Madhavi Latha Prathigudupu
Why don’t some organisations have staff with disabilities on their Diversity & Inclusion Committees?
Is it an issue with their commitment towards inclusion of staff with disabilities?
Is it because they don't have a single staff member with disabilities in the organisation?
Is it because they are not able to find a staff member with disabilities with leadership skills?
If “yes” to any of these questions, is it not the responsibility of the organisation to pay particular attention to groom staff with disabilities as future leaders?
These are some of the questions that trouble my mind.
Whenever I give a talk at any organisation, I make it a point to check with their officials on:
1. How many staff with disabilities do they have? Do they have staff with disabilities at all?
2. Do they have at least one staff member with disability in their D&I Committee?
3. How many of their staff with disabilities are at the middle or senior management level?
Over the years, I've received positive responses at some places for the first question. But rarely have I received a positive response for the 2nd and 3rd questions.
I feel that a positive response for the 2nd question will lead to a higher chance of a positive response for the 3rd question. Because it shows the commitment of the organisation to provide equal opportunities for staff with disabilities.
Even if organizations don't identify persons with disabilities with leadership skills to include on their D&I committee, still I feel they can include staff with disabilities on the committee and groom them to become leaders by providing opportunities to share their knowledge and provide training on cross disability approach. If the right exposure and the right skill development opportunities are provided to staff with disabilities, they can also grow like any other staff member in the organisation.
If organsiations start giving importance to the views and suggestions of their own staff with disabilities, I sincerely feel it will help the organisation greatly.
It is these staff who know about the environment of the organisation well - what is available and what is lacking.
Futhermore, suggestions from persons with lived experiences carries more value.
Maybe organsiations wonder if it will be difficult to say “No” to a suggestion given by a D&I Committee member with a disability. However, a genuine concern from the organisation due to budget constraints or any other policy related matter, this can be explained to that committee member. She/He can understand it well. It’s always better to have an open conversation than to avoid such situations. That will help both the parties.
What’s your view on this? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
p.s. I am part of the ERG and D&I Committee (Disability Pillar) of one of the regions/departments in my organization. To the extent of my knowledge, other members in the team feel comfortable to get clarity from me for their doubts and seek my suggestions. I've never felt that it was inconvenient for them to have me in the committee. I can proudly say we are putting our sincere efforts to groom staff with disabilities to become future leaders.