After 47 years, Diann Bowes’s long career at the Alberta Ombudsman’s office is coming to an end.
She first walked into the office in 1973 to work as a stenographer when she was still in high school. In 1980, she moved into an investigator/analyst position before later taking on her current job as manager of strategic services.
When she was hired, nearly all of the office’s investigators were men, usually in the second half of their professional careers after retiring from another job.
There’s a far greater balance of age and gender now, she said. Leading the way is the fact that the current provincial ombudsman is a woman, Marianne Ryan.
“I’m from a generation, of course, where women were out there protesting women’s rights back when I first started,” said Bowes, who spoke with CBC’s Radio Active on Wednesday. “To today where the opinions, the work of women in this office are the equivalent of the opinions and the work of men in this office.”
The Alberta Ombudsman’s office was established in 1967, six years before Bowes was hired. The ombudsman operates independently from the provincial government and political parties, to respond to complaints about unfair treatment by provincial government authorities or municipalities.
Bowes has worked for nine ombudsmen. Over the years the government has become more complex and challenging but the office’s role to focus on fairness in their decisions stayed constant, she said.
These days the focus is on resolving complaints before proceeding with a full investigation, which has proven to be successful.
Bowes said her decision to retire wasn’t easy. She spent two to three years contemplating what to do. Looking back, she said she never thought she’d last as long in this office as she did.
“I was rooting through some old stuff and I found my first pay cheque,” Bowes said. “It’s dazzling that 47 years later (to see) the comparison between then and now, it really is something. I had no concept at all that I’d be here this long.”