Diversity and Inclusion is ever higher on the agenda and I have recently heard some very encouraging examples from firms who really understand disabilities, and are making significant progress towards a fully diverse and inclusive workforce. For instance, I met with the Head of D&I from a US Fund Manager who explained to me how an entire team had learned sign language to enable them to communicate with a deaf colleague, an initiative which has benefits way beyond solely helping that individual to feel included and valued by their colleagues.
For most of us, however, when we hear the term ‘disability’ in the workplace, the first thing with think about is wheelchair access.
What are Hidden Disabilities?
Hidden disabilities are any disabilities which are not visible. This includes the 160,000 people of working age in UK who are severely or profoundly deaf, sufferers of Bipolar disorder, depression, Epilepsy, Crohns Disease, Lupus and MS. Not to mention the estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome. (Nope, I had no idea what this is either until very recently.)
Hidden disabilities affect all of us
One in FIVE of us, or almost 7 million of the working population have a disability but no more than 8% of disabled people use wheelchairs. That leaves the overwhelming majority of disabilities as hidden – people live with them and work with them even if we can’t see them at first glance. For many, a disability can entirely take over their lives and, naturally, can prevent them from working. Reading this, even if you have not suffered from a hidden disability yourself, I imagine you can think of someone who has, and if so you will be able to appreciate the many ways in which hidden disabilities can impact on a person’s well-being.
Financial benefits of embracing Disability
As firms are wising up to the presence of dis/different abilities and understanding the huge impact they have on their staff, they are beginning to realise the economic benefits of a work force that feels included. Higher morale and productivity, together with lower staff turnover, are just a few examples.
There are many exceptionally bright people in the City; before making an investment decision, teams spend countless hours scrutinizing accounts, analyst reports, economic trends etc. But when these vital decisions rely upon a firm’s key assets – their staff – how much more productive is a team of people who have a manager who invests in THEM, who understands them and, crucially, who understands the individual challenges they may face from hidden disabilities? We have all worked for managers who couldn’t care less for the health of their staff – the ones who know more about the car they drive than the people they manage. But with more evidence demonstrating the economic benefits of diversity and disability – it is only a matter of time before this style of leadership becomes bound for the scrap heap.
In Jan 2016, Ink Recruitment is launching ‘Opportunity NOT Sympathy’ – an initiative to increase the awareness of disabilities in the Financial Services space. We have the support of a number of financial services firms, Members of Parliament and public figures. For more information, please contact Richard Webber on firstname.lastname@example.org