You Must Shatter the Glass Ceiling to Recognize the Benefits of Workplace Diversity

While a record number of employers are implementing more diverse hiring strategies, people with disabilities are often not included or are only hired for entry-level positions. The stark reality is that many people with disabilities find themselves struggling to rise through the ranks into key leadership positions. The absence of people with disabilities in key leadership positions in business, nonprofit, and government further contributes to their disenfranchisement in society. Not only do employers need to further include the diversity of people with disabilities into their hiring strategies, more needs to be invested into the advancement of people with disabilities into positions of influence.

Let’s explore three reasons why employers should consider a more diverse leadership:

  • Innovation — No innovative product or service is developed in a vacuum. People with disabilities offer a valuable perspective on adaptability and innovation, both crucial mindsets to any company’s survival and the development of their core products and services. However, if employees with disabilities are not in positions of influence, their input is often disregarded and pushed to the side. Companies that neglect to consider the input of a variety of user abilities and perspectives do so at their own peril and risk alienating a sizable market…and their own employees.
  • Performance — While diversity trumps homogeneity in teams, employee performance increases exponentially when team leaders are more representative of the company’s diversity. Teams led by employees with disabilities are more likely to be motivated, equitable, cohesive, and agile, improving outcomes in every direction. Providing an opportunity to employees with disabilities to be team or project leads can be an excellent avenue to further professional development.
  • Morale -When leadership consists of employees with disabilities, healthy workplace practices such as accessible accommodations, schedule flexibility, and more relaxed dress codes are more likely to be implemented, benefitting all employees and improving morale. Also, companies that implement universal design methodologies into their operations maintain valuable employees longer and improve productivity.

Of course, the benefits of a more diverse workforce don’t stop with improvements in innovation, performance, and morale. But to fully realize those workplace benefits, employers need to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities to excel to leadership positions where they can have an impact.

If we are going to actively recruit and hire people with disabilities to increase our workplace diversity, it’s not enough to stop when the hiring is finished. We need to consider every employee our most valuable asset and invest in their professional development through mentoring and job coaching. Let’s remember, diversity isn’t just about gender, race, or socioeconomic status, it’s about our differing abilities as well. And those abilities that make us different are incredibly valuable to our human experience and contribution to society. When people with disabilities are given the same opportunities of advancement as their peers, everyone wins.

About the Author: Josef Scarantino is Founder and President of Scarantino Consulting LLC, specializing in advancing the mission of businesses, organizations, and educators through diversity and workforce development training, program design, and innovation leadership. Josef is also the Founder of EightTen, a social enterprise aimed at increasing the engagement and inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor force through skills development, mentoring, and apprenticeship.

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