• Editorial

External Relations - Marni Panas

Written by: Rachita Chugh

As seen in the November 2018 issue of Lazy Faire magazine

Marni Panas is a transgender woman, a parent, and a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional (CCIP™). As the Interim Lead of the D&I team at Alberta Health Services (AHS), Marni is committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces for all. Her involvement and contributions extend far beyond AHS, however. She has also worked with the government at all departments and levels, health institutions, educational institutions, corrections and law enforcement, and several private organizations.

Marni received the Human Rights award from the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights in 2014 and was named Global News Woman of Vision for May 2018. She also played an instrumental role in writing gender identity and gender expression into Alberta’s and Canada’s Human Rights Act. In 2017, Marni was also part of a committee that drafted the apology Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered in the House of Commons to the LGBTQ2S+ community.

This month Lazy Faire had the opportunity to sit down with Marni to learn more about her role at AHS and the importance of Diversity and Inclusion in organizations.

Thank you for sitting down with us. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do?

I am an interim lead for Diversity and Inclusion with Alberta Health Services. Our work involves creating a safe and inclusive environment for our colleagues, patients and families, volunteers, physicians, midwives, and students. Our work is about ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities for success. As an open transgender woman who transitioned later in life, I recognize that people face many barriers in bringing their whole selves to work, and D&I is about removing them.

What do you like most about your job?

I love the people that I work with. I believe that everybody is in this work to create a better existence for all of Alberta. Being Canada’s largest healthcare provider, AHS has the opportunity to impact change beyond the walls of our building and the borders of our province. This work is as close as you can get to being a clinician and impacting people’s lives without being a healthcare provider.

What does a typical workday for you look like?

The typical workday doesn’t exist! Some days I’m presenting to teams throughout the organization on topics like Unconscious Bias or Intergenerational Relationships. Other days I provide consulting services to teams within AHS and other public and private organizations who wish to embed inclusion into their everyday work. I work with senior and executive leadership, as well as other stakeholders to further expand our work. Lastly, our team develops various resources to arm our people with the right tools to make their workplaces more inclusive and provide the best care and services to patients and families.

What have been some of the greatest highlights of your career in D&I (or AHS in general)?

We’ve been able to build D&I into our core strategy which has helped us impact change throughout the entire organization. Personally, I was able to embed protection for gender identity and gender expression into the Human Rights Act and actually changed legislation. However, the greatest reward I’ve received is the feedback from people all over the organization. People often tell me that the work we do enabled them to come out at work or celebrate their faith at work – that’s what feeds my passion for this work.

You’re dedicated to promoting inclusivity for more than 108,000 people – you’re a champion for D&I in the community. What’re some of the obstacles and challenges you’ve encountered in your role?

Initially, the challenge was to build a business case for D&I – talking about why D&I matters and how it impacts the organization. That message varies according to the audience. For example, with executive leadership it was about determining the return on investment of D&I, and for the medical team it was showing the positive impact D&I has on patient and family experience.

Currently, the obstacle (or rather opportunity) has been to meet the demand of our people. So many people want to do better and are seeking our guidance and support. I view this as a reflection of how far we’ve come in just a few years.

What is the next goal for Marni Panas?

I wanted to take on more leadership roles, and I’ve been fortunate enough to do so this year! Along my journey, I’ve learnt to follow the road wherever it leads me. I do believe that there are many great things ahead, but my ultimate goal is to ensure that everybody feels as whole and safe in their career, as I’ve felt in mine. If everyone felt the way I did, I can’t imagine what we’d accomplish for the health of our province.

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