Last month, human rights, discrimination and disability commissioners held a forum in Brisbane Walk the Talk: Realising the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy and our human rights promises.
The country’s leading human rights advocates argue that Australia’s policies and procedures do not match rhetoric on equality. Queenslands’ Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks is calling for employment targets for people with disabilities.
Australia is an exception to many other countries where employment targets for people with disabilities is standard practice. In over 24 countries, Government legislation exists requiring a percentage of the workforce to identify as PwD, with penalties for non-compliance such as the imposition of heavy financial penalties, and in some cases public denouncement and restrictions on bidding for public sector tenders. This structural intervention forced the need for the identification of top down and bottom up hiring targets. Mitchell Services Director was appointed IBM’s Diversity Recruitment Leader in 2011-2015, to liaise globally with business leaders, Diversity Leaders and HR/ Recruitment Leaders to develop strategy for inclusion of People with Disabilities (PwD).
Creating Diversity & Inclusion change requires more than a focus on structural intervention. Moving the status quo requires sustained strategic leadership with a holistic understanding of the structural, cultural, interpersonal and personal barriers in the workplace. A key part of the Diversity Recruitment Leader role was working with the business to promote roles within PwD communities; develop Hiring Manager education through a Diversity Hiring Manager Toolkit; develop & promote communication campaigns internally and externally to raise awareness of PwD hiring; develop Management Systems and reporting.
Leading the hearts and minds transformation was personal storytelling such as Dr. Dimitri Kanevsky, an IBM Master Inventor with more than 100 patents to his name. Deaf since the age of three, he was a gifted maths student, but the Soviet Union restricted the admission of students with certain disabilities to state universities. Overcoming this structural barrier saw him go on to break new ground in the field of speech-recognition technologies, including the invention of speech recognition as a communication aid for deaf telephone users and the invention of Artificial Passenger, a tool that uses voice to help prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.
Taking a strategic approach to hiring must come from business leaders driving sustained holistic leadership on diversity. This challenges leaders and organisations to remove barriers to actively seek a wide range of adaptable people who bring different perspectives. Diversity targets do not work when there is no clear communication from the top on why diversity and inclusiveness is critical to the business; and why it leads to better business decisions. One in five people in Australia identify with a disability; 20% of the population in your workforce and customer base. How are you designing business solutions to meet this?
1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss.
Vision Australia estimates there are currently 357,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision.
An estimated 10% of the population has dyslexia.
45% of the population will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime.
1 in 3 customers with disability have ceased a transaction because they were not treated respectfully or fairly.
People with disability are three times as likely to avoid an organisation and twice as likely to dissuade others because of an organisation’s negative diversity reputation.
We all know in business what gets measured gets done. In Australia, if business leaders are committed to a truly inclusive workplace to reflect the needs of customers, starting with structural change- focusing on setting stretch diversity targets, governance, accountability, KPIs for hiring managers, education for hiring managers- is necessary to disrupt the status quo.
‘Missing out: The business case for customer diversity’ 2017, Australian Human Rights Commission