From the UK to B.C.: Jen Marchbank's story is about taking risks and giving back
Our SheTalks slogan is ‘tell me your story,’ so let me tell you a little of mine.
I am an academic (trained in political science and history) and a mother. I work at Simon Fraser University in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and have to say that moving to B.C. has been one of the best decisions of my life.
My journey actually began in 2004 when I sold my house and my car, took a year of unpaid absence from my academic management post in the UK, moved my then-three-year-old to Washington, D.C. and took a teaching position as a visiting academic at George Washington University for a year. GWU was a wonderful experience and in that year I also got my co-authored text book written! Well, mostly.
Whilst I was in Washington, a friend spotted a job posting for an interdisciplinary scholar for a new program at SFU. I applied. I got an interview and in April, flew into Vancouver on a beautiful, clear day that showcased the mountains and the ocean. I thought, "okay, this is where you can raise a kid, better ace that interview." As you have guessed, I managed that and started at SFU that September, not knowing anyone in Canada, let alone B.C. It was a risk but wow, has it paid off!
I choose to live in Surrey as that was where I was working and still try to as much as possible. I love this city: the people, the diversity, the opportunities. Within a year, I bought a house, met my future wife and returned to doing the youth work that had paid for my living expenses as a graduate student. I became the neighbourhood taxi mom that drove not just my kids to school daily, but also kids from two other families. I’ve been lucky in that the core of my neighbours have become friends and like us, are not tempted to sell our homes and move despite the regular targeting by realtors in our neighbourhood.
I’ve always had a community focus and have always been involved in volunteering in my communities – from welfare rights in Glasgow as an undergraduate, to youth work, to being the president of the Surrey Pride Society, to being on the SheTalks board.
Four years ago, my wife Sylvie and I established Youth for A Change, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and allied youth to be advocates and educators. We've educated school classes, school teachers, RCMP, community workers and more. We've created art shows and exhibits, performed theatrical shows (with a group of queer elders, QUIRK-E), and won international and local recognition. Our young people are amazing.
SheTalks is also amazing. I love the camaraderie we have at SheTalks and appreciate the way we hold women up. We provide opportunities to let women tell their stories and for our audiences to hear not only tales of empowerment and success, but also of adversity and loss.
I love the space we create to support early career innovators and allow them to showcase their work, especially at SheTalks Technology (Nov. 5 in Vancouver) where SFU students will be exhibiting their technological developments and networking with our speakers and guests.
I love the support we are able to offer women who are starting a new phase of their lives and those continuing their amazing work across so many, many sectors. I am also in charge of developing our pool of volunteers and managing them at events. Through this I’ve spent time with some lovely people, men as well as women. Some are often more voluntold than volunteered, but they do a great job and love it, too.
So, that’s some of my story. Come and join us at our events and learn the stories of other women and perhaps even tell us yours.
- Jen Marchbank is a core committee member of SheTalks