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“Ping, ping, ping.”
My computer sounded, as nine other summer staffers popped into the orientation video call from all across Canada and even New York.
In a normal year, we would have all been sitting together in a conference room at The Globe and Mail’s Toronto headquarters. But on June 8, 2020, I was starting my first day as a summer digital-content editor from my parents’ home in Vancouver, still slightly groggy from having to wake up early for the Eastern time zone.
In the COVID-19 era, this is the reality of starting a new job: an entirely virtual work experience, devoid of the easy-flowing water-cooler banter that helps colleagues get to know each other.
So far, it has been interesting. While I am enjoying work that I find meaningful and challenging, I also sometimes feel like a body-less head floating as an online avatar, ping-ponging between our office chat app, Slack, and e-mail. It isn’t exactly what I pictured when I was going through interviews back in the fall to land my first post-university job at a major media outlet.
As a young woman of colour, I’m left feeling both a sense of loss and privilege as I embark on my journalism career during the pandemic.
Loss, because I and the nine other women who make up this all-female cohort of summer staffers don’t get the benefit of making an impression on our new colleagues in person and all the opportunities that can come from that. As economist Linda Nazareth outlined in her Globe column, “Informal conversations at work tend to lead to connections and ultimately to assignments and improved career trajectories.”
And, of course, there are the countless lost learning opportunities that come from simply sitting alongside experienced colleagues – the thing that I was most looking forward to when I got my job offer.
Since the very first day, my managers and colleagues at The Globe have made great efforts to make me feel like I’m part of the team, even if we’ve never been in the same room. But there are also challenges facing women when it comes to fitting into a workplace culture, which transcend the limitations of this pandemic and aren’t just limited to journalism.
For instance, there is often a perceived need to constantly do more to prove your worth to your managers, your peers and even yourself, especially as women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome and underestimate their abilities. Remote working adds another layer to the challenge.
“I’d just have to prove myself by doing more, especially now not being able to do those in the normal ways like by showing up and staying longer and talking to people. It’s an extra strain on the experience,” said Mackenzie Lad, an assistant photo editor and designer who is also a summer staffer.
And given the collaborations members of our all-female cohort have been able to do remotely, such as producing this story about new Canadians’ reflections on Canada Day, we are also left wondering how many more ideas we could have brainstormed together and how much deeper our friendships could be, had we all been physically in the same place.
“We could have probably accomplished so much more together, but it’s difficult being dispersed in different cities, provinces and time zones,” said Hannah Alberga, a fellow summer digital-content editor.
Despite all these shortcomings, I’m also aware that I’m in a position of immense luck and privilege to have this role.
The pandemic has disproportionately hit racialized communities and low-income people, who have lost jobs or have not had the luxury of choosing to work remotely. And I’m not grappling with the impossible task of having children underfoot while I do work at home, which has contributed to reducing women’s presence in the workforce to the lowest level since the 1980s.
These statistics left me feeling selfish for worrying about my career development when others have lost so much more.
Thankfully, writer Lori Fox’s Globe Opinion piece helped me wrestle with these conflicted feelings.
“Things are scary. We are allowed to be anxious and afraid right now. We have lost a world. You’ve got permission to grieve,” Fox writes.
Alongside this personal reflection, though, Fox also urges us to “adapt” and “build a new and better world with new and better lives for each of us.”
So instead of fixating on our sole advancement, let’s work together to lift each other up. For me, that can be as small as helping my fellow staffer workshop a headline, or as big as supporting initiatives and pursuing projects that aim to address systemic issues around race, gender, class and accessibility in the industry and beyond.
I take these final words from Fox to heart, when it comes to both my time at The Globe and my place out in the wider world through this pandemic: “Be good to your neighbours and friends. Take care of them as best you can. Don’t let them go without, if it’s possible. We’re going to need each other more than ever.”
What else we’re thinking about
Stuck at home with nowhere to go, I daydream about all the travelling I can do when the pandemic is over. In the meantime, I satiated that desire by investing a small sum from my first Globe paycheque in the complete series of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on YouTube. Watching the show has reminded me of the beauty of the world and the surprising connections that exist out there – a cure for whenever I fall into a pandemic rut.
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