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Creating inclusive spaces for GC collaboration – An interview with Jose Jimenez

This article was previously published on CDS’s LinkedIn page in June 2023. Check out the original post.

“There’s a quote from the Hamilton musical that says ‘Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.’ It has always struck me, particularly working in the public service.”

– Jose Jimenez (Growth team for CDS Platform products).

As public servants, it’s important for us to take inclusive approaches in our work. Inclusion is an active practice that creates environments where the people we serve and the public servants we work with who are 2SLGBTQ+ and/or other marginalized identities feel like they belong and are cared for as humans.

One of the ways we’re celebrating Pride season is by talking about the ways we’re being intentional about inclusivity in our work. Read our interview with Jose below!

Q1: First of all, happy Pride month! Second, can you share a little about yourself and your work at CDS?

Thank you and happy Pride month! First off, a little about myself: I grew up in a small country in South America called Ecuador. As you can guess, I speak Spanish, alongside English and a bit of French. Some of my most formative moments have included the work of public servants, both as an immigrant and now as a young professional having worked in multiple departments. 

I consider myself curious by nature. I’m lucky I’ve had the privilege to work with people who are happy to answer my questions, allowing me to learn from them. I now do the same with others by being involved in learning campaigns at the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) and the Federal Youth Network (FYN). In the past few years, I’ve been able to host and participate in discussions around neurodivergence, intersectional queerness, immigration and culture, ideas of “masculinity”, and dealing with emotions like rejection. 

I started my career in the GC as a student at CDS, working for the partnerships team. It taught me a lot about the dynamics of government and how to communicate with public servants from different parts of the organization. I then worked for another department before coming back to CDS as a student on the COVID Alert support team. After graduating from Carleton University’s Public Affairs and Policy Management program, I ran the events service at CDS. 

I’m now working for CDS’s Platform Growth team as a Technical Marketer for the GC Forms product – but I like to describe my job as being a curious helper. Working in the GC, there are a lot of nuances and important considerations when offering solutions, such as security, accessibility, policies and mandates, and business/processing constraints. A lot of my work is meeting and collaborating with public servants to understand their context and explore if GC Forms could be a useful solution (check out the tool).

Q2: How do you intentionally create spaces where people feel like they belong, avoiding unconsciously excluding diverse identities?

There are many ways I approach this in my work. Mainly by de-gendering my communications to make them more inclusive for diverse audiences. My native tongue is Spanish, which is a very gendered language – it’s ingrained in the way I was raised to speak. In the same way as French, nouns have a gender assigned to them. For example: A ‘car’ (el carro) is a masculine noun and a ‘cup’ (la taza) is feminine. My colleague Marie-Sophie actually recently wrote a blog on how the linguistic services team is working to de-gender French job postings at CDS – I recommend checking it out!

For me, trying to find gender-neutral ways to communicate is an active practice that has improved over time. For example, when giving GC Forms demos, I refer to user tasks as “you can click x” vs “he or she can click x”.  I also don’t assume pronouns in written or verbal conversations, defaulting to using they/them pronouns when it’s unknown (and switching if I learn theirs). It’s a small thing, but a conscious effort we can all do to be respectful.

Being inclusive in communications isn’t limited to gender and sexuality.  I’ve heard too many sports metaphors like ‘Monday-morning quarterback’ that I don’t really understand – I’ve only played football recreationally a couple of times – leaving me guessing what it could mean. I try to use inclusive metaphors and sayings that everyone can understand, not just people with specific interests or identities.

On the topic of inclusion, I want to share “The international guide to gender-inclusive writing” that can help people using our GC Forms product!

Q3: Any other thoughts you want to share on the topic of inclusivity in the public service?

There’s a quote from the Hamilton musical that says “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.’ It has always struck me, particularly working in the public service. 

Belonging is the legacy that blooms from inclusion. While we may create inclusive spaces, it doesn’t mean that those new to the table feel like they belong. To me, it puts into perspective the privileges and obligations we have as public servants to do good and be mindful in our approaches. Not just in our ways of working, but for the public we serve – the public that we’re a part of too. The impacts of government work are so wide and large, we can’t fully know the extent of them. Our actions and decisions today can have impacts down the road, like policies shaping the ways people approach work 10 years from now. It’s on all of us, as public servants, to bring inclusion into our work so that belonging can flourish for those that come after us.

Join digital communities!

If you’re part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and work / are interested in tech (including those in supporting roles like comms and admin), I suggest checking out QueerTech! They have events, resources, and mentoring available for queer people.

Lastly, if you’re in need of web forms or are exploring ways to get information from those you serve, check out GC Forms. Myself and the team are here to listen and help.