Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Do for Diversity: Dialogue and Develop

Yes, it is promising that the UN has inspired a World day of Cultural Diversity Dialogue and Development intended to provide an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the cultural diversity values and how to learn to live together better. Out of this came the slogan ‘Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion.’ 

However, I am intrigued that  ‘dialogue’ does not seem to be acknowledged in a way that will evoke the change we need from this potentially powerful mantra.  Rather, examples on the website mainly focus on only the doing by exploring different cultural foods, art or theatre.  So where is the dialogue?

To begin with the roots of the word dialogue come from the Greek words dia and logos . Dia mean 'through'; logos translates to 'word' or 'meaning'. In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning.  In the ancient sense, it also meant a coming together perhaps as community, which we can infer as having relationships.

Consider how frequently at work or in the media does the word ‘dialogue’ appear.  And yet how often do we stop and reflect on what the word actually means …and the possible positive implications?

William Isaacs Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together writes that:

“Dialogue... is a conversation with a center, not sides. It is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before” … and I would add, to achieve something better than even imagined; the benefits of actualizing dialogue.

The question is how does one dialogue respectfully considering that respect can look so different in a multi-cultural world? That’s where developing your Cultural intelligence or CQ in the four capabilities of drive, knowledge strategy and action is essential.  A strong CQ enables each of us to function effectively adapting across various cultural contexts (national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.).

( Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, “Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence” in Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3.

Let’s assume you are motivated to ‘do for diversity’ with the goal of achieving an enhanced understanding of another, thereby strengthening your relationship. Consider reaching out to some one different than your own cultural background and invite them for a coffee. The invitation is to mutually explore each other’s culture through a dialogue of respect from the each other’s perspective.

How to begin? Given your drive or enjoyment, confidence and understanding of the benefits to this dialogue is already strong, start with some research to gain knowledge about the person’s cultural value dimensions. Think of these dimensions as a range of possibilities- neither end being better than the other and only a starting point of awareness on how to act or behave.   For example, there are values on time, family, status and risk. Values such as ‘low context’ express an emphasis on explicit or direct communication that rely on words, while a ‘high context’ stresses indirect communication that is subtler in tone and includes elements of silence.

However knowing is not enough.

Plan your strategy with the awareness and intent to adapt your actions because:

  1. Research proves we all have biases- both unconscious and conscious (Source: Blind Spots M Banaji A Greenwald). Do the Implicit Association Test to find out yours.
  2. ‘Checking in’ with your self and your colleague will identify for example, the context distinction: what you will ‘hear’ and learn about the content of the answer is different from listening for how it is delivered.

Bottom line:

Uusing the four CQ capabilities of Drive Knowledge and Strategy enables you to Act with more respect having authentically dialogued with an openness to the center. Experience the delight in achieving a meaningful  multi cultural connection!

Just doing it as in Nike’s powerful slogan simply does not cut it in today’s world of global connectedness and conflict. Developing your Cultural Intelligence to Do for Diversity: Dialogue and Develop is the only way to go!

World Day for Cultural Diversity and for Dialogue and Development

In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December of 2002, the UN General Assembly declared May 21st to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, in order to promote tolerance and further our global commitment to cultural diversity. The Universal Declaration was created in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001 at the UNESCO general conference to make the assertion that “respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security, on a global and international level”. UNESCO’s Universal Declaration lays the groundwork for implementing Cultural Diversity through 12 articles, each comprised of a paragraph or two focusing on a specific aspect for furthering this global initiative.

Over the past few years there have been several efforts to promote and raise awareness through this international day of action. Most recently in 2011, UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNOAC) started a grass roots movement, by the name of “Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion” that featured a Facebook page dedicated to individuals and organizations who are taking steps to create more diversity in their lives and leading by example. Since its start, the page has supported things like the Intercultural Innovation Award, the “Do One Thing” video contest, and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Summer School.

This June 2015 the UNOAC along with Education First (EF) will host the third edition of their “Youth For Change” Summer School program, that that brings together 75 youth leaders from around the world to “engage in dialogue across borders, focusing on how to better understand, manage and promote diversity, while also learning how to leverage differences in identity to shape a world that is healthier, safer, more peaceful and inclusive”.  It can give us such great hope to see the kind of passion and dedication that many youth have today, as they set out to lead our way towards a more tolerant and diverse world in the future. As the Director- General of UNESCO Irena Bokova so eloquently explains, “it is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change”.

When we break it all down Dialogue leads to Action, and Action leads to Change! When we begin the conversation about cultural diversity and inclusion with those around us we put into motion the gears of possibility. By coming together to understand one another’s culture and background, of what makes us unique, we begin the journey of bridging the gap between nations, coming together for a common goal, a common good. Often when we begin to celebrate each other’s differences we begin to realize that we have more things that unify us than separate us.

Interested in learning more about cultural diversity, contact us today. 

The Global Learning Newsletter: May 2015

Welcome! Global Learning has been keeping busy this last month, as we get set to release our new and improved website in June.  Stay tuned for this exciting launch. We’d also like to extend a warm thank you to our valued strategic partner CAMSC, for including Global Learning in their annual Procurement Fair. 

To read, download, or share the May 2015 Global Learning Newsletter - click here.

Should you have any difficulty accessing the newsletter, contact info@egloballearning.com, and we can email you a pdf version.  - Thank you !

Global Learning Infographic: International Day Against Homophobia 2015

Monday, 11 May 2015

Getting to Know You: Shawn Mintz, MentorCity

This month we had the opportunity to interview Shawn Mintz, the founder and creator of MentorCity, and Global Learning’s newest strategic partner. It was such an honor to speak with Shawn, a brilliant man, with an inspiring story about chasing your dreams and doing what you love. When Shawn begins to tell you about mentoring and the passion that he has for it, you immediately get a sense that he has found his calling and he is truly living it!

Shawn spent the first 13 years of his career in the non-for profit sector, working for an organization that helped newcomers to Canada to get their first job. He was hired by the company as a career counselor, but soon went on to create an entire marketing department for the organization. A few years later he developed and established his first “mentoring initiative that was offered on a regular basis, sometimes up to three to four times a week”. Shawn recalled those first mentoring sessions and how, “whenever I could I would just sneak into the room and I would just watch people. I loved their hand gestures, their facial expressions and how excited they were when they were having those mentoring conversations”.  He loved how “at the end of every single event, the mentees were ready to take on the world, and the mentors also felt amazing because they were able to pay it forward and really give back to the community”.

“Everyone was so excited during those mentoring sessions, that the energy literally filled the room”.

That was the moment when Shawn realized that if mentoring had that kind of impact on people’s lives, he wanted to do more of it! From there, the spark was ignited, and he started to write about mentoring and later began writing a book. It was around this time, while preparing to have a meeting with one of his own mentors, that he had an idea.  “I realized that there were just so many books out there about mentoring but there really wasn’t anything that actually matched people to mentors, like an E-Harmony, but for mentors”. Shawn shared his idea with his own mentor, who responded with great enthusiasm and basically gave him the confidence and encouragement to begin pursing his idea. It was from that mentor meeting that “I just really started focusing on the business plan and turning it into reality. So I left my fulltime job and followed my dream. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I jumped ship to create a dream company”

Shawn went on to tell me about his company and how his mentoring program works. MentorCity, which was founded in 2011, offers private mentoring programs to companies and is designed to connect employees within a particular organization to one another, by matching mentees to mentors, and then leading those matches through the entire mentoring process. For instance “if you were an employee you would go onto the site, you would fill out your profile which is all LinkedIn compatible, and include all of the skills that you are interested in developing. Whether you want to improve your presentation skills, or your self- confidence for example. Then you could search through a bunch of criteria based on what kind of mentor you’re looking for. Whether you want to find someone who has a similar job function, a different job function or a mentor who has experience in another industry all together. Finally you would click on save and search, at which point you would receive your most compatible mentor matches. You could then look through their profiles and invite someone to be your mentor”.

The site takes the process one-step further by helping you to input your mentoring objectives and goals, enabling you to talk back and forth to your mentor or mentee to arrange meetings, while giving you a place to track those relationships at the same time. In addition to this, as an administrator or as one of the companies that has purchased the MentorCity program, “you are given the ability to build a successful and effective mentoring program that really works, a mentoring program that leads their employees through the entire process, that is easy and comprehensive, while always keeping things on track by sending regular remarks, and reminders”. Shawn also mentioned that MentorCity offers a public website that is available to anyone in the world, and is their way of giving back.  Case in point, “if someone doesn’t belong to one of the companies that has signed up with the program, they could sign up on the public site and find a mentor from anywhere around the world”.

When asked what some of the biggest benefits are from implementing mentoring programs, Shawn responded by saying that so much of it has to do with employee engagement. “When you have a mentor in the company where you work, you are going be more involved, feel so much more included, committed and less likely to leave that company. Mentoring is about recruiting talent of course, but it is also about keeping that talent within your organization. As a result mentoring can have a positive impact on employees as well as the company as a whole.  “Mentoring is also good for a company’s ROI, based on the fact that if an employee leaves who you have invested a lot of money, resources and time into, you could end up losing up to $20,000 just replacing that one person, depending on their level within the organization”.  A mentoring initiative will help you to keep those valuable employees while helping more people to really reach their full potential within their company.

Shawn went on to explain that mentoring also becomes an important part of succession planning, especially due to the fact that so many people are going to be retiring from the workforce over the next few years. As a result, it is really important for companies to start transferring the knowledge from their senior employees on to the next generation. In addition to this, Shawn talked about how MentorCity is working with a lot of companies on their high potential programs. “Leadership development is huge and that goes had in hand with high potential as a lot of companies continue developing their future leaders”.  In this regard, a company would identify their high potential performers and then they would offer them a mentoring program to ensure that they continue their growth within the company.

Shawn expressed further how mentoring is also about diversity and inclusion and that MentorCity is “working with a lot of clients who are helping to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Whether it’s for some of their affinity or resource groups, or for women for example, they are creating mentoring communities to connect to other mentors within the organization”. Moreover “what is really amazing about mentoring, and really important for diversity and inclusion is that these mentoring relationships have the potential to turn into sponsorship relationships. A sponsor relationship is a little bit different than a mentor, in that a sponsor is the person who literally goes to bat for you. They help you get that promotion. So as a mentor it’s more about them helping you to get where you need to go by giving you guidance, encouragement and support. The sponsor on the other hand takes a more active role. That is huge for diversity. When you have those sponsors within your organization, those people who really believe in you, who really believe in your abilities, they’re going to talk to other people about you, they’re going to help you get that promotion. That’s what is key I think. Having those ambassadors, your own ambassadors within an organization, who are going to help you get to that next level.

“This invites companies to really open their eyes and explore other potential talent within their organization that they may have otherwise overlooked, if they didn’t have this sponsor, this advocate, this person who believes in them.  Furthermore “the power of mentoring is that those connections that people are making are totally game changing, because you never know exactly where a mentor relationship will lead, it opens up other networks, it opens up other opportunities, it helps develop your skill sets and your knowledge”.

Last but not least I asked Shawn to tell me about the brand new strategic alliance that has been created between MentorCity and Global Learning, and what it means to him. “What really excites me about this partnership is that together we can do so much more, in terms of really helping companies to leverage the diverse talent that they have.  At the same time we create meaningful mentoring relationships for organizations, while ensuring that each of their employees will have the opportunity to reach the level they want within their chosen field. I strongly believe with Global Learning’s strategy, their training solutions and their resources, together with MentorCity’s technology, we have the potential to change workplaces faster. Above all, MentorCity is not only passionate about making sure that every one of their mentoring program works, but also that every mentoring relationship works. I see this partnership working really well because our two businesses really go hand in hand.”

 If you’d like to learn more about MentorCity and how this resource can advance the relationships, collaboration, and diversity and inclusion in your organization, please contact Elaine Newman at 416-488-0175 or  enewman@egloballearning.com.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Flexible Work Arrangement Week 2015: May 3-9th

The concept of Flexible-work has become a rather hot topic over recent years with issues like job strain, role conflict and the difficulties that many individuals face when balancing their work and family obligations”. (1) At the same time more and more employers are recognizing the positive impact that flexible work initiatives can have for their employees by helping to promote better mental and physical health in the workplace, while increasing overall job satisfaction.

Achieving work/life balance is an increasing challenge today with “time demands, scheduling dilemmas, and the problems that arise when work spills into home life or when home demands spill into work life”. Furthermore, “crisis-oriented work patterns and chaotic work routines that demand workers’ constant presence, can make breaking away from work difficult, magnifying this strain. By measuring productivity and commitment based on “face-time”, rather than the amount of work that an employee has accomplished”, we can create further issues. (2) On the other hand, when we introduce alternatives to the “one size fits all” work model, we create the potential to improve the quality of peoples lives by allowing for more flexibility, while at the same time strengthening employee loyalty, creating less turnover, and ultimately increasing a company’s overall profits.

Flexible work arrangements can mean many things including:

  • Flextime- the variation of an employees starting and departure times.
  • Job sharing- where two employees share the responsibilities of one full time position.
  • Remote Work (or flexible work locations)- can be conducted either at home or off-site on a consistent or occasional basis.
  • A compressed work schedule- refers to a regular workweek in fewer days.
  • Telecommuting- essentially refers to working from home on a regular basis. (3)
Like anything else, flexible work arrangements can have both advantages and disadvantages. But with careful consideration, and a clear and comprehensive strategy, the benefits and possibilities are numerous.

An example of this potential can be seen in a recent sociological study that used an “already existing corporate initiative by the name of the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) to predict corresponding changes to health-related outcomes”. Collecting “longitudinal data from 659 white-collar employees, at the headquarters of a Fortune 500 company in the United States, the study looked at moving employees and supervisors away from time oriented measures of work success, to a completely results based appraisal of productivity and accomplishment”. The results showed “that by increasing the employees’ scheduling control and reducing their work-family conflict, ROWE innovation promoted employee wellness and increased productivity, while lowering the costs borne by employers for health care as well as absenteeism”.(4) In another study that looked at employees using flexible work arrangements, they found that “63% of workers said that they were absent less often as a result of their flexible work arrangement schedule”.(5) Furthermore flexible work programs enable employers to schedule work across larger portions of the day, while allowing them to make more efficient use of facilities, while often requiring smaller office spaces including less equipment.(6) Flexible Work Programs have also become an important tool for retaining valuable employees and attracting future talent.

However, one of the “challenges that companies sometimes face when implementing flexible work programs, is a hesitancy from supervisors to promote this flexibility, due to apprehension with regards to the impact it may have on work quality and productivity”. (7) What many have found is that this concern can be quite accurate when flexible work programs are not implemented properly. Another issue that arises when discussing the pros and cons of flexible work arrangements is with regards to accessibility, and whether or not the requests for such programs are well received by employers and management. In one study “78% of respondents feared that they would be perceived as less committed to their jobs by their supervisors if they utilized flexible work arrangements. Employees also reported frustrations stemming from inconsistent program implementation, and for some workers access to flexibility appeared to be based on the sole discretion of a given manager”. (8)

Accessibility and flexible work arrangements can also be subject to unconscious gender bias. In another noted study “researchers found that men in high-status, non-hourly positions who said they wanted to advance their careers were most likely to be granted a compressed work schedule, while women in similar scenarios seeking flextime were far less likely to get it. Meanwhile, men in low-status careers who asked for family flex time were more likely to have their requests approved than women in like situations. In this situation, managers tended to believe that women who asked for flexible working hours were more likely than men to use the time for personal, rather than professional, reasons and that this form of gender bias is often simply a reflection of antiquated stereotypes about men’s and women’s family roles”. (9) In this respect women are often assumed to have one foot out the door when they ask for more flexible work arrangements, while men are often perceived to have more job commitment. Despite this gender bias “it appears employees are the ones who are really driving employers’ policies and that in particular, young male workers are seeking to spend more time with their families. As a result employers are adapting. In a recent 2014 Catalyst report, they found that nearly four out of five respondents said their companies offered some form of flexible-work arrangements.” (10)

We summarize this acknowledgement of Flexible Work Arrangement week with a few tips from the HR Council on how to make flexible work more successful:

Maintain a high level of contact by encouraging a two-way flow of communication between management and the distance worker, and the distance worker and their other colleagues. This is especially important if an off-site employee is working on their own.

Use a combination of face-to-face communication, the telephone and e-mail. Face-to-face is best for key management tasks focused on motivation, team building, performance management and introducing changes in the work or the relationship with the employee. Telephone communications can be effective for planning, reviewing, and strategizing. E-mail is best for quick contact and confirming conversations.

Informal processes may need to become more formal. For example, comments and ideas made over lunch break or by the water cooler may need to be e-mailed to off-site workers.
Be super-organized and plan well. Reliance on face-to-face meetings often results from disorganization, with managers spending their days reacting to situations and solving problems that would not arise as often as they do if work were well managed.

Beware that “out of sight” can mean “out of mind”. Take care that off-site workers get access to training and promotion opportunities. Career development is important for all employees no matter where they work.

Ensure appropriate orientation for staff that work in the office so that they are assured that all employees – regardless of their work location – are equally pulling their weight.
Promote team building between on-site and off-site employees by inviting employees who work at home to come in for a special lunch, training or other activity.

Ask home-based employees to provide occasional office coverage to keep them in touch with the realities of the workplace. (11)

  1. http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/flexible-work-arrangements.html)
  2. Padavic, I., & Reskin, B. (2002). Sociology for a New CenturyWomen and men at work. (2nd     ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452233857
  3. https://www.hr.cornell.edu/life/support/flexible_arrangements.html
  4. Moen, P., Kelly, E., Tranby, E., & Huang, Q. (2011). CHANGING WORK, CHANGING HEALTH:  CAN REAL WORK-TIME FLEXIBILITY PROMOTE HEALTH BEHAVIORS AND WELL-BEING?Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52(4), 404-29. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/920095972?accountid=44262
  5. http://workplaceflexibility2010.org/images/uploads/FWA_FactSheet.pdf
  6. http://hrcouncil.ca/hr-toolkit/workplaces-flexible.cfm
  7. http://workplaceflexibility2010.org/images/uploads/FWA_FactSheet.pdf
  8. http://workplaceflexibility2010.org/images/uploads/FWA_FactSheet.pdf
  9. http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/diversity/articles/pages/managers-distrust-women- aspx
  10. http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534357575
  11. http://hrcouncil.ca/hr-toolkit/workplaces-flexible.cfm

Thursday, 16 April 2015

When Divided, We are Conquered

Our societies are structured around the concept of “betterment”.   Most of us operate with an innate belief “If we make things better now, they will flourish later.”  It’s why we have things like schools, libraries, gyms, AA, and most importantly, our community laws.

But what happens when each of our own individualized ideas of what “better” is, is drastically different? Is better to you, more beautiful, more sustainable, more respectful, or perhaps more holy?

That’s the question at hand when it comes to such laws as Indiana’s
SB101 – The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Indiana’s SB101 – The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence on March 26th, allows individuals and companies to assert that their exercise of religion has been, or is likely to be, substantially burdened as a defense in legal proceedings.  This opens the door for business owners to choose who they will or will not accept patronage from based on their religious belief, without fear of being held liable for discrimination.

What differentiates this law from a similar federal law, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, as well as several other state laws, are a few key points:

Indiana’s Law Applies to Companies; Others Do Not
In Some Other States, Non-discrimination Laws Trump ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws
The Political Context is Different, and so are the Policy Aims.
The Indiana Law Applies to Private Disputes

You can find a great breakdown of these points from ABCnews.com.

As expected, the situation brought to the forefront, the many times (but not all the time) contentious cross sections of the LGBT and Religious communities. Of primary concern was that now any business, could deny service to an LGBT person, and claim they had the right to do so while not being held liable for discrimination on the basis that they were just upholding the demands of their faith.

Thrust into the spotlight was a small Indiana pizzeria, who when pressed, claimed they would decline a client if they were asked to cater a same-sex wedding reception citing their Christian beliefs.  I will make note that they did mention, that they would serve all customers regardless of orientation, but that they drew their professional line at catering same-sex wedding receptions….with pizzas.
After wide spread media coverage, the pizzeria closed its doors to bide it’s time while the media frenzy passed.

Now I’m not one to support the demise of anyone or their business, but I must be honest that I had a moment of “Yay! The “good guy” won!”. It restored a bit of my faith in humanity, that can so easily get chipped away when you hear that there are still people in North America, who think the best option is promote segregation.

However, that’s when the reality of North America’s current state of inclusion started to set in. Within weeks upon closing, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to help support the establishment’s owners, during their “time of need”.  Quickly, the campaign raised over $800,000.

With the money, the pizzeria has been reopened, and the owners have indicated their plans to donate portions of the raised funds to various charities of their choosing.  As you can assume, the donated money came from SB101 supporters; those who feel they have the right to not be held liable should they opt to deny service to someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Let me just summarize: over $800,000, was crowdfunded in support of legal segregation.

The backlash from Indiana’s SB 101 was immediately felt by the entire state, when such organizations as SalesForce, Angie’s List, a multitude of municipalities, and a growing list of other organizations, opted to cease all interactions with the state, should they continue with SB 101 on the books.  While Gov. Mike Pence, consistently claimed the bill was about bringing communities together, Indiana Republicans announced an agreement that will alter Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Reformation Act to ensure that it does not discriminate against LGBT people. The proposed change grants new protections for LGBT customers, employees and tenants.

When we create laws, our sincerest efforts and focus should always be to empower an entire community; while ensuring civility and sustainability. When we create laws that leave open the door for legal segregation, we are purposefully un-leveling the playing field, and intentionally causing civil discourse, with the goal of leaving fellow community members un- or minimally sustainable. Which brings me back to the concept of betterment.

My betterment is creating a space where all views have the opportunity to be presented, where taking pride in your belief system and living your personal life accordingly is acceptable.  My version of betterment, however, does not include creating tools with a direct aim at dividing us. We should have realized a long time ago that we are all in this together. Anytime we stray from that thinking as a global community, we are only making things better on an emotionally local level.  And that is how and why people often confuse diversity for division.....

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Global Learning Newsletter - April 2015

Welcome! The Global Learning Group of Companies is thrilled to announce the launch of our inaugural monthly newsletter. Here you can expect to find all the latest commentary, upcoming events and new products from the Global Learning Team and our esteemed associates.

To read, download, or share the April 2015 Global Learning Newsletter - click here.

Should you have any difficulty accessing the newsletter, contact info@egloballearning.com, and we can email you a pdf version.  - Thank you !


A Letter to Maya on World Autism Awareness Day

My Darling Maya:

I wanted to write you about our precious journey, albeit short, as Amah and granddaughter.

Your Poppa and I were so blessed to be with your parents and your maternal grandmother when you were born on August 27th, seven years ago. We felt such joy at holding you, minutes after your birth, and being with you in those early weeks of your arrival.

It was at another visit, a couple of years later, that my heart started to hurt.

You would not give us eye contact, nor let us touch or hold you. You spent hours drawing little circles and building tiny piles of rocks in the courtyard.  And so I, as gently as I could, suggested to your mom and dad that maybe something was going on with you, outside of the typical toddler scope.

Your parents were wonderful, immediately following up with an assessment. A few months later they called me, minutes after receiving the diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Flash forward to 2012, when your mother and dad decided to move to Toronto. You, your little sister and parents would be living with us until they could get resettled here in Canada. Now Maya, since I had already raised three sons, I figured I knew little children. But, you and I did not connect to my expectations.

I did not understand your behaviors and did not know how to love you the way you needed me to love and understand you.

But I learned.

I learned from your mom and dad who, with their delicious sense of humour and commitment, absorbed as much as knowledge and insight possible about Autism. More to the point, about how autism affected YOU.

I learned from your little sister, who immediately knew how to love and defend you at a very early age.

I read and observed and kept trying to connect.  Maya, in a fairly short time you started to blossom at a school for kids with autism, who understood your needs and how to help you succeed.

So here we are, two years later …and you give us big, wonderful kisses and hugs. You come out with the most profound statements, such as the time I walked out of the bathroom, nude after a shower, and you said ‘Hi Amah! Where are your glasses?”

Or the time you came to visit and, after explaining the points system of behaviour at school, and expressing your disappointment when you did not achieve to your expectations, said “Do you mind giving me some privacy? I need to play.”

You cut to the chase and we know where we stand with each other.

Maya, you have such a rich imagination and create complete worlds in your imagination, dancing and playing with a whole cast of imaginative friends in your mind’s eye.  You turn on it’s head, the myth that autistic children are only ‘black and white’ in their view of the world and do not have much of an imagination. You are a whiz on the computer and love your iPad –I think technology acts as a bridge enabling your (now) very articulate communication. You are reading at the appropriate level and your teachers comment on how bright and adorable you are.

Maya my darling, each of us is unique and each of us a little different from each other. I so look forward to seeing you as an adult and contributing your wonderful gifts to society just like the amazing Stephen Spielberg, a famous and beloved movie director. He was diagnosed in his 40’s as having Asperger’s Syndrome; the same kind of wonderful mind-wiring as you.

Much Love,
Your adoring Amah

More About Autism Awareness Day 2015

This April 2nd marks the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). Originally created by the United Nations General Assembly, the day has become an opportunity to share information and raise awareness about autism, while also highlighting some the accomplishments and challenges faced by those living with the condition, both children and adults. Events are held all over the world every year such as panel discussions with autism experts, politicians and non-governmental organizations, fundraising, conferences as well as workshops.

Autism was first diagnosed by a psychologist from John Hopkins University by the name of Leo Kanner in 1942. "Decades after that first discovery, its causes are still far from understood. Today research from around the world focuses on a multiple of possible causes such as genetics/heredity, differences in biological brain function (neuropathology), pre-natal factors, possible exposure to environmental toxins, viral infections and immune system deficiencies”.(1) Autism is considered to be a lifelong, neurological developmental disorder, characterized by difficulties in communication and social interactions, as well as repetitive behaviours and sensory sensitivities. In the past two decades autism rates have been on the rise, as the latest research conducted by the Centre for Disease Control estimates, 1 in every 68 children are born with or have been identified as having autism spectrum disorder or ASD. This is up from an estimate of "3 cases in every 10,000 children from studies conducted in the U.S. before 1990".(2) Some argue that this increase could be due to better diagnoses, while others argue that there are other factors involved.

Autism awareness is extremely important for both children as well as adults living with the condition. For children there is a need for more research and funding for effective evidence-based treatments, better access to that treatment, earlier diagnoses, as well as "essential supports for the families of those children. For adults living with autism there are another set of challenges to overcome. According to the United Nations “it is estimated that 80 percent of autistic adults are currently unemployed, due to a lack of support when it comes to job training as well as pervasive discrimination". With respect to finding employment,  "research suggests that employers may in fact be missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than the “neurotypical" worker. For example people with ASD often have heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. This makes them the ideal candidates for jobs like software testing, data entry, or lab work just to name a few". (3) This shows the importance of removing the stigma attached to ASD, so that we are able to uncover otherwise overlooked abilities, that once fostered, would enable these individuals to lead more complete and fulfilling lives. We can do this by "creating better access to vocational training, better support with regards to job placement and lastly with greater awareness we can begin to eliminate the discrimination that stands in the way of employment opportunities". (4)

Many times "autism is portrayed as a frightening disease in need of a cure". Limiting ourselves to this perspective can result in a lack of resources when it comes to creating programs that are actually able to improve the everyday lives of autistic peoples.” In addition to this there is a "strong need for members of the ASD community to hold more "senior leadership positions within autistic organizations, in order to truly voice the communities needs in order to bring about more change”. (5)

As John Elder Robinson, an author and a person living with Autism so eloquently explains:

“I have come to the emerging realization that autism – as a neurological difference – confers both gift and disability on everyone it touches.  It’s the fire the moves humanity forward, while simultaneously being a fire that can burn us individuals as we try to make our way. Many autistic people are aware of this dichotomy.  Some of us feel “totally disabled” and others feel “totally gifted.”  Most of us – I’d venture to say – feel both ways, at different times, depending on what we’re doing at that particular moment. Consequently, I support the idea of changing society to make it more accommodating for people who are different.”(6)

This holds a very compelling message for us all. As a society we must do more than merely accommodate those who are different, we must celebrate those differences and realize that in those differences lies great power,  great potential, and great opportunity, for a more inclusive world where we are able to see beyond the weakness and instead find the strength.


3. http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/
4. http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/
5. http://www.buzzfeed.com/virginiahughes/autistic-people-spark-twitter-fight-against-autism-speaks
6. http://jerobison.blogspot.ca/2013/11/i-resign-my-roles-at-autism-speaks.html?m=

Research provided by Global Learning Research Coordinator and Writer, Breanna Rothe.

Getting to Know You: Rhonda Singer

Global Learning is very proud of the company we keep.  With that in mind, we are thrilled to introduce our new interview series, “Getting to Know You”, written by the latest edition to our team, our research coordinator and official Global Learning writer, Breanna Rothe.

Getting to Know You: Rhonda Singer by Breanna Rothe

This month we had the pleasure of speaking with Rhonda Singer, a visionary, an innovator and a truly inspirational woman. Over the course of the interview she shared with us a bit about her unique and extensive background, what really motivated her to dedicate her career and life to becoming a “Cultural Intelligence Champion and what she sees for the future of organizations with regards to diversity, cultural intelligence and unconscious bias.

Rhonda joked that over the years particularly in her role as a Health and Safety consultant “I worked in every kind of industry in the GTA, from beautiful office towers to the bowels of the earth such as in the sewage plant as well as refineries, and everything in between”. Rhonda began her career as a nurse working with a well-known plastic surgeon in New York City until she became pregnant with her first child, and while longing for her home in Canada, decided to move with her husband back to Toronto to raise a family. Once back in Toronto she began teaching prenatal education as one of the early adaptors to work in the newly formed Toronto Childbirth Education Association. When her three boys grew a little older, she was hired by a health and safety consulting company, Employee Care, and over the course of the ten years she spent with them, she became an equity partner. One of the highlights of her work with Employee Care was establishing a successful training and education program for occupational health nurses that took these nurses from a hospital setting and trained them to become health and safety consultants, which was a very new and different environment!

Rhonda later moved on to become the Manager of Learning Services for a large international manufacturing company, where “she provided learning strategies and training with regards to product and professional development for corporate employees, as well as Canadian and International dealers.” With Rhonda’s leadership the company was able to “cut their manufacturing lead time down from two years to just six months”. During her time working with health and safety practices and processes Rhonda also had the opportunity to interact directly with many of the employees on the floor, many of whom came from different cultural backgrounds, who shared with her their unique stories and experiences, and gave her a greater appreciation for diversity. Those earlier experiences really became the seeds that went on to blossom into her passion for cultural intelligence and working with global talent.

Following her work in the manufacturing sector she became the Executive Director at the non-for profit career management organization, Progress Career Planning Institute (PCPI). Rhonda recalls how one of the divisions she managed there consisted of 10,000 unemployed individuals, 80 percent of which came from other countries. And how one day while “having a meeting with her direct report, discussing their metrics and how they were going to help people back into work, “I suddenly had a huge epiphany that is so crystal clear, even to today. The Conference Board of Canada at the time was promoting their employability skills and my huge aha was when I realized that our cliental would not understand what that looked like, sounded like or felt like because they came from other countries.” This moment really launched Rhonda forward to do more research that eventually led her to the term cultural intelligence, which was known at the time to be a concept created by Soon Ang and Lin Van Dyne, and further developed by David Livermore.  For Rhonda, the idea of Cultural Intelligence was a much more strategic concept, and a departure from the more prevalent HR term at the time, cultural competency, which she felt was less encompassing.

Over the course of her 10 years at PCPI, she went on to become President and in her legacy partnered with The Toronto Community News and City of Toronto, to co-create the IEP Conference, which is now regarded “as one of the most innovative and respectful events for Internationally Educated Professional newcomers seeking practical, effective career advice in Canada”. (1) They recently had their twelfth annual conference, consisting of over a thousand Internationally Educated Professionals, coming from five different sectors, with sixty to seventy speakers, which centered on “honoring the courage of these global talents, while at the same time helping them navigate the system”. In this visionary work Rhonda was an integral part of bringing cultural intelligence to the forefront, twelve years ago at that first conference.

It was through this passion for Cultural Intelligence and Diversity and Inclusion that Rhonda was eventually introduced to Elaine Newman, and her role of V.P., Global Talent for Global Learning. Rhonda explains how David Livermore, who she had known for years, introduced her to Elaine, who like herself had participated in David’s CQ certification course. Rhonda then had the opportunity to hear Elaine speak during a presentation at the CQ forum in May 2014. Rhonda said that she was immediately struck by how “it went from my head and out of Elaine’s mouth.  She was talking my talk and walking my talk and I was right there with her the whole time.”

When asked what motivated Rhonda to join Global Learning, she explained that at this point in her life she really wanted to join a company that epitomized the values that were important to her, that she walks, both personally and professionally. “I wanted an organization that was really embracing diversity, and in particular cultural intelligence. This is what truly drives me.  And when it comes to Elaine, not only does she believe in excellence, she is a true innovator. She is a yesterday person. What I mean by that is that when she gets an idea, you know she is going to make it happen right away. Tomorrow is too late. These two factors are what I appreciate.”

As V.P. of Global Talent Rhonda sees her role as two fold. As a result of her past experiences she feels very strongly about Internationally Educated Professionals or Global Talent, with regards to the courage that these individuals possess, knowing how difficult it is to leave one’s home to move to a new country. Rhonda expressed how these individuals are really “diamonds in disguise because they bring their skills, their culture, and have such a different mindset and experience that we can really learn from. There are so many examples of internationally educated professionals who have been such innovators. She goes on to explain “that we have the ability to be one of the most competitive countries in the world, if we can learn to use our global talent more effectively. “

Rhonda sees her position at Global Learning as “an opportunity to utilize her expertise with global talent to help organizations cascade an approach using cultural intelligence to help gain a more competitive advantage. She believes that “in order for organizations to truly survive in a global economy, such as we are living in today it is essential that they begin to take a horizontal approach to diversity versus a vertical or silo one to working with their employees, their most valuable asset”. By using what we have learned about diversity, cultural intelligence and unconscious bias thus far “we create the power of possibilities to cross bridges both locally and internationally, in a way that we really haven’t done before”.


1. http://www.iep.ca

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Where Are All the Girls? by Rhonda Singer

There is a wonderful picture on my computer screensaver, taken a few Septembers ago, of my husband and me, surrounded by our five granddaughters (ranging in age from four months to almost 7 years old at the time).

Each time that photo catches my eye, I still find myself in a kind of almost happy disbelief, for the score has been flipped on its head in only one generation. My husband and I had three sons, hence, I was outnumbered in our household 4:1.

Back then; 4 testosterone: 1 estrogen.

Now? The men are outnumbered. Today the score sits at 4 testosterone: 9 estrogen.

I waited many years for the joy of female family members, never expecting to experience this type of balance. Now that I am a grandmother, an Amah, I reflect on what the future holds for today's young women.

Whilst I was waiting (and hoping) for an estrogen infusion into our family, the world was going through a dramatic change in the gender ratio balance. This is a significant, virtually hidden and very worrisome issue. One that is very likely going to have a big impact on our future world.

While on travel, I picked up the riveting book Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendadhl, which had been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times book prize and a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. What I read about gender imbalance of girls to boys was shocking.

The link to technology and subsequent use of ultrasound is alarming, for it means that the skewed sex ration is an outgrowth of economic progress not backward traditions. Restoring the global balance of males and females could take until 2050.

Implications are profound. Evidence already shows that girls throughout the world face higher rates of violence, poverty, and discrimination. The world’s surplus men means an increase of testosterone and therefore more violence, with huge rises in the number of kidnappings, prostitution, and international trafficking and child marriages.
By now most of know of Malala, the brave young woman who at 14 years old was shot by the Taliban for standing up and advocating for the education of girls. Ironically, during that same week back in 2012, October 11 was declared by the United Nations as the world's first International Day of the Girl Child.  Canada has led the international community in adopting this day, along with the support of Plan Canada

The question is why are girls and women valued less than boys and men?

There is a growing recognition around the world that support girls and their basic human rights is key for healthy communities. History shows that the best way to convince more couples to have girls is to improve the status of women by boosting education and career advancement.
And yet, sadly, women still need to be distinguished separately in diversity initiatives along with immigrants, GLBT, and people of color. Each of those segments are composed of either men OR women and so to be identified separately AND to naturally fall into any other ism as a woman is a double whammy. 
In spite of that ‘so called’ advocacy, we still read in the media that salaries are 15% to 30% less than men, and women’s representation in Fortune 500 leadership positions has stagnated in recent years.  In case you missed it, here is a wonderful infographic that we developed here at Global Learning, for this year’s International Women’s Day that looks at the gender wage gap here in Canada and the U.S.A. We have come so far, yet what is already ten years ago, in 2005 Royal Bank of Canada released a report that estimated the lost income potential of women in Canada due to the wage gap is about $126-billion a year.  
So what is going on? It is a cultural and economic issue… not a gender one.
Culture can be defined simply as ‘the way we do things here’. Geert Hofstede, a well known researcher, defines organization culture as the “collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members from others"
And culture is not easily described. Try articulating five or six practices in your organization and then ask “why do we do that?”.
Culture is based on values, the glue to behavior and decision- making. 
The question is: what’s invisible in our Canadian culture that does not recognize girls and women as equal, valuable contributors and leaders in the world of work- in government and in politics? 
My invitation to you: take a stand and start an inquiry with others about what is going on from a cultural and economic lens.
It is not only about my granddaughters; it is about your daughters and granddaughters too. It is about creating the future.  

Friday, 13 March 2015

Inspiring Others to "Walk Their Talk" By Elaine Newman

There are times in a person's life, amazing fleeting times, when they know what they believe in and stand for, has made a difference in shaping the choices of others.  These are the times we wait for and treasure, when we realize all of our hard work and effort has resonated with people we love and hope to inspire.  For parents, aunts and uncles and other adult family members, this is the defining moment with children. Last night, I had such a moment.

My daughter, Alexandra graduated last November from McGill University in Montreal with a Master of Science (MSc) Family Medicine.  Her thesis focused on the well sibling experience of anxiety and depression in young adults.  Her brother (my son) Michael has struggled with severe anxiety his entire life and her personal experience as his sister influenced her choice of thesis topic.  Much has been studied and written about the impact of mental health issues on the family unit from the individual's as well as the parent's perspective, but little to no research has been centered on the well sibling's experience.  Alexandra's thesis utilized qualitative research to explore the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the study group of 18 to 25 year old well siblings. This was a true case of lived experience shaping important choices in our life.

Alexandra was invited by the Jack.org McGill Students' Chapter to talk about her thesis and the impact that mental health issues have on the whole family unit at their Bridge the Gap speaker series this week.

Jack.org is the only national network of young leaders transforming the way we think about mental health.  With initiatives and programs designed for young people, by young people, they strive to end the stigma in our generation.  

In 2010, Jack Windeler was a first year student at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  He was a lively, bright and funny young man who was also struggling with mental illness.  Halfway through the school year, his grades dropped, he stopped going to class and he became disinterested and disengaged. Like many young people, Jack couldn't reach out for help.  In March 2010, Jack died by suicide. His loss devastated his family, shocked the Queen's community and started a movement. Following his death, his parents, Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington asked friends and family to make donations to Kids Help Phone in Jack's memory.  The outpouring of support created the foundation for The Jack Project which has since grown into a registered Canadian charity which focuses its efforts on decreasing stigma and improving mental well being on campuses.”

Back in September 2014, my son Michael started his freshman year at college and it was no surprise to us that he chose to attend Queens University.  What was surprising to us was that he could go away to college at all.  With his severe anxiety, he had never, and I mean never, been able to participate in overnight school trips, stay at friend's houses or travel by himself.  With the support of his family, friends, doctor, and coach who he had worked with since age 8, Michael started a year-long plan focused on enabling him to attend a university away from Toronto. 

Michael not only saw this as an opportunity to enable and empower his own life, he developed into a champion for other people living with mental health disabilities. Michael quickly became an ally and mentor for younger students in his school who were experiencing the all too familiar fears and anxiety that have plagued him for so many years. 

With this new glimpse of discovery into his own purpose, Michael has been exploring endeavors he couldn’t have conceived possible just a short time ago.  He has been invited to and has spoken at school events, as well as attended outside conferences with his school counsellor, a personal mentor of his for the past 9 years.  Most importantly Michael accomplished this amazing goal that he had set out for himself, while at the same time leaving others to feel inspired to do the same.

Last night, I received an unexpected gift, packaged in a brief Facebook comment.  As most of us do these days, my daughter Alexandra took to her Facebook profile, to make mention of her speaking engagement with the Jack.org McGill Students' Chapter

Michael left the following comment:

"really proud of my big sister Alex for speaking about her thesis at McGill today! As someone who has struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, having a family member focus a thesis on mental health issues and helping others affected by this is the best thing I could ever ask for! Love You."

I told my children last night, how proud I was of both of them for "walking the talk" and being role models and advocates for individuals with mental health issues.  Awareness, understanding, advocacy and empathy are critical to supporting others in every respect.  If all of us can focus on inspiring others in some way, big or small, to "walk their talk", the world will truly become a better place. 

"Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?" ~ Robert Kennedy