Celebrating Our Differences – Using Mentorship as a Tool for Growth, Inclusion, Equity

By: Ogaga Johnson, Technology Leadership Manager, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster & Industry Mentor with Ocean Allies

Diversity, equity, and inclusion – in any sector – are critical to ensuring we have insights and perspectives from a diverse workforce while growing the ocean economy. Growth is limited when inclusion is absent, and to be world-leading, we must consider the opinions of diverse individuals.

The Ocean Allies Role Model Initiative aims to build a roster of diverse superstars in the ocean economy. Doing this helps spotlight diverse individuals thriving in the ocean sector and creates a sense of belonging to others interested in ocean-related careers.

A picture tells a thousand words when talking about having diverse industry role models. Beyond the words, webinars, or opportunities, seeing and learning from others who have succeeded helps paint a picture of what the future can hold for all those who wish to participate in the ocean economy. Seeing people who look like “me” gives powerful reassurance and validity to anyone hoping to enter the ocean space and sends a message that you do not have to look a certain way or have a specific background to have a voice or shine in Canada’s ocean economy.

Leadership in this particular area needs attention in the ocean sector. We need a workforce that enables diverse populations and the ability to advance in positions of leadership and influence. As a young, professional woman from the black community, I can attest to this. We need to see more people like us in leadership and influential positions to know that we are truly welcomed, valued, have the opportunity to grow, and that our voice can be heard. As an Ocean Allies Role Model, I hope I can give this type of affirmation to other young people in the ocean space.

It’s wonderful to see work continuing in this area. To industry, keep shining the spotlight and telling stories of diverse individuals who have excelled in the ocean sector. By providing such visibility, you are helping diverse superstars shine their light even brighter, helping others know it is possible to shine their lights as well. Diverse employees bring a unique perspective and can make a powerful contribution to the workforce. Whether it be race, culture, age, or gender, we all bring special value and insight to the ocean sector.

To my fellow diverse professionals considering participating in ocean – jump on board! Your dreams are valid, and you can achieve them. Your diverse background is not a weakness but instead a strength that you should be proud of. Build your capacity, get the knowledge needed to excel, network, and put yourself forward for opportunities. Do not be intimidated, and always use your difference as an advantage to shine. Remember, you have so much value to contribute to this sector – and it’s needed.

Will there be setbacks? Maybe. But one thing you should never do is quit or stop trying. Find ways to encourage yourself. For me, I always encourage myself through bible affirmations. Always keep moving and making progress!

So far, I have enjoyed my short time in the ocean sector. I have been given several amazing opportunities by my organization, including this guest feature, and being featured as a role model with Ocean Allies. It is a great honor, privilege and very humbling. I see the effort made the Ocean Supercluster and ocean sector as a whole – and I celebrate it. I want to thank all the organizations, individuals and leaders in ocean that are tirelessly working to ensure a more diverse and inclusive sector.

There will always room for improvement, but please don’t get tired, as together we can grow the ocean economy to be a sector that is equitable, diverse and inclusive.

Ogaga Johnson, Technology Leadership Manager, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster & Industry Role Model, Ocean Allies