Tag Archives: accommodation

“A girl is a girl”

14 Oct

The Girl Guides of Canada – one of the oldest organizations serving girls in this country – are now officially welcoming transgender girls and women to the fold. Hooray!

You can read more about it in the Huffington Post article, but a few things bear special mention here.

The organization has been working on this for a while – responding to the increased awareness about gender identity as well as requests from parents and girls. They have created a set of guidelines “designed to respect and accommodate all children identifying as female”.

The central guiding message is that “a girl is a girl”.
Wow. A bold and necessary step that shows their commitment to inclusion and to all girls across the country.

It’s so good to see a national organization involved in the lives of many girls across the country making an effort to understand and adapt in order to serve their demographic well. And the welcome extends to girls of all ages as well as women who want to be involved as leaders.

What this move shows is an understanding that gender is not the same as sex, and that regardless of anatomy, a transgender girl or woman is a girl or a woman. Period.

Way to go Girl Guides!

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families


A new look at a daily activity

27 Aug

On my run yesterday, I had to cross a busy street.
This isn’t unusual.
But yesterday I noticed a new button at the crosswalk.
IMG_4361 It’s likely not new, but it’s the first time I noticed it.
And I noticed it, because it beeped when I pressed it.

The beep caused me to pause. If I had a visual impairment, the beep would let me know that the button had engaged and the lights above the cross walk were flashing. What happens when there is no beep?!

Suddenly I had a whole new perspective on crossing the street.

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copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker | Workshop Facilitator | Consultant | Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com (new website!)

Disabilities and the Workforce

2 Aug

Monday on CBC radio’s Metro Morning, one of the topics was people with disabilities in the Canadian workforce – or rather the lack thereof (listen here).

People with disabilities make up about 17% of the Canadian population, and experience  higher unemployment rates  (4x the national average), and high underemployment. The main barrier that Joe Dale (the ED of the Ontario Disability Employment Network) was explaining to fill-in host Jane Hawtin are people’s myths and misconceptions.


The interview made me think about language, and how we label people – or rather how we label certain people. No one can do everything. Why then, are some of us considered “abled” and others “disabled”. It suddenly seemed a little absurd.

We don’t all do things the same way. But somehow those of us who are considered “abled” are often given leeway to arrive at the end result by our own means without someone looking over our shoulder or judging the way we got there. When we need help or are unable to do something,we are usually able to receive assistance without too much fanfare. But the level of discomfort about “accommodations” for people with disabilities can be startling.

I wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have labels like disabled and abled? Would there be more space in a workplace (school, family, community, etc) for people to exhibit their strengths and find support for the things that they found difficult? Would we be better at sharing work so that people really played to their strengths and formed collaborative teams? What if people were just people and their contributions were valued for what they are?

I know. It’s a bit Utopian, but underlying these labels and the grumbling about accommodation is, in my opinion, a definite judgment call on how things should be done, what it should look like, what types of effort it should take, how people should be, and ultimately who has value – which leaves little room for difference (and certainly less room for obvious difference), and consequently also little room for innovation and humanity.

Today that stands out as particularly sad and shortsighted.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion.

Taking another look at Accommodation

24 Feb

This week Michael Bach (Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at KPMG) spoke with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning. In 7:19 minutes he covered a lot, but the thing that struck me most was in the first minute.

Hats off to you Michael, for astutely pointing out that workplaces accommodate everyone.

As ‘Diversity in the Workplace’ has increased in awareness and practice, it amazes me how often accommodation is still seen almost as a dirty word – synonymous with inconvenience. I smiled when I heard Michael say “lights are an accommodation for sighted people. If you are blind you can work even with the lights off”.

Woot! How many times have we thought of that?

The fact is that the Canadian workplace has been structured with certain people in mind – meaning that the accommodations required for the Canadian worker of the past are already (conveniently) built in. Think about it – why doesn’t the work week start on Sunday, for example?

There was much more to this conversation, so it will likely be fodder for a few more blogs. But thanks Michael, for not letting that one go by.

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copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion

Faith at Work III

5 Dec

Sometimes at a conference, we are challenged by the people in the seats, as well as by those on the stage. The Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change on November 9th was no exception.

The panel discussion (When is a hat not just a hat?)  was interesting; we heard from a Minister, a former Buddhist Monk, and Immam, and a Rabbi. To me, there was a common message of taking more time to talk, to listen, to ask questions, and to get to know each other, and to not be afraid to name and talk about the things that are happening around us so that we can learn from and support each other; all amazing calls to action.

But there was something nagging at me that I couldn’t put my finger on until someone stood up and asked a question about power and privilege. Ah…

She pointed out that we were still using words like “tolerance” and “ethnic” and “hospitality” in this discussion that suggest an Us and Them approach. What we weren’t talking about, she continued, was the way the dominant culture has been woven, seemlessly, into not just what we do, but how it is done. When, and how were we going to talk about that? she asked.

There was applause.

Sadly, although there were responses, no one actually addressed her question. I think we just don’t know how to have that conversation. And I think we spend so much time talking about accommodating and recognizing the other that we don’t realize that this in itself is perpetuating the Us vs Them. Until we see that and recognize it, we will continue to welcome others into our space, but not really create spaces for all.

It’s time to change the conversation!

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

Faith @ Work II

22 Nov

One of the workshops I attended at the Nov. 9th Diversity@Work conference put on by Skills for Change was by Nadir Shirazi. He spoke about dedicated spaces in offices for quiet time, prayer, meditation etc.

Nadir’s presentation was very interesting; he shared the challenge for companies to name these rooms, and the lack of follow-up to see who is using them and how they are used. He confirmed that most of the requests for such rooms are made my Muslim employees. And he explained that complexities arise when these rooms are used by many people with different beliefs and needs. Providing a room, as the title of his workshop suggested, is just the tip of the religious accommodation iceberg.

What stood out for me most, however, was the inequity Nadir shared of where these rooms often are. In their commitment to diversity and inclusion many companies have such spaces in their corporate offices. This is wonderful for the executives and employees who work there, but doesn’t help the staff in the company’s call centres, or retail stores, or franchise outlets (for example).

It was an interesting manifestation of privilege within the context of attempting to be equitable; of how easily people can be overlooked even when we are trying to be inclusive. I’m willing to bet it’s largely unconscious that the men and women at head office have a meditation or prayer room while the workers “on the front lines” of these companies may not. But if this is the case, what do our accommodation efforts really amount to?

It sure made me wonder when I placed my order for tea at the Toronto Airport last week before boarding my flight, and noticed that not a single person working there was White.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Faith @ Work…?

8 Nov

Tomorrow I’m going to the day-long conference  http://www.diversityatwork.org/ put on by Skills for Change. The topic is faith in the workplace – an issue that is on the radar more often these days in the world of diversity and inclusion.

I’m looking forward to the panel discussion on the difference between faith and culture (because I think we often confuse the two when we don’t have enough information), and to the workshops in the afternoon. I’m hoping to attend Nadir Shirazi’s workshop on balancing assimilation and integration (moving beyond meditation spaces at work) and Immam Michael Abdur Rashid Taylor’s session on accommodation (a common sticking point with HR and other employees).  Of course these are only 2 of the 4 workshops available, so if I can’t get into those, I will have other great choices. 

I’ll report back on Thursday to tell you all about it!

And for those who think there is no place for religion at work, or that it has no impact – consider why our work week is Monday to Friday…

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity & inclusion

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