Whilst DE&I might now warrant an agenda item in board meetings, disability often remains an uncomfortable and undisclosed subject, despite affecting 14.1 million people in the UK.
Leaders are critical to driving changes in perception, but CEOs have been slow to dispel myths that disability should be kept behind closed doors. According to recent research, it showed that 7% of CEO’s have a direct experience of disability but 4 out 5 of them are hiding it and if there continues to be little representation, there will always be a bias in the workplace.
In response, businesses need to be more intentional with their disability inclusion policies and encourage schemes which get to the crux of the issue. And the next generation need to be at the heart of building inclusive businesses of the future.
At the Valuable 500, the largest collective of global CEOs committed to disability inclusion, we want to invite the next generation to help make that change. We recently launched Generation Valuable, a leadership programme designed to identify the next generation of leaders for inclusive businesses, accelerating opportunities for people with disabilities to become the talented voices of tomorrow’s C-Suite. Through the power of real human connection and amplifying ‘hidden’ narratives, the gap can be closed between the leaders of today with the potential leaders of tomorrow. Generation Valuable will connect C-Suite executives with disabled talent within their businesses and will have a profound effect on both.
The initiative will help amplify the substantial contribution of disabled people and drive the cultural change needed in business. Over 1.3 billion people across the world live with some form of disability yet, according to Return on Disability, only 4% of businesses are focused on making offerings inclusive of disabled people. Moreover, research shows that minority talent faces promotion barricades just below the Executive rung. Breaking into the executive ranks can seem nearly impossible without supportive, engaged corporate cultures. This is why we need to implement palpable schemes to make a difference – empty platitudes regarding disability inclusion within the workplace will no longer suffice.
We are intentional about all that we do, and ethical leadership is at the core of the Valuable 500’s strategy. The first cohort will consist of 75 rising stars, the announcement of which will coincide with International Day for Persons with Disabilities in December. With 15% of people living with a disability worldwide announcing the first 75 Generation Valuable mentees representing 15% of our Valuable 500 members holds great significance. Only by putting disabled staff and consumers at the heart of business strategies will companies rewrite the cultural narrative necessary to embrace inclusion and gauge the extent to which it is reflected within business.
The lack of access to people in leadership positions as well as the many people who feel they fare better if they hide their disability needs to change. This initiative proves that there is an array of disabled talent within businesses, and that they are more than capable of occupying positions of power and leadership. Enabling disabled talent to flourish and reach their full potential by shattering glass ceilings is a game changer. Recent research in conjunction with Tortoise Media found that ‘No FTSE company had a senior leader or above who identified as having a disability.’ We know that cannot possibly be true – the fact that no one is comfortable identifying as disabled is part of the systematic problem that Generation Valuable is aiming to dismantle.
Building the C-Suite of the future
By building the C-Suite of the future, by bringing them into direct contact with key decision makers, this initiative will expedite the necessary system change we want to see in business. Generation Valuable will effectively uplift 500 future leaders, enable over 3000 C-Suite conversations and provide participants with essential skills for success.
Young leaders are instrumental in shaping positive change for business and empowering the next generation will be a gamechanger in striving towards inclusion for all.
By Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500.