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Develop, support, promote disability leaders

Tag Archive: Christina Ryan

  1. Not Like You

    A row of small white bowls on a wooden surface, each bowl has a different spice or liquid in it.

    By Christina Ryan DLI CEO

     

    Diversity means not like you.

     

    “Not like you” means people who approach problems differently, achieve outcomes differently, and who might look and sound different.

     

    Disability Leadership Institute members regularly report on ways that their workplaces insist they look the same, sound the same, approach problems the same, and work to achieve outcomes the same way as their manager or other team members. Sometimes this seems to be about “fitting in” and sometimes it seems to be generated by the manager’s discomfort with being around a disabled person, or in approaching work in a way that the manager isn’t familiar with.

     

    This is a form of discrimination and harassment. It is also an effective way to prevent the disabled person from working freely and productively. It is a very effective way of obliterating the diversity in the room.

     

    Somebody who stops being who they are and “fits in,” who works to change the way they work, is assimilating. Assimilation is not diversity, it is sameness.

     

    The point of diversity is to embrace difference and acknowledge its contribution to innovation and problem solving. When we put two heads together, we get a different outcome. When we put many heads together, we get a very different outcome.

     

    Why then do we have so much trouble embracing diversity in our workplaces? Difference, people who are not like you, makes for better decisions, better outcomes and faster problem solving.

     

    Many disability leaders report leaving their jobs because someone new comes into the team or into management. The most common reason is that the new person expects them to be someone they cannot be. They are expected to lose their difference, to become the person that the new person wants. To be just like the new person. To be not disabled. This is assimilation; you are welcome here so long as you look, work, and behave like me.

     

    Everyone is different. Every human is different. Yet, for some reason, disabled people are expected to not be different. We are expected to twist ourselves into being the same as other people so that we fit in.

     

    This is damaging, it is reducing the effectiveness and productivity of highly qualified staff, and it is preventing the realisation of inclusive and diverse workplaces where all are welcome.

     

    Sign up for regular updates from the Disability Leadership Institute. 

    Christina Ryan is the CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute, which provides professional development and support for disability leaders. She identifies as a disabled person.

  2. DLI members in the news – May 2024

    Lisa Cox – How we can use the power of visibility to stamp out disability stereotypes

    Dwayne Fernandes – Podcasts released to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day

    Tricia Malowney – In Practice: Further calls for feedback on Scope of Practice review

    Gemma Smart – Congratulations to our new equity officers!

    Anna Boucher – The federal budget shows Australia’s net migration intake will fall sharply — but some say it’s outside the government’s control

    Claudia Forsberg – What would happen if Australia were to ban social media altogether?

    Belle Owen – Disability sector and new SA Mums become allys over inaccessibility

    Amanda Lawrie Jones – After hitting her car, Brenton Brown left Carol-Anne for dead – twice

    Amanda Lawrie Jones – Brenton Brown pleads guilty to crashing into Carol-Anne Jones, leaving her trapped as he ran away

    Ryan Smith – Relive the highlights of the 2024 Design Inn Symposium

    Lisa Cox – Bus Stop Films unveils initial program for November summit

    Tricia Malowney – In Practice: Medicare compliance for disability assessments

    Christina Ryan – Disability inclusion is a financial issue too

    Karen Hedley – Clear direction for local social enterprise

     

  3. DLI members in the news – March 2024

    Yenn Purkis – TEDx Canberra, Autigender and allyship

    Shane Hryhorec – Disability advocate Shane Hryhorec says he was ‘patronised’ and ‘humiliated’ on Virgin Australia flight

    Frances Kupke Smith – Organisers accused of falsely promoting Bill Shorten’s attendance at NDIS conference

    Dan Stubbs, Colleen Furlanetto – Disability Commissioner visits Shepparton

    Debbie Heron, Disability Leadership Institute – Forging a new trajectory: leader Debbie Heron joins Life Without Barriers as co-CEO intern

    Shane Hryhorec – Council wins inclusivity award but shuts accessible toilet

    Muthu Didi – Outrage over insensitivity in ‘Ihusaas’: a hopeful step towards acceptance and inclusivity?

    Shane Hryhorec – Uphill challenge as beach users with disabilities call on governments for equal access to Australia’s coast

    Shane Hryhorec – Uphill challenge as beach users with disabilities call on governments for equal access to Australia’s coast

    Akii Ngo, Ruth Bonser, Haidi Badawi – Leading Change: Disabled Women, Gender Diverse Reflect on IWD 2024

    Shane Hryhorec – One in five Aussies miss out on beach fun due to accessibility issues

    Emma Bennison – “Stressful and humiliating”: Blind disability charity executive abandoned at airport

    Kat Reed – ACT Budget – disability groups call for whole of Government disability response and boost to struggling disability advocacy services

    Simon Darcy – Is the travel industry ageist

    Haidi Badawi – Empowering Disabled Women on International Women’s Day

    Belle Owen – The one major reform needed to improve Access Taxis

    Carly Findlay, Christina Ryan, DLI – It Is Still Legal To Pay Disabled People Below Minimum Wage

     

    Lisa Cox – Ignite Change through Connection: A night of inspiration and action

    Shane Hryhorec – Aussie beaches missing one ‘simple’ thing causing thousands to miss out

    Yenn Purkis – In Our Words, exploring the intersections of identity

    Disability Leadership Institute – How culture, confidence and capital bar the way to more women-led businesses

  4. Expertise or Tokenism?

    A close up picture of the face of an owl with big yellow and black eyes and very brown and white spotted feathers.

     

    By Christina Ryan, DLI CEO

    Leadership diversity without tokenism remains an inconsistent achievement for many organisations. References to appointments made on “merit”[1] continue to dominate conversations, yet tangible outcomes for disability leadership diversity seem elusive.

     

    Recent conversations with highly experienced disability leaders have revealed a disturbing common thread; our substantial qualifications and expertise are what gets us into positions of senior leadership, but once we are in the room our disability apparently becomes the dominant factor for those around us.

     

    It seems that highly qualified and experienced leaders, despite their levels of ability, still face significant ableist barriers even when they hold senior positions. Additionally, these highly experienced leaders have been told they are appointed on merit, yet they are the first to go in restructures or when budgets become tight. The Disability Leadership Institute has heard many stories, across all industries, in the last year alone.  Is this merit, or tokenism?

     

    Somehow people struggle to recognise us as experts, even though they insist that we have been appointed on merit. With so few openly disabled leaders in senior positions this is a problem. Why would someone openly identify as disabled if it results in tokenism, or when they will be first out the door during restructures or redundancies?

     

    The road to disability leadership diversity is paved with good intentions, but while the roadblocks continue the end of the road will remain unreachable. Appointing disability leaders is one thing, keeping them when times get tough seems less important.

     

    Disability leaders will do things differently, which means they often don’t fit the culture that they are entering. Perhaps it is these different methods of operation that make others uncomfortable. Senior disability leadership is still highly unusual and remains confronting for many others in senior leadership positions to accept. DLI members have heard colleagues ask: how can someone who is disabled also be the most competent, qualified, experienced person for the job?

     

    Like anyone, disability leaders work hard to achieve senior leadership, yet it appears that many of their senior leadership colleagues and peers think their disability was more of a factor in their appointment than their expertise. This is unconscious bias writ large. The assumption that an appointment is token provides a convenient solution to those who feel threatened by the competence and expertise of disability leaders. After all, how could a disabled person possibly be the best person for such a senior position?

     

    Focussing on disability to avoid recognising the competence and expertise of disability leaders is both ableist and patronising. It acts as a significant barrier to appointments.

     

    The lack of tracking data to monitor how organisations sustain senior disability appointments is also troubling. It means that disability leaders can be last in first out when restructures or redundancies occur and there is no way of noticing that it is happening.

     

    There remain substantial barriers to achieving disability leadership diversity, and without diverse leadership organisations lose productivity, struggle to build a diverse workforce and are in danger of going the way of many other dinosaurs.

     

    [1] “merit” is a dubious concept which implies that people are appointed entirely because of their qualifications and / or expertise. Avoiding The Merit Trap (Champions of Change, Chief Executive Women 2016)

     

    Sign up for regular updates from the Disability Leadership Institute. 

    Christina Ryan is the CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute, which provides professional development and support for disability leaders. She identifies as a disabled person.

  5. DLI members in the news – December 2023/January 2024

    Melissa Hale – Melissa Hale is changing the game for deaf women in cricket

    Lisa Stafford – Disabled Travellers Face Discrimination: Seeking Change and Redress

    Shane Hryhorec – Glenelg’s accessibility beach mats open 24/7 across the next two weeks

    Lisa Stafford – Travellers with disability often face discrimination. What should change and how to complain.

    Lisa Cox – Representation shouldn’t be rocket science (paywalled)

    Shane Hryhorec – Beaches that roll out welcome mat for the less mobile

    Caroline Bowditch – Alter State igniting hope through Disability Leadership

    Shane Hryhorec – Disability advocates call for government investment to improve Australian beach accessibility

    Lisa Cox – Diversity in advertising and the high fashion glass ceiling 

    Shane Hryhorec – First-ever all-inclusive & accessible membership-based gym opens in SA

    Shane Hryhorec – Australia’s first inclusive gym opens in Port Adelaide

     

    December 2023

    Megan Spindler Smith – CEO internship, a first of its kind learning experience for all

    Kate Taylor – Speed dating with an inclusive twist

    Gemma Smart – CAPA board passes motion removing SUPRA voting rights

    Frances Kupke- Smith – Beyond barriers: Advocate sheds light on the challenges at disability expo

    Christina Ryan – The Drum

    Akii Ngo – Birthday party part of the search for inclusivity

     

    Jane Britt – Things I wish I’d known before an emergency — Notes on the Brisbane floods from someone who’s deafblind

    Disability Leadership Institute – Disabled voices leading the national conversation

    Tricia Malowney – Kinetic invests in enhanced accessibility in Melbourne

    Carol Taylor – The rise of adaptive fashion

    Disability Leadership Institute, Christina Ryan – People with disability recognised for making an impact

    Disability Leadership Institute – ABC features stories for, by and about Australians living with disability