There are so many…. My first day at my current job was April 1st, 2020 – 6 days before the peak of COVID Wave 1 in NYC. I’ve never been more scared in my life, but at the same time being thrown into a fully active and very busy command center was an incredible experience. Everything we worked on in the first weeks/months had a lot of meaning, we saved lives. Along with that was the opening of the vaccination POD. I didn’t actually manage that project but helped wherever I could with managing it. I was actually able to support the front line staff, acting as a greeter, directing patients to where they needed to go, and supporting our staff with the challenges of long lines and not enough appointments. The relief that radiated off the patients and their gratitude made me cry almost every day. I heard so many courageous and touching stories from the people as we waited together for their appointments.
When I worked for the Attorney General in Ontario, Canada, one of my biggest concerns was prepping the courthouses across the province for disasters. I started that job with a tornado touching down and severely damaging a courthouse in town. While I marveled at the dedication of the staff to keep the courts running no matter what, there were a number of issues of fatigue and burnout in the end (following some cascading events both local and in other areas of the province). Creating preparedness has a lot to do with creating a culture within an organization that embraces the concept that it’s really all about the people. We worked hard and developed that culture and all the training that went with it (it took YEARS). Then one day an active shooter entered one of our courthouses, shooting one of the police officers before being shot and killed. The building was locked down for hours and as much as we tried, communication was challenging. People trapped in the building were blocked off from everything, scared to touch their phones, Our plans worked! As scary as it was, we were able to remediate the damage to the lobby and we set up extensive services for staff. Almost everyone returned on the following Monday, and those that stayed away were only gone for a few days before they felt comfortable to return. We recovered quickly because of the preparedness work we were able to do.
Despite a near 50/50 split in gender graduating from EM programs, gender equity, especially pay equity, is still a very real problem in emergency management.
Women are generally discouraged from applying for roles when they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications where men get offers when they meet only 60% of the requirements (Hannon, 2014). Salaries are not always tied to qualifications either – meaning even when women meet 100% of their qualifications (or more), they’re still generally offered less base salary.
Salary range transparency, training in negotiation skills, and sponsorship/mentorship opportunities for women need to be in the best practices of all employers. As women, it’s on all of us to lift other women as we rise – we need to be excellent sponsors for other women in emergency management as well as good coaches.
It is going to be interesting to see what happens when more and more states move to salary transparency laws (and other countries for that matter). In Ontario, public service employees (very broadly defined by sectors that receive public funding for staff) salaries are reported on a “sunshine list”. It was much easier for me to see how my salary related to those in positions in similar or same roles in both my organization but others. It’s an extreme example because it provides an exact salary as reported on tax forms, but the outcome was a closer parity between staff in related jobs. Companies worked harder to identify key components of a job title and then what qualifications/qualities were worth more or less salary. Someone with a relevant masters would be paid more than someone with a bachelors degree. Posting a salary range transparently shows that an organization is committed to equity.
I’m currently sitting on the Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) Commission through the International Association of Emergency Management (IAEM). Essentially, I’m part of the team that board certifies emergency managers. The role is challenging but very rewarding. I help set the direction of emergency management around the world and support and mentor numerous candidates through the process. It’s a fun way to contributed and engage with the emergency management community.
Outside of work, I love the arts and supporting artists. I’m probably the least artistic person you’ll ever meet and I’m in awe of the work, dedication, and commitment it takes to produce beauty that thrives around us. Over the past two years, I’ve had some great discussions with artists and often I hear, “I’m just an artist,” as part of the discussion around responding to and recovering from COVID. Art is a huge driver of disaster recovery, personally and as a community. We express ourselves through art in all its forms and it’s an important part of community and organizational resiliency. There’s no such thing as, “I’m just….” Despite my lack of talent, I support the arts in every way I can.