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

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, 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.



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”.