Very recently, KPMG was named one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for the fifteenth year in a row, an amazing accomplishment that did not surprise me. Working at KPMG for as long as I have, I've been a firsthand witness, again and again, to the lengths people will go to support our inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) strategy. I am truly proud of the firm for that commitment and their recognition of how important it is to embrace differences and to make everyone feel equal and included. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes good business sense: the numbers consistently show that organizations with focused ID&E strategies enjoy above average profits, as well higher rates of talent retention, attraction and innovation.
But consider this: over 90 per cent of organizations have recognized these facts and have an ID&E strategy, but only 4 per cent of those strategies include people with disabilities according to a report rom the Return On Disability Group as cited in Harvard Business Review. This, to me, a person living with a disability, is shocking. Only 4 per cent of employers think to include one of the largest marginalized communities on the planet? People with disabilities represent almost 15 per cent of the world's population. In Canada alone, more than 6 million of us are people with disabilities. How can employers be forgetting us?
(To be clear, KPMG in Canada is among that 4 per cent. While there is still work to do, I see the leadership commitment behind disability inclusion and it's one of the reasons I'm proud to work here.)
But the truth is this: when it comes to people with disabilities in the workplace and in society generally, we are still a long way from achieving equality. A long way from making people with disabilities feel included. A long way from embracing their differences as an asset, not something to pity. The other way this all came home to me recently was from having to park at a "handicap" spot twice in a single week. I couldn't believe we still refer to people in this way. The word handicap refers, in no uncertain terms, to something that is inferior, put at a disadvantage, an impediment, a burden to overcome, someone who is unable to live a "normal" life. I'd have thought by now we'd have gotten to a point where we can recognize that all of us are different and that "normal" isn't actually a thing.
The other truth is this: people with disabilities are resilient, having to face change or adapt to new ways of doing things. They have to be efficient to get to the best solution for everyday tasks to save energy. They have to be innovative every single day to overcome barriers placed in front of them in a society that doesn't enable their productivity or isn't accessible. Aren't resilience, efficiency and innovation exactly the kinds of qualities any employer would want in an employee? People with disabilities don't leave these qualities at the door when they go to work. They apply those same skills in all situations. Comprising 15 per cent of the world's population, in a market that is desperate for skilled labour, people with disabilities are a community that deserves more than 4 per cent attention in our ID&E strategies.
No, I do not believe, in my heart, that anybody intentionally goes out of their way to make people with disabilities feel excluded. But as my favorite quote says: "If you do not intentionally, deliberately and proactively include, you will unintentionally exclude." We sometimes seem to have forgotten this. I hope we will remember it soon.
Stay up to date with what matters to you
Gain access to personalized content based on your interests by signing up today