Last Wednesday,EYheld theirDiverse Abilities Leadership Summitat their Times Square office. The event was held to promote awareness and acceptance of people with differing abilities, and to "create opportunities for people of all abilities and the businesses which employ them," according to the event's program.
Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary at the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, urged the audience and their companies to choose inclusion in her keynote address, and that, "by being here today, you are making that smart choice."
Martinez pointed out that the current workforce is aging rapidly in the U.S., and as more and more people over the age of 55 continue to work, she said, a significant increase in working professionals with disabilities is becoming a very real possibility.
"We cannot sustain this growing population of people on benefits," Martinez said. "What started as a policy issue has become a marketing issue. People with disabilities are a huge market and the best way to tap into it is to make sure it’s represented everywhere."
Telling the audience how to best foster a culture of inclusion and getting it to spread both internally and externally, Martinez used a cooking metaphor, stating that people with disabilities, "want to be baked in, and not layered on. We need to create an environment in which people feel safe to self-identify as someone with disabilities."
Martinez additionally pointed to Employee Resource Groups (ERG's) as effective ways to impact disabilities in businesses.
Lori Golden, EY Americas abilities strategy leader, and Luke Visconti, CEO ofDiversityInc, also asked businesses to step up their efforts in their discussion, with Golden stating, "It’s the end of the awareness issue. Is this new? No. Is it new in the eyes of many companies? Yes."
"You have to have numbers and have accountability—otherwise, it's like a speedometer with no numbers on it," Visconti said. "How’s your recruitment doing? How are you assisting families with disabilities? If you look at the productivity of people with disabilities, and how they feel when your organization embraces diversity, it’s a win-win." Visconti additionally pointed toAT&T's Advisory Panel on Access & Agingas a progressive step in integrating disability inclusion.
Other guests included a panel comprised of organization representatives from IBM, Cisco Systems, and Merck & Co., as well as a closing keynote from paralympian Blake Leeper.
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