Ocean EDI&A

How diverse perspectives can break down barriers in Canada’s Blue Economy

Written by
Kyryn Swanson
Published on
July 23, 2024

All workplaces are made up of individuals who bring unique perspectives and life experiences to their work, Canada’s ocean sector is no different. 

Canada’s Blue Economy is a fast-growing industry that needs a diverse range of individuals to achieve growth and innovation. One way to reach our Blue Economy growth goals is through Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA). Through EDIA, we can create a space in the ocean sector where everyone feels welcome enough to contribute their unique perspectives and expertise and bring their authentic selves into the workplace. A diversity of perspectives in oceans is essential for innovation, workforce development, and, ultimately, the growth of the Blue Economy. 

But how do we welcome more diverse perspectives to the ocean industry? One way is to embrace our intersectionality and share our unique ocean stories. 

Intersectionality 

Intersectionality can be described as the different identities and the positionalities based in those identities, that an individual has. These can include race, religion, socio-economic status and gender identity and expression. A simple way to think of intersectionality comes from Brandeis University lecturer Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson who says1:

“Think of it [intersectionality] like the ingredients needed to make a cake. Take the eggs, milk, flour, and other ingredients, blend them together and bake, and the final product is the cake.

In people, the ingredients are the characteristics they use to identify themselves — male, female, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Bostonian, etc. Like eggs, flour, milk, and sugar intersect to make a cake, those are some of the intersecting ingredients that might make up a person.”

These key ‘ingredients’ of someone's identity intersect and can impact how they are treated in workplaces and social situations and the opportunities they can access. These potential challenges exist in the ocean industry as well. 

To overcome these barriers and grow the Blue Economy workforce, we need to embrace intersectionality and accept a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. One impactful way that an individual's intersectionality and diverse perspectives can be shared and embraced in the  Blue Economy, is through ocean storytelling. 

Ocean Storytelling 

Storytelling is the oldest form of communication, dating back centuries. When we share stories, we create immediate connections with each other2. In fact, neuroscientists attribute storytelling to social bonding behaviour3

For many of us in the ocean industry, the decision to pursue our careers is often tied to the ocean - whether that comes from a childhood memory, an interest in science, or an ocean-related challenge - a connection to the ocean inspired us to take action. Since our individual ocean stories are connected to our unique experiences as individuals, and thereby make up an ingredient in our intersectionality cake, sharing them with others creates opportunities for empathy and understanding. 

Empathy and understanding are key to a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible workplace. When we understand and appreciate each other’s ocean stories and the diverse backgrounds that individuals come from, we can better integrate these perspectives into our workplaces, and into the Blue Economy overall. With Canada’s Blue Economy set to grow by 220 billion dollars in the next 10 years, we need all the diverse perspectives and backgrounds that we can get to contribute to the workforce and innovation that is needed to support that growth. 

The importance of diverse perspectives in telling your ocean story

So how do ocean stories and intersectionality go together? 

Including your different positionalities and identities (a.k.a the ingredients in your cake) in your ocean story helps you bring your full and authentic self into it and inspires a deeper connection with whoever you are sharing it with. 

When you bring your authentic self into your ocean story, you're showing others that every individual has a place in the Blue Economy, regardless of background or identity. Not only will you contribute your own personal experience to the ocean sector by sharing a story influenced by your various identities and positionalities, but you can also help to inspire others and be a role model for how the Blue Economy can support someone living a similar experience to you. As best described by Marian Wright Edelman ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

The more people who openly share their stories and bring their positionalities and identities into those stories, the more we can chip away at unconscious biases and break down societal barriers to accessing and participating in the Blue Economy. The more we discuss how we have overcome barriers in our ocean stories, the more people can overcome those barriers and break them down for future generations of Blue Economy members while strengthening the innovative potential that a diverse Blue Economy can achieve. 

Telling Your Ocean Story with Intersectionality in mind 

Now that you understand the importance of diverse perspectives in your ocean story, you may wonder how to tell it while incorporating your various positionalities and identities. 

Here are some tips to get you started!

  1. Start by thinking of your identities and positionalities both in and outside of the Blue Economy
    1. For example, are you a parent? Artist? Volunteer? 
    2. Don’t shy away from including every piece of your identity in your story 
  1. Think about the ways your identity played a role in your journey to become part of the ocean sector
    1. Did your diverse perspectives help you in finding your niche? 
    2. If you faced barriers, how did you overcome them? 
    3. How have your identities and positionalities influenced your motivations to succeed in the Blue Economy? 
  1. Next time you tell you ocean story, think about these questions and incorporate the answers to showcase your entire journey and role model ways that others can follow a similar journey to the Blue Economy

Example: 

I’m Kyryn, I have lived in an ocean community in Nova Scotia my entire life! I’ve loved the sea breeze, beautiful coastlines, and all of the amazing wildlife the ocean provides for as long as I can remember. As a neurodivergent individual, the ocean has always been a place of solace and relaxation for me, and continues to bring me a sense of calmness and acceptance. 

To bring this feeling of calmness into my daily life, I decided to pursue a career in the Blue Economy, to help balance my mental health on a daily basis, and to help others like me see themselves in a similar role in the Blue Economy where they can enjoy everything the ocean offers us.  

Share Your Ocean Story 

The next time you share your ocean story, you can incorporate these tips to show your audience that the Blue Economy has a place for everyone! 

We want to hear your unique ocean story, share on Linked In and tag Pisces EDIA or use #OceanStories.

Sources:

  1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/10/intersectionality-the-many-layers-of-an-individual/
  2. https://www.piscesrpm.com/ocean-insights/ocean-storytelling---how-to-harness-the-power-of-story-and-blue-mind 
  3. https://www.remento.co/journal/why-your-brain-loves-a-great-story-paul-j-zak#:~:text=Lab%20research%20has%20shown%20that,they%20feel%2C%20what%20they%20feel

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Kyryn Swanson
July 23, 2024

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