Julie S. Lalonde; Ottawa;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I work to end violence against women in Canada. As you can imagine, I’m a real hoot at parties.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I have a bachelor of arts and masters of arts in Canadian studies and women’s studies from Carleton University. My graduate research is in feminist gerontology. Translation: I studied elderly women.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I spent my entire undergrad selling shoes until I got a job as a teaching assistant. It was the first time I made above minimum wage and had a union. I was over the moon.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
I’ve never really had one big break. I started doing violence against women work under Prime Minister Harper, so there were no breaks to be had! Instead, I’ve created opportunities for myself. I saw work that needed to get done and that nobody was doing it and occupied the gap. It’s been all hustle, all the time.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I spent nearly seven years fighting Carleton University for the creation of a sexual assault centre on campus. It was long, hard, unpaid work. The school president was against us. The administration was against us. It felt impossible. But #NeverthelessShePersisted and the opening of that centre was my moment of validation that this was the work I was put on this Earth to do.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
My first real job in the feminist world was working for an NGO that did advocacy for women’s rights. When Prime Minister Harper came along and cut advocacy from Status of Women’s mandate, tons of organizations lost their funding, including mine. Being laid off was devastating and I feared I’d never find work in this field again. The job market is rough, especially when it comes to social justice work, so I was at a real crossroads as to whether I’d give up and go to the private sector or keep trying to make non-profit work. I fell into self-employment and have been making a living ever since by scrounging up various contracts. I’ve managed to make a living that way since 2011.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Never let perfect stand in the way of good.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Don’t try to save the world. It doesn’t want to be saved.” My dad would tell me that all the time in high school. He was full of shit.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
My work is unique because it’s all women! In fact, I’ve spent way too many meetings with people standing around and asking “Where are all the men?!” So, get with it, dudes. We’re waiting.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
Nope, I most certainly am not. For someone who is bilingual, has a Master’s degree and has been doing this work for over a decade, I am grossly underpaid. I’d be making a killing in the private sector. Instead, I’ve yet to land a permanent position, I haven’t been unionized since I was a TA in grad school and I haven’t had health benefits or paid vacation in over six years. My entire career is hustling for contracts.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we don’t do honourable work. Look, I’m from Sudbury, Ont. I come from generations of miners, labourers and literal lumberjacks. And every single one of those people worked hard so that the next generation could have better opportunities and safer working conditions. The labour market has changed. Keep up, folks.