Each month our Development Consultant Sally Ward recommends a resource to help you in your work. For June’s theme, Working with Senior Champions and creating Allies, Sally takes a look at a recent report from one of our members, KPMG in association with Purple on 'Leading from the front: Disability and the role of the Board'.
Five years ago, it would have been challenging to weave the word disability or even diversity into a speech or presentation given by any Board member of an FTSE 100 company. That was something that was clearly an HR or Corporate Social Responsibility topic, not something for a CEO to discuss. But things have changed during those five years and senior leaders, across both public and private sector organisations, want to demonstrate that they – and their business – understand the value that someone with a disability or a long-term health condition can bring.
At PurpleSpace, we are proud to be expert partners of #Valuable500 movement which pledges to get 500 global organisations to commit to inclusive business in 365 days. #Valuable500 is a movement founded by Caroline Casey and is a call to action to engage business leaders in really understanding why disabled people are still underrepresented in the workplace. Organisations including PurpleSpace members Accenture, Barclays and Fujitsu as well as Unilever, Bloomberg and Proctor & Gamble are part of the public commitment.
So, the timing of our theme for June – 'Working with Senior Champions and creating Allies' – couldn’t be more appropriate and relevant. In fact, we are jointly hosting a dinner on 18th June 2019 with Gavin Bounds and Duncan Tait from Fujitsu to debate the challenges that business leaders around the globe have to make progress on.
On 27th June we are holding an evening networking reception 'Driving Change from the Top', hosted by law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP where we bring together 3 senior champions from private and public sector organisations to offer tips to network leaders in how they can attract senior executives interest and keep them informed about all things disability.
But I can hear you saying, how does all this relate to this month’s external resource review? And I’m pleased to say – with an absolute direct line of sight. One of the key roles of a network chair and the committee is to be ready to brief your senior sponsor and other senior allies at a moment’s notice. And it’s always a good idea to have up your sleeve a couple of statistics and research reports you can refer to and, in turn, refer your senior executives to.
Our members KPMG produced a report recently in conjunction with Purple about the role of the board in understanding that becoming a disability confident employer opens your organisation up to a wider talent pool, different ways of doing things and a far broader customer base.
The report focuses on the discussion from the perspective of the Board, acknowledging that forward-thinking leaders and organisations are already building a more inclusive and prosperous future in which the potential of disabled people can be fully realised. As it says in the first line of the Executive Summary “Disability is board business”. The report gives five simple best practice steps of how senior leaders can influence the disability agenda:
- Tabling disability as an agenda item for a minimum of one board meeting each year
- Appointing a board level champion who is accountable for disability issues within your organisation
- Signing up to the Governments Disability Confident scheme to demonstrate commitment to becoming an inclusive employer and brand
- Become an advocate and promoting disability issues to your suppliers, extended networks and external audiences
- Consider external partnerships with campaigns and bodies that specialise in disability issues to boost your understanding and accelerate change programmes.
And, of course, at PurpleSpace we would add a final idea:
- Support the set up of a disability network in your business for all employees
The report also talks about how, until recently, conversations about disability were more likely to focus on what disabled people couldn’t do. In a 2009 British Social Attitudes survey, 36% (over one third) of respondents thought of disabled people as less productive than non-disabled people. So, changing the language and shifting the culture are the way forward. For example, rather than being apprehensive about taking disabled staff on, the mindset needs to move towards realising disabled people are a unique and valuable source of talent and that diversity generates innovation.
I would highly recommend taking some time out to read this report and sending it to your senior sponsor. Or if you don’t have a sponsor, send the report to your HR team and help get the conversations started about the role the Board has making an organisation disability confident.
One final thought: One of the facts in the report made me smile – “In 2016 the number of FTSE 100 CEOs with the first name David (8) was higher than the total number of female chief executives (6)”. It’s difficult to think about that comparison in a disability context as there are so few senior disability role models around. Perhaps with a report such as this, the work that the #Valuable500 and PurpleSpace are doing it will be sooner rather than later.
PS: I’m really keen to understand what you think of my reviews. It would be great if you could drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via the Member Zone with your feedback – go on, I’ve got broad shoulders!!
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