Develop, support, promote disability leaders

Tag Archive: workforce diversity

  1. Gaps

    A river flowing through a gap in two steep cliffsGaps

    By Christina Ryan, DLI CEO


    Organisations striving to improve their disability diversity want to achieve substantive outcomes. Many are now attempting to measure inclusion.


    Unfortunately, inclusion is a highly subjective concept so measuring it is challenging. What exactly might measuring inclusion look like, and how can it be compared to inclusion in other organisations so that benchmarking across industries becomes possible?


    Rather than measure ephemeral concepts, organisations could achieve more tangible outcomes by measuring gaps. Disability diversity is either present or it isn’t. Measuring gaps across a range of key areas will indicate what progress an organisation has made towards inclusion, while also indicating specific areas for improvement.


    Openly identifying

    Most organisations run an annual staff census to gauge workforce sentiment across a range of areas, including whether people identify as disabled. These surveys are usually anonymous which means people can safely share information that they otherwise would not.


    For at least the last decade most of these workforce surveys return results showing a level of people with disability that is around twice that of people who are known as openly disabled in that workplace. In other words, approximately half of the disability workforce in most organisations is not being open about their disability. This gap is a key indicator of inclusion because it points to the level of psychological safety that is, or is not, present.


    Comparing anonymous reporting levels to openly known levels is a key gap to monitor. The target outcome is parity between the two figures.



    How many disabled people apply for jobs with an organisation, compared to how many are recruited? This gap speaks to styles of recruitment, advertising, and interview processes; all of which can be adjusted to be more inclusive. Advertising often includes specific requirements which exclude disabled people, and which are often not necessary for the position concerned. Interview processes are held in inaccessible locations or present barriers which do not necessarily produce the most competent person for the job, for example speed writing exercises or rapid problem solving. Adjusting interview processes to reduce barriers has the potential to increase the numbers of disabled people who get recruited.


    Measuring the numbers of people who declare their disability prior to interview, with the numbers of disabled people who actually get a job is another key gap that can be measured over time. The outcome to achieve is application and recruitment levels equivalent to population density.



    A key workforce diversity building block is diverse leadership. It has long been understood that diverse leadership leads to a more diverse workforce.


    Organisations can measure the levels of diversity in their senior leadership teams and on their boards and work to build greater levels across all diversity cohorts. These levels should reflect the population levels of the various diversity cohorts unless the organisation works in a specific diversity area and then the levels would be expected to be much higher for that diversity cohort. The gap between population levels and leadership levels can be addressed through targeted recruitment and career pathway strategies.


    Another element of monitoring leadership is to understand the presence of disability in the broader workforce and whether that is reflected in the presence of disability within the leadership of that organisation. Is disability present across all levels of the organisation or is it clustered at more junior levels? For example, if an organisation has 5 per cent disability levels in its workforce, are 5 per cent of its leadership also openly disabled people?


    Monitoring gaps can provide substantive measurable indicators of how inclusive an organisation is. Monitoring these gaps over time will also indicate whether an organisation is improving. These indicators are not subjective, rather they are based on specific empirical evidence and can be used across a wide range of organisations and industries.


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    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.