Business Analyst & Founder of The Guard Laura Gainor on poetry and advocacy

Laura shares thoughts on poetry as well as raising awareness of anti-ESEA hate and sexual violence

Laura Gainor is a full-time business analyst, but in her free time, she is a poetess, activist and graphic designer. She founded The Guard (@theguardofficial), a social media account that raises awareness of sexual offences, covering information and news. This is ever relevant in today’s world given recent cases of sexual violence and murders of women. I was immediately inspired when I had the chance to connect with Laura. She reached out after seeing a post that I wrote about an organisation relating to anti-East and Southeast Asian hate that my friends and I were founding. Somehow, we were lucky to secure her as a team member! It is my honour to interview Laura as she continues to inspire and intrigue those around her with her endless amount of talents, as well as her passion for making a difference where she can.

In addition, Laura’s poetry showcases a melancholic vulnerability, experimenting with subjects such as empowerment, confidence and connection. You can follow her work via @thereallauramai on Instagram. Her creativity in her graphic design allows her words to be presented in visually engaging ways, as well as where it is utilised for various causes (including The Guard and Voice ESEA). It is a pleasure to learn more about Laura and how she channels her efforts into making an impact in her communities.

YW: What were your reasons for founding The Guard?

LG: Do you have many friends who are women who haven’t been sexually harassed? I don’t. Of course, the problem isn’t confined to women, and the LGBTQ+ community as well as many men are affected, but I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed in some way. The Guard started in an entrepreneurship class. Funnily enough, I made a mock “app” in response to this problem and my friend Simona and I tried to make it happen. The app part didn’t work out, but we quickly realised this was a chance to raise awareness in our community around the issue of sexual harassment.

YW: How do you think young people can directly impact their own communities?

LG: We directly impact our communities whether we realise it or not. Every friend we have a conversation with, every article we read and every step we take to be a better version of ourselves within our community makes a difference.

You don’t have to volunteer, you don’t have to create an Instagram page, you don’t even have to speak up if that makes you too uncomfortable; but if you care about an issue, it’s important to be educated on it. Whether you do that by reading a book, having a conversation or watching a video from credible sources, I think improving myself and challenging my beliefs and biases is what caused the biggest change in my actions. So, I would recommend any person start with themselves before trying to change anything at scale to make sure the information is credible, the care is authentic and the communities affected benefit.

YW: You worked with university groups to promote awareness of ESEAs. Can you explain your experiences of engaging groups that have limited exposure to these communities?

LG: Everyone I’ve talked to cares. Everyone. People only have so much time everyday, and until they’re given time or a strong, and time sensitive, reason to act or care more, issues may be pushed aside. You can’t blame people for that, there are a million things going on in the life of a person that we can’t see, and there are a million issues in the world that we haven’t been exposed to yet. Sometimes it’s about picking and choosing where to spend the most effort, and once you learn about something new, to just stay conscious of it. I found the students that I worked with weren’t so clued up on the ESEA community, but did have an understanding of intersectionality. The students carried ideals like diversity, equality and inclusion in their mindsets, and because of this, they were able to engage with the brief and engage their friends in fun events.

Poetry by Laura Gainor

YW: You write beautiful poetry. How are you inspired to write a piece and what themes do you feel drawn to the most?

LG: Wow thank you! Poetry is what I say when I feel like I can’t speak. I’m very emotional, and poetry helps me figure out exactly what I’m feeling and why. I’m inspired most by events that happen to me. For example my house burning down as a teenager, my relationship with my step mother and my (failed) relationships!

YW: Favourite poet or author?

LG: Do I have to pick just one? I can’t. I would say Amy Chua who wrote Political Tribes or Malcolm Gladwell who has written a lot of books but my favourite by him is Outliers, that book is what got me started thinking deeply about diversity and opportunity.

YW: You’re part of Voice ESEA, tell us why you decided to join.

LG: The pay. Just kidding! I saw Yinsey’s post in a LinkedIn group, I forget exactly what she wrote, but I felt compelled to message her. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I saw myself in her? Anyways after an hour on the phone, I was convinced of the mission of the organisation and I was convinced Yinsey was a good person that had the same genuine compassion for diversity and inclusion that I do.

YW: That is so kind of you to say! I am so moved by your determination to help the ESEA community, especially taking time out of your busy schedule! Your career centres on marketing and engagement. What would your advice be for someone looking to enter such a career?

LG: Build genuine relationships with mentors in the field and ask for help when you need it. There’s no shame in not knowing, but there’s a danger in pretending you do. A lot of what I’ve learned has been through doing on the job, but you need to get a job first, which is a lot harder than people make it seem. I never applied to my job; I networked my way into it. I would recommend that approach to anyone else looking to get into this field (or any field really).

YW: How does your cultural heritage shape you and your way of thinking today?

LG: The belief that we all deserve equal chances of love, success and belonging shapes my current thinking and therefore my actions. I don’t feel like I’ve ever fit in anywhere, but I’ve always felt like I belonged, and that’s been with me my entire life. I was born in America in New Hampshire, one of the most statistically white states. My mom is from Vietnam and came to America when she was 14 years of age, while my father is fourth generation Irish-American. My heritage makes me conscious today. Like I said, I’ve always felt like I belonged, but there are moments where I’ve felt ashamed of the things that made me different. I don’t want anyone to feel like that if I can help it.

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