Shawna Dixon is part of the communications team at the Workers’ Action Centre (WAC), a membership-based organization that facilitates grassroots organizing for fair employment in Ontario. She focuses on communications to keep WAC members informed, engaged and inspired. Shawna is the coordinator of the WAC Members’ Newsletter. Currently, content focuses on the growing $15 and Fairness campaign to lift minimum wage above the poverty line, and to improve employment laws so they better protect the increasing number of precarious and low-wage workers.
How do you think shyness and introversion have affected your life as a youth?
Looking back, I may have missed a few opportunities. I was labelled shy because I’m an introvert and my quietness was often misinterpreted as shyness. When I heard people calling me shy, I believed it and felt limited in my communication skills.
Yet, there were times when I did speak up when something unfair happened, and when I needed to stand up for someone. Another benefit of being quiet was that I became known as a thoughtful, reflective person. When I finally did speak, people usually paid more attention.
When did you realize the effects were more positive than negative?
Shyness isn’t positive or negative. It’s just one trait a person can have. Sometimes we feel less shy than other times. There are benefits that spring from being quiet, though. Not speaking too much means I reflect and listen more. That side of communication too often gets left out. I think “shyness” also fostered my calmness and a tendency not to react too quickly to negativity.
For me to say or write something meaningful and effective, I have to have the patience to understand my audience and what they need and recognize the gifts they have to offer the world. For example, at the Workers’ Action Centre, I hear about injustices our members face at work and how they support each other dealing with these problems. This helps me determine what we can write about as well who can best write articles, in order to help make our corner of the world a better place.
Why do you think others have sought you out to be a lead communicator?
I’ve always loved to write and to plan out the clearest way to express myself. Last December we held a $15 and Fairness demonstration in support of precarious retail workers at the corner of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. A news camera suddenly appeared in my face! I felt unprepared and ready to default back into shy mode. Yet I knew the sentiment behind the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 and to improve employment standards, so I simply said, “Working full-time at $11.40 an hour leaves people well below the poverty line, and we don’t think that’s fair.”
When that footage aired on City News, staff at the Workers’ Action Centre knew I could be trusted to take a leading communications role. The clarity in our message is important for building support for the $15 & Fairness movement. Energy in the movement is created by organizers using all their talents to make a difference. Creative writing—poetry and stories—have always been my favourite forms of writing. Becoming a spoken word poet has taught me how to make my messages more engaging, evocative and hopeful.
In late March