As a business transformation expert who understands that organizations need to make changes over time on how they operate, and someone who has focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) over the last decade, I understand how there is a balance needed on adjusting to new situations while ensuring all people are treated fairly.
However, I’ve noticed lately that there is a saturation point with DEI in some areas and even the most well-intentioned individuals are starting to push back. Why? Because there are unchecked incidents happening with longstanding residents in Canada where their interests or values are being cast aside in favour of new immigrants that are entering Canada.
We need some common sense injected into this conversation. Let me share my story to articulate what I mean.
I work out at a gym that has recently provided a 90-minute time slot for “women only.” When I saw this, I thought “yay! This is great! Now I don’t have guys googling me while I work out! Bonus!” It was a bit of an incentive for me to get myself there and simultaneously some relief while I’m there.
But this is what happened.
The gym is located on the second floor of the building and overlooks parking lots on two sides. There are large windows that go from my mid-drift level to the high ceiling. They’re significant and contribute a ton of sunlight to the room.
I got there about 5 minutes before the women’s only time began. I was on the treadmill that was situated right in front of the windows. A great place for seeing far off in the distance and doing my exercise.
As I’m on it, I can see the gym staff starting to pull the blinds down. And they proceeded to close ALL blinds that were in the gym – we’re talking 34 big blinds (I counted). Suddenly I’m staring at a black blind one-foot away from me, in a significantly darker room and feeling totally demotivated. It also made me feel like there was some rationale made by someone that it is best for me to not be seen.
So, I respectfully decided to ask some questions of the staff. Why is this happening?
I was told that there are certain cultures that are not allowed to show their hair to men and even though there are none in the room, we were on the second floor of a building and some men could potentially still see these women from a distance and therefore the blinds had to come down.
Of course, I understand this cultural dynamic and am not suggesting that we impose our culture on others but I do think we can’t have their culture imposed on us either. We have to have some common sense here and find solutions that meet EVERYONE’S needs. (I’m keen to hear from men on this too – would they put up with this?).
For example, can we not have a blind that goes maybe just ¼ down the lower half of the window so we can have sun still shining in? Or get the window film that is often used in homes that provides privacy but is semi-transparent so light can come completely in? Another option could be to move certain equipment away from the window. But let’s be honest, it’s a second-floor gym with a parking lot surrounding it. Is any of this truly necessary?
I told the gym manager that operating in this fashion has gone too far – women should not have to say- the good news is there are no guys around, the bad news is you have to work out in a significantly darker room. Makes no sense. And excludes the needs of those of us who value that sunlight.
It’s decisions like this that I think generate significant push back and resentment on the topic overall. Simply put, it does not help the cause of integrating new cultures into Canada. In fact, I would argue it does a complete disservice.
Plus, I believe strongly that it sends the wrong message – we are changing our environment in a country that values freedom. Individuals from these cultures have chosen to come here in order to escape oppressive ways. But here we are altering our environment to accommodate their need only?
I can tell you as a longstanding Canadian citizen, when those blinds came down, I felt we have come to a point where we need to talk about this sensitive issue. It can’t be one or the other cultural practice. As an expert in this field, I believe we CAN find solutions that meet everybody’s needs in this situation.
As I am digesting this idea that the blinds are all coming down, I then heard a voice on the PA system saying everyone had to clear out of the gym. I thought wait a minute, I’m a woman, this is the women’s only time, why do I have to get out? Made no sense. When I asked about this to the manager, I was told – some guys just don’t leave when they’re supposed to. I thought really? That’s the answer here? So, women have to disrupt our workout to get outside the gym for 5 minutes because guys can’t follow the rules? It’s a basic rule here. I get that sometimes time can slip, but a 5 min ahead notice over the PA and a walk around to check should suffice.
I appreciate the equity measure of a “women only” workout timeslot for us to have some space to work out without feeling harassed. But let’s make sure we have common sense involved in the decision making and that everyone is accommodated.
And guys – just play by the rules. It creates unnecessary frustrations between the genders that can easily be avoided.