By Angie Elrick, Membership Engagement Manager
This week is Volunteers Week (1st -7th June), an annual awareness week, in which the contributions of volunteers across the UK are recognised, celebrated and appreciated. Millions of people across the country volunteer in all different sectors. And one group in particular deserves to have their efforts recognised - the disabled employee networks/resource groups, who are building disability confidence from the inside out - they are driving systemic change.
Whilst the majority of people volunteer outside of employer supported schemes, there are those that “volunteer” at work to make their workplace better for others, to make the world a better place and to drive workplace inclusion. Leaders of disabled staff network/resource groups, as well as the members in those disabled network/resource groups are change makers in dozens of different ways. And often, this is from the side of their desk, with limited resources and time. This includes mentoring or supporting people who may have workplace adjustment needs, organising (now online) events and activities, organising communications on their workplaces’ internal platforms and commenting on their organisation’s inclusion strategy at the highest level.
It’s important to highlight this type of ‘volunteering’ for two reasons. Firstly, because we still have some way to go before disabled people are employed at the same rate as non disabled employees. In fact disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non disabled people, and 20% of employers say that they’re less likely to employ a disabled person. And disability staff networks and resource groups work to make their workplace more inclusive, and enjoyable, for disabled employees within an organisation. Secondly, its particularly important right now - the pandemic has meant that more people are working from home, possibly needing unplanned adjustments, or further support from their employer. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled network/resource leaders taking on additional work to do the best that they can for their networks. Network/resource leaders can also be role models for those reluctant to share details of their disability. Three quarters of disabled people in senior roles choose to conceal their disability. But by disabled employees seeing that they’re not alone, and having a support system, it can make such a big difference. Last month, we spoke to PurpleSpace member, Marcella, who had initially chosen not to share information about her disability to her workplace, but realised what a difference it made for her to share her story, not just for herself, but for others. There is a real sea-change happening in the PurpleSpace community.
Of course, volunteering can be both beneficial in terms of being enjoyable, as well as helping to learn new skills. And at PurpleSpace, supporting our members to build their skillset to make their resource group/network stronger than ever is key. We do that through monthly Leadership Themes – together with practical advice and resources such as podcasts, online events, publications and blogs to read, as well as monthly challenges so that they can really put what they’ve learned to the test.
This Volunteers’ Week, do feel free to give a shout out to disabled network/resource leaders and steering groups, many of whom, with our support, really go the extra mile to drive disability confidence from the inside out. And if you’re reading this, I’d strongly encourage you to see how you can support your workplace’s disabled network/resource group - whether you’re disabled, or an ally. And if your organisation doesn’t have one, I encourage you to see what you can do to change that.
The full blog and all content is available to Members.