With his work focused on worldwide change, Darren Rowan knows all about the importance of communicating your higher purpose and developing your identity. Through being Accessibility Lead on Access Lily - a program focused on improving accessibility worldwide, Chair of Eli Lilly’s Enable Employee Resource Group covering almost every country outside the US and newly appointed Chair of the ERG Global Forum, Darren has developed a knack of conveying his drive for disability inclusion in a powerful way.
Finding a way to communicate your “higher purpose” isn’t easy, as Darren knows all too well from his experience. In order to do that you first have to find a way to share your own story of disability. He did that four years ago at a diversity summit. He talked about having Leber’s disease, a hereditary eye condition which results in vision loss, and the difference that people in his life had made to his personal journey. Before that Darren had only discussed his experience in small, or one to one settings. Darren felt a natural nervousness. “I felt terrified on the day of the summit. I was conscious of not wanting to screw it up. I used to get quite nervous because I’ve seen people being articulate and eloquent and I felt like I couldn’t find the right words. But actually, people don’t notice that because the authenticity and passion comes through.” Unsurprisingly, the worry of sharing his story paid off, leading to closer working relationships with people and a feeling of liberation. It also helped Darren to think more about his role in driving the purpose of the ERG at Eli Lilly and how he can express that, leading to him enhancing his ability to develop his, and his ERG’s identity. Through Darren talking about his own experiences, it paved the way for others to do the same.
Darren offers good advice for ERG / network leaders when thinking through how you share the true and authentic story of living with disability: How do you want others to help? What is the call to action? What are the key messages and objectives of what you’re saying? As Darren said “A good story is a good story, but you have to think about what you want people to do with the information you’ve given them.” Darren also noticed that looking at other sources of inspiration - such as Ted Talks that he watches - that with those communicating their higher purpose, their passion coming through makes all the difference.
The work that Darren has started, and will continue with, as Chair of the ERG Global Forum is essential for enabling networks / ERGs to drive disability cultural change. As the diverse set of multinational organisations meet and discuss how to combat roadblocks and challenges, handle competing priorities and share best practice, these organisations and their networks will be able to identify the key themes across many geographies.
Looking to the future, which may still be uncertain for many disabled employees across the world, Darren exudes optimism, through focusing on the things that are within his control and influence. As we know, the past six months have had a major impact on everyone, but Darren focuses on the positive. For him that includes the possibility of working from home becoming normalised for many and the opportunity that comes with enhanced digital communications. “For me, my level of independence and getting around physically with new one way systems has been affected. I was feeling a level of anxiety that I wasn’t before. But then, I think “I can order shopping to my house, I can get people to help me” and instead he concentrates on the ways where a level playing field can be created.
“The majority of disabled people I have met over the last five years whilst leading an ERG / network are incredibly resilient. Many have been through tougher times than the pandemic and I hope they remind themselves of that from time to time. Dig deep, you’ve done it before and you can do it again…and again”
His positivity also comes from his planning for #PurpleLightUp on 3rd December, and Eli Lilly’s preluding annual signature event on the 2nd December, where Caroline Casey will be a speaker. This year’s theme is focused on hidden and non-obvious disabilities, and Eli Lilly will be having events with different affiliates around the globe. They’re still developing their very exciting plans, and Darren is looking forward to asking members in the Global ERG Forum what they will be doing locally. “I’m also looking forward to seeing what PurpleSpace has to offer with the 24 Hour Broadcast. Once again, PurpleSpace has inspired me.” Darren knows about our plans for #PurpleLightUp - but watch this space, and we’ll be bringing you the exciting news soon… watch this space, and we’ll be bringing you the exciting news soon…
Eli Lilly Factbox:
- Eli Lilly has over 34,000 employees worldwide, with almost 700 in the UK
- Eli Lilly UK has four employee resource groups, including ENABLE, the disability employee resource group
- Eli Lilly was founded in May 1876, and has had a UK presence for over 85 years
- Products of Eli Lilly have been marketed in 120 countries
- In the UK, Eli Lilly is currently involved in over 100 research collaborations
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