The IWF Autumn Reception was a powerful conversation that continues to impact our thinking around inclusion. Guest speaker Caroline Casey, along with IWF members Alice Maynard CBE and Sarah Boddey, put us in the picture with some incredible statistics around disabilities.
Most striking is that there are no (zero) people in senior roles in FTSE500 companies who have identified as disabled. While tackling gender and racial diversity, we need to not lose sight of neurodiverse and disabled colleagues around us.
The take home messages were strong and unambiguous.
First, the mindset. It is not about them. It is about all of us.
It is about our intentions as leaders and how we manage fear and our discomfort around this conversation. Alice provided a fantastic example about a manager who took her abroad to deliver a contract. He swapped rooms with her because the bathroom in his room was bigger and could accommodate her wheelchair. And when they found that the bathroom door was too narrow, he removed the bathroom door off its hinges. The message was loud and beautiful: it is the bedroom design which is the problem, not the disability. It is about all of us as equals.
Second, active leadership. Leaders make choices, and these choices become company culture. David Taylor, CEO of Proctor and Gamble acknowledged that disability is a reality for everyone as we age. He invited Caroline to discuss The Valuable 500 with him in detail, and then (most importantly) acted on her guidelines. We need every senior leader to acknowledge the power of true inclusion and take steps in that direction. It is only through what IWF member, Yetunde Hoffman, calls “love-based leadership and cultures” that we can advance genuine inclusion in the workplace.
Third, collective action. It is on all of us to ask, to engage and to co-create solutions. Sarah’s call was to recognise that disability comes in many forms, and a lot of it is hidden. Change at the scale that is needed is a collaborative effort for developing macro, as well as, micro-solutions that impact a business and from there a whole sector.
And finally, our panellists made us think about what exactly we refer to when we call someone inspirational. It should be their drive, determination and leadership in getting things done. All too often there is an unspoken "in spite of..." statement at the end of our exclamations of "inspirational" which we need to eliminate. We need to focus on the inspiration from their drive, courage and actions.
Thank you Caroline, Alice and Sarah for an unforgettable evening.
The video provided by The Valuable 500 can be seen here.