we can buy it or not, why don't you talk to my boss? She's standing right there.
Donnie Rosa: Amazing.
Carla Grimann: It was just a constant thing with him.
Donnie Rosa: But see, you did it. You did the work leading up to that moment. And that's what I mean; we have to do the work leading up to that moment so that they respect that moment. And that's awesome. That's an awesome story.
Carla Grimann: Yeah, no, it's great. So like, how do you think we can, you know, create more gender equality in our workplaces? And do you have any advice for other leaders on how they can create more equality so that, you know, we don't have to do all the work but still have all these allies?
Donnie Rosa: Yeah, you know what, I think we need to take advantage of this moment in time, where we have an awareness like never before. I think we have to take advantage of this moment in time with media, like you're saying, with people like you, with people like me in leadership positions, you know, I believe, I know, I'm the second woman to be the General Manager of the Park Board. And from what I understand, I'm the first openly gender diverse person to lead the Park Board. And so we have to, we have to take advantage of this moment in time to say, hey, yeah, let's look at how we're doing things. Let's really examine our system. And we know we're doing the work to decolonize our system. And I think that will only help us uncover some of the inequity and women within this system and our place. I think that will be clearly defined as we go through this process as well. And so what do we do? We keep talking.
Carla Grimann: And may ask you, it's hard for women to reach for leadership; there's all these barriers. But you, as a gender diverse person, did you find it even more difficult? And would you have any advice for, you know, someone who is also gender diverse and trying to strive for leadership?
Donnie Rosa: Yeah, you know, I remember one time where I found out after the fact that I was being made fun of with a group; this was way back in my career because of being gender diverse. And, you know, I, I think I'm a little naive, because I just always assume people see me first and all that others, like, I don't think about people's gender and their sex lives when I meet them. So I think they're not thinking of mine. And I honestly, to find out that people had mocked me made me sad. But it also made me realize that not everybody is going to embrace me. And so, I needed to grow a bit of a thick skin. But one guy came up to me, and this was in a previous setting. And he thanked me when I was leaving. And he said, Because of you living out and open the way you do, I wear nail polish to work, and it makes me smile. And at that moment, I thought, yeah, you, as a young, gender diverse person, you need to feel like you can express yourself in your work setting. And so, I think my responsibility is to live openly to live my values and to welcome others into this space. And I welcome I welcome people to talk to me; I am open to talking about it. If folks feel like, you know, they're alone here. You're not. I'm here. And I will make the time. And I think the same goes with women who feel like they're in a very male setting. You know, I want I want us to make this a place where we all feel comfortable and safe and so the only way to do that is for us to truly listen and connect with each other and come up with ways find ways for us to connect. And I think Rena Sutar said it best let's not work within the patriarchy; let's smash down the patriarchy and create our own system. And it's not a system of, you know, women are the best. No, it's a system of equity where we take care of everybody.
Carla Grimann: Thank you for striving to make this workplace a safe place and a welcoming place and allowing us to set boundaries and self-advocate. Just wondering like, Have you had any other experiences with harassment in the workplace? And what happened? And what did you do? What was the outcome of that?
Donnie Rosa: I had a years ago. I had a situation where I had a, somebody who I reported to an elected official actually, who made a comment about an inappropriate comment about me in a sexual way. And I honestly, I was just flabbergasted because I was, you know, I was out as being gay. What are you talking about? And like, I was just shocked, I was really shocked. And I didn't know in the moment; it was the first time it happened to me, I didn't know what to say or do. So on my walk back to my office, which was like down the street around the corner kind of thing. I had a few minutes to think. And I thought I need to go to my Direct Supervisor and tell them of this. So I went back and told them, and he said, Oh, good. What do we need from that elected official? What do we how can we leverage this for good? And I thought, Oh, my God, I'm alone. I'm alone; oh, this person is meant to protect me by calling out a system that's not protecting me. And calling out a behavior that's, that's making me feel so uncomfortable. And so I kind of sat with it for a few days. And then I went to talk to HR. And, you know, retrospect, this wasn't the only act this supervisor had done over the years. But I, I think it happened slowly; his behaviour was kind of little bits at a time. And it just, it kind of grew to this. So I went to the head of HR. And she said to me, do you really want to take on this battle? Oh, my God, I'm alone. I'm really alone, even the head of HR. So what I did was I had a file; it was a pretty thick file. And I went in to the head of the organization, and I said, Look, you know, we have this human rights file, or we have this letter from my lawyer. Which one do you want to go? And, you know, but I'll tell you, that took a couple of years, it wasn't an overnight, it took a long time for me to muster the courage, I had to track and a document in order to truly expose this behaviour. Because I was a leader in this organization and I did not want to be part of that. So I needed to, I needed to take action. And, you know, it worked out sort of, but I do think that I feel better about having taken that action.
Carla Grimann: I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. But good on you for taking action. Because if that was happening to you as a leader, what could have been going on to those employees that were not in that leadership position?
Donnie Rosa: Yeah.
Carla Grimann: You know, I kind of cringe to think of it.
Donnie Rosa: And you know, what, Carla, that was it when I realized that. And I realized, oh, my gosh, I'm responsible. That's what gave me the courage and actually made me realize, yeah, it's more than even just having the courage. It's, I actually I have a responsibility within this organization, but to other women who are exposed to this person. It's just wrong. And I just wrong. I was like, How does nobody see this? How does nobody see that this person is getting away with this and building a culture that is perpetuating this.
Carla Grimann: Says it's acceptable.
Donnie Rosa: Yeah.
Carla Grimann: Well, I really hope that the supervisor that you reported to and asked for help, and I hope that the HR department that you went to for help, took some lessons away from that situation and the fact that you documented, documented, documented, and, you know, went in and said, Hey, do you want this, you know, gigantic file or this letter from my lawyer. So making changes.
Donnie Rosa: Between us and everybody who's listening, they are no longer working there.
Carla Grimann: There you go. Thank you so much, Donnie, for joining us again, on Talk It Forward, a pleasure to have you and thank you for sharing your amazing stories with us and again for making a safe workplace.
Donnie Rosa: Thank you, Carla. And thank you for the work you're doing to bring this subject to light for us.
Carla Grimann: This has been Talk It Forward, and I'm your host Carla Grimann. Thank you for listening in today. And please remember that speaking up for yourself and setting boundaries while they can be uncomfortable and it can be intimidating it's really important. Know that your needs are valid and are worth fighting for. If you like what you hear. Please share this with your friends and colleagues. If you would like to learn more about what the city of Vancouver is doing to support women in the workplace, please visit vancouver.ca/women's equity. Thanks for tuning in, take care and talk soon.