“This is the inclusion revolution, right here and right now.” Challenging words spoken by the amazing Dr Caroline Casey, founder of #Valuable, at Business Disability Forum’s Scottish Conference, back in December.
If you have been working in the disability space for any length of time, it can be easy to become despondent, and wonder if the change that we have all been calling for and working towards for so many years will ever happen. The global disability employment gap is wider now than it was in 2010, for example. And too many big businesses which talk the language of diversity, fail to include disability.
This makes no sense when you consider that disability is the one characteristic which can and does – and will – affect us all. And yet it is too often the Cinderella of the diversity world.
But last week something amazing did happen. For the first time ever, disability inclusion took centre stage at the most influential global event in the world.
The World Economic Forum four-day annual conference in Davos brings together leading figures from business and politics to discuss issues of global importance. Usual topics on the agenda include security and the economy, and, more recently, the environment and the gender pay gap, but never the value of the 1.3 billion people living in the world with a disability. Until now.
Thanks to the incredible and visionary leadership of Dr Caroline Casey, for the first time in the Forum’s history, disability was a main stage event. It is hard to overstate what a big deal that is. The buzz started towards the beginning of the week and by the time Caroline took to the main stage on Thursday, joined by CEOs and global business leaders, including former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, it felt as though something was really happening.
They highlighted the actions that global organisations can take to become “the tipping-point for change” and to “unlock the business, social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world”.
I am proud to say that Business Disability Forum Partners and Members, Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, were among the first businesses to sign up to become part of the Valuable 500 – a growing cohort of businesses who are committed to putting disability on the agenda at the highest global level.
The Valuable 500 is calling on global organisations to commit to putting disability on their board agendas in 2019, with recent research by Business Disability Forum Partner, EY, showing that over half of global senior executives, rarely or never discuss disability on leadership agendas.
I said earlier in this blog that too often disability is the Cinderella of the diversity world. And a brilliant new film created by AMV, DIVERSISH, launched at the conference in Davos, makes this point brilliantly. It shows that many businesses may call themselves diverse yet overlook disability in their definition of diversity. They are as the film says, diversish. You can see the film here:
So what now? How can we ensure that the historic events of Davos turn into the longer-term inclusion revolution we have all hoped for?
As an expert partner of the Valuable 500, Business Disability Forum will be among organisations ready to provide practical resources and advice on how they can bring about meaningful, top-down and embedded change within their organisations, during 2019 and beyond. It’s an opportunity and challenge which we relish.
But this change can only happen if more global businesses follow the example set by Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, and sign up to the Valuable 500 pledge.
As Sir Richard Branson says, “Stand up as allies for change. Consider how you can improve your disability performance and commit to unlocking the value of over 1.3 billion disabled people and families across the world.”
You can find out more and apply to be a Valuable 500 business at thevaluable500.com.
Let’s make sure that this is only the start of the inclusion revolution that we and so many others in this space have been seeking for so long.