Becoming More Disability Inclusive Amongst Your 2017 D&I Resolutions?

Becoming More Disability Inclusive Amongst Your 2017 D&I Resolutions?
Here are 6 Reasons Why You Need the Disability Equality Index (DEI)

As a person with a visible disability who has spent most of my professional career in HR leading diversity and inclusion, I’m frequently asked to offer an opinion on the merits of completing the DEI. Knowing how precious resources are to fill out any kind of survey or assessment tool, it’s an important question, where do companies get the greatest return on investment?

Here are 6 reasons why I encourage companies to register for the DEI by January 13, 2017 and complete it by April 21, 2017:

  1. The DEI is a joint initiative of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It was developed by a 20-person DEI Advisory Committee made up of equal numbers of business leaders and disability inclusion advocates.
  2. The DEI is a transparent, comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion, with all questions visible from the outset (rather than appearing depending on how you answer a question) that recognizes companies that score an 80 or above. Note: The names of companies scoring less than 80 are kept confidential.
  3. While it’s often desirable to seek validation for hard won diversity and inclusion accomplishments, and there may be leaders in your company who seem to have an insatiable appetite for positive PR, it’s necessary to be selective and only choose those that will resonate with your employees, customers and suppliers as authentically earned. The DEI will help your company make real progress and provide acknowledgement that the disability community views as sincere and meaningful.
  4. Unfortunately, it’s rare to attend a disability event that includes leaders from the business community where the speakers talk about the significant market opportunity ($220 Billion in U.S. $3 Trillion globally), and brand loyalty of people with disabilities and their stakeholders; how to include disability-owned businesses in supplier diversity efforts; and where to find top talent who also happens to have a disability. This is puzzling because with any other event focused on under-represented groups, typically you would see all aspects described included. The DEI is a tool that will help business advance disability inclusion across the business and will continue to raise the bar over time.
  5. Beyond all of this, there’s an even more important factor in making the decision to complete the DEI. In my experience as a D&I practitioner, all diverse communities subscribe to the mantra, “Nothing about us without us.” African Americans, Women, LGBTQ, Asia Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Veterans all want to be involved in decisions that are made and strategies that are developed that impact them at work and in the community.
  6. Business leaders have found the DEI to be #morethanascore. Here are some quotes from my D&I colleagues who have participated in the DEI:

“The DEI requires a higher level of thoughtfulness, and many pairs of eyes to understand and address the questions. When various stakeholders across the company review the questions, the questions tell them the story of what disability inclusion really entails. This allowed us to engage in conversations with individuals who might not have thought about these topics as deeply prior to seeing the DEI questions. The process is as valuable as the result.”

“The DEI is not just a prize for participation, but for doing the real work. The scored outcome is something tangible you can show leadership to demonstrate the fruits of the organization’s labor. Meaningful outcomes, not just an award, but accomplishments.”

“To score 80+ on DEI is to be in rarified company with organizations who have made this investment. As a business to business organization, this also shows our clients who have made an investment that is similar to the one we have made with regards to true disability inclusion that we take this seriously. If you give everybody a prize for participation, you lose the value and meaningfulness of this.”

“Some of the questions were truly eye opening and challenged us to make some important changes like adding hearing aids to our covered benefits, and designating and training someone in our technology department to focus on accessibility.”

“Questions are thought provoking and cause you to examine and review policies and practices.”

The DEI was co-created by business leaders and disability inclusion advocates. The results of this collaboration is an instrument that presents a reasonable and achievable bar for companies. It’s not all the disability community would have liked to see included, but it’s a great start that has resulted in meaningful improvements in businesses who aspire to be disability inclusive. If a company achieves a score of 80 or more on the DEI, you can be assured that they have made great strides.

Full disclosure, I was on the founding DEI Advisory Committee and continue to serve.  Below are some quotes from some of my colleagues on this Committee who are both business leaders and disability inclusion champions:

“What’s invisible can’t be counted. What’s uncounted doesn’t really matter. The Disability Equality Index is one of the most effective ways to understand how people with disabilities can be visible and respected in the workplace – and for employers to make them count. By taking part in the DEI, corporations signal to all Americans that their doors, their markets and their minds include everyone.” — Bob Witeck, President, Witeck Communications, Inc.

“If we want to accelerate progress in disability equality, we need to know how to measure success. The DEI, developed jointly by business leaders and disability advocates, is a great tool that is helping companies learn and grow in this space.”— Andrew Imparato, Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities

“CVS Health is honored to be one of the DEI top scoring companies for the second consecutive year. The DEI is not just a great benchmarking tool, it also provides a holistic framework for any company looking to develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of the disabilities community in the workforce, workplace and marketplace.”— David L. Casey, VP, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health

“We are a technology, media, and entertainment company that provides products and services to very diverse communities around the world. The only way to truly succeed as a competitive and innovative company is to hire and employ a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities. Inclusion drives innovation. The questions posed in the DEI force you to take a hard look at your hiring and employment practices and really help you to become better – to be more inclusive, so you can be more innovative and, therefore, more successful as a company.” — Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships, Community Investment, Comcast Corporation

To view the DEI go to:

Questions? Comments? Please, let’s hear your views.

For more information, and to register by 1/13/17 go to:






I Know You Know Someone Who Needs This Information

blog5050% of the U.S. population is touched directly or indirectly by disability. Since you and I are connected through social media, you are even more likely to be a person with a disability and/or have a friend or family member with a disability.

Good news: there are six great companies with national footprints that are positively recruiting people with disabilities for a broad variety of exciting career opportunities.

There is NO COST or obligations associated with exploring/landing one of these jobs. I am working with a national non-profit organization, the U.S. Business Leadership Network ( on a pilot project to help match 1,140 individuals with all types of disabilities with positions at McKesson, Boston Scientific, Grainger, TD Bank, General Motors, and CSX Freight companies.

You may not be aware that disabilities include many non-apparent conditions including: learning, attention, mental health, sensory, developmental, and metabolic conditions (e.g. Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, Lupus, etc).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please take just one more step. Take a moment to look at this link and forward it to someone you know who would find this information of interest:

You could also post this on your social media accounts so it will reach many more people with disabilities in your network who are unemployed or underemployed (looking for a better opportunity).

To see a full listing of all the opportunities at each of the six companies candidates can also go directly to one of the six career portals and apply directly.

Please select USBLN as a referral source.

If you want to learn more about these great jobs and the USBLN Going for Gold project you can also contact me, or Emily Malsch at


The Forum on Workplace Inclusion at the Minneapolis Convention Center

Knowing that your travel dollars and time are at a premium, you likely have to make very thoughtful choices about which development opportunities you will participate in 2015. Here is a suggestion for your consideration, having attended this Forum many times over the years, I can say from firsthand experience it is one of the best values available, and most inclusive environments for anyone looking to invest in their diversity and inclusion knowledge, confidence and network.

March 18-19: The Forum on Workplace Inclusion at the Minneapolis Convention Center

Review the conference program for more information & registration details

For nearly 30 years, The Forum on Workplace Inclusion® has built an active community of cross-sector leaders who gather to learn and grow through facilitated dialogue, structured networking and experiential learning.

You will hear from some of the brightest minds engaged in diversity and inclusion today. You’ll join other leaders, scholars, practitioners, and allies in a rich variety of learning experiences, including seminars, workshops, and facilitated dialogues.

Who Should Attend The Forum?

  • Diversity and inclusion leaders
  • HR and talent acquisition/management/development practitioners
  • Leaders and managers of diverse workforces
  • Health care, government, education, and non-profit leaders and managers
  • Employee resource group members
  • Organizational development and effectiveness practitioners
  • Training and development staff
  • Anyone wanting to know more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Prior to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion is a pre-conference (March 17), the Diversity Executive Forum (DEF) that is designed for advanced D&I practitioners. For an invitation to the Diversity Executive Forum, please contact Steve Humerickhouse at

Inclusion as The How: New Research Demonstrates that Inclusive Teams Outperform Teams that Experience Intergroup Conflict

Dr. Lisa Nishii, Associate Professor of Human Resources at Cornell, and Chair of their Industrial and Labor Relations Department, has long been one of my favorite thought leaders in the field of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Nishii has produced some of the most compelling research I have seen re: the impact of inclusion in organizations. Her latest research demonstrates that:

  • Conflict amongst colleagues is detrimental to achieving objectives and fostering employee satisfaction and engagement
  • Gender diverse teams with inclusive climates experience less conflict compared to gender diverse teams that lack an inclusive climate.
  • Lower conflict leads to better solutions where there is dual concern for self and others
  • Less inclusive climates result in destructive group behaviors
  • Teams that invest in establishing connections and norms that embrace diverse perspectives benefit most due to learning and creativity

A key element of this research that I would like to call attention to may not surprise anyone, but is worth reinforcing: organizations that do a good job of valuing women experience less conflict, more inclusion, and better results. Key dimensions of fostering an inclusive work environment include: fairness and equity in employment practices, integrative welcoming of diverse perspectives and experiences vs. requiring conformity to previously established organizational norms, and a diversity of opinions being actively sought and integrated during decision making.

In her other research related to employees with disabilities, she has found that investing in developing inclusive managers pays big dividends including:

  • Higher employee engagement and discretionary effort
  • Reduced turnover
  • Greater likelihood that people with disabilities will self identify and ask for needed accommodations
  • Managers that see the tangible benefits of diversity and inclusion and willingly embrace D&I practices in order to enhance innovation, results, and their own personal experience as an employee
  • Team members who realize they play a critical role in their experience in a work group, and who are wiling to help co-create inclusive group norms where diverse perspectives are valued and encouraged

You can find Dr. Nishii’s research report at:


D&I: Dark Ages or Renaissance?

When I started out in diversity in 1991 it was a new construct. Diversity was built on a foundation of AA/EEO, social justice, and civil rights.   It was aimed at the shifting demographics depicted in a best selling business book, “Workforce 2000.” In the beginning of this work the strategies we tried were much like throwing spaghetti at the wall, we tried lots of different approaches, and continued with those ideas that stuck. As long as were not giving the employment attorneys apoplexy, back then we had pretty free reign to be creative. By the time Y2K became a non-event, both from an IT and workforce perspective, we had begun to establish best practices, proliferate diversity conferences research and publications, and offer content through various D&I professional organizations.

We also began to add the word “inclusion” to the work we were doing. It became increasingly in vogue for companies to have a Chief Diversity Officer or CDO, and many of us in the field were filling out surveys to get our firms on lists, standing up Employee Resource Groups, and integrating D&I into HR policies and practices. We began to make measurable progress with women (primarily white women), and with the LGBT community becoming more out and proud and receiving equality with regards to benefits.   We also came to realize that for many companies the Pan-Asian community was masking our intractable under-representation of African and Hispanic Americans, and we started to get more serious, as well as better at leveraging detailed scorecards.

Where D&I is in 2014?

In a post 9/11 globally interdependent recession weary world – we find ourselves continuously “transforming” with the organizations we work for. This euphemism for constant downsizing, increasing demands to accomplish more with less, and quarterly focus on deliverables – all due to complex and unpredictable business dynamics – have us all hyperventilating. This circumstance has resulted in many D&I leaders moving out of these roles, not only due to the stress, but because many of these jobs have been both downgraded and combined with other positions in talent management, corporate social responsibility and employee relations. HR has been the one constant over the past 25 years: reliably ambivalent about D&I. This has resulted in HR colleagues celebrating some of the D&I accomplishments, while also periodically aiming friendly fire at those occupying the diversity role. Another constant: ERG’s continue to grow and proliferate despite all this change.

In organizations where the D&I work has been sustained, we see strong business alignment which has begun to yield compelling evidence of an emerging competitive advantage that has kept it relevant in spite of all of the turmoil. The current state of D&I in any organization depends largely on whether the CEO/CHRO value what is being delivered. When the value of D&I is perceived as low – we see companies reverting to the dark ages of employee engagement and inclusion. Where the value of D&I is perceived as high, we see an emerging renaissance.

As Mary O’Hara Devereaux has documented in her book, “Navigating the Badlands,” the human race is experiencing a period of phenomenal change not experienced since the 10th and 11th centuries. It is up to contemporary business leaders to decide during these tumultuous times whether they will succumb to the current chaos, or, like the Medici Family, chart a path forward by embracing diverse thought leaders who see exciting possibilities where others may only see risks.

As the artist Phil Hansen illustrates so eloquently in his video, instead of seizing the day, perhaps we should seize the limitations. Link to video.

Hidden Talents

I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of serving on the Families and Work Institute (FWI) Board for about five years. Just after my second Board meeting in July of 2010, I had a bad fall just outside FWI offices and broke both legs. When the ambulance arrived, the EMT in charge said they had to take me to the nearest hospital—Bellevue Hospital. I knew that other hospitals were better equipped to handle the rare bone condition I have, but in New York City, the “rules are the rules,” he said.

A few of my fellow Board members were horrified and began heavily lobbying that I be taken to a more appropriate hospital. In fact, the conversation became so heated that the EMTs providing the transport were threatening to engage the police if the conversation continued. Not being a native New Yorker, I had no idea why the advocacy of my colleagues was so strident. Thank goodness Ellen Galinsky, President of FWI, offered to ride to the hospital in the ambulance with me and stay with me to help navigate the situation. Being in tremendous pain, I was so grateful for her kind offer since I had no idea what I was about to encounter.

When they rolled me into the Emergency Room at Bellevue, the reasons for concern became quite clear. Not only were other hospitals more knowledgeable about my condition, the ER at Bellevue deals with serious trauma and violence. There were many armed police escorting injured prisoners in orange jumpsuits, seriously ill homeless individuals, and a general sense that many of the injuries were the result of gunshot wounds and stabbings.

Ellen was able to negotiate with the ER staff to place my stretcher in an orthopedic storage area away from the chaos. She then tracked down through her network an ER physician who did his internship at Bellevue, could call the ER physician on duty and was familiar with the rare bone condition I have. Ellen kept connecting with the doctors to ensure that I was getting a diagnosis and treatment (despite all of the trauma they were dealing with) and stayed with me until my husband could get to the hospital, which took quite a few hours.

During this ordeal, I learned that this is not the first time that Ellen has had to negotiate with the health care system. Her son was born prematurely, requiring more than a month of hospitalization, and she worked with that hospital to bring about changes in the way that premature children are cared for. She also took care of her mother during the last months of her life when a lack of communication between the Emergency Room and the hospital itself let to medical mistakes that spiraled into serious health problems. Again, she was able to work with that hospital in ensuring better ER-Hospital communication and sharing of records and plans for reducing deaths caused by medical mistakes.

So often we do not take the time to understand each other’s unique insights as people who are knowledgeable consumers of the health care system, and the value that these experiences and connections can bring to our lives, both during times of crisis, or just the usual ups and downs of life and the health conditions that can be associated with the aging process. FWI has been a champion not only for the people they know and love but for us all.

I hope you will consider joining me to celebrate the 25th anniversary of FWI in order to learn about the leading edge research and critical advocacy work Ellen and her team at FWI do on behalf of all of us who are looking for effective strategies to better integrate our work and family lives and for creating workplaces that work for both the employer and the employee.

Please consider joining us for a fun and inspiring gala dinner on June 18th at Cipriani in NYC. For information about this event and how you can sponsor or donate go to:

About Families and Work Institute: a note from Ellen Galinsky, President and Co Founder, Families and Work Institute

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Families and Work Institute Turns 25-Years Old

Twenty-five years old! A quarter of a century! The Families and Work Institute opened its doors on July 1, 1989 and this summer, we will celebrate this milestone in our history.

Despite the passage of time, I can still feel the trepidation my co founder Dana Friedman and I had in deciding to create an organization, the turmoil of facing an unfriendly real-estate market who didn’t want to rent space to two women, despite our credentials, and the discomfort of being lost in the detail of the design of the logo, the furniture for the office, and where to order paperclips. Yet, I also remember the joy of creation. It has been quite an adventure!

Our mission has never wavered. It is research to live, work, and learn by. Our very reason for coming into existence is to conduct research that leads to action on the changing workforce, the changing family, and the changing community. We are quite unusual among organizations—both academic and non-profit organizations—in four ways:

  • Whereas other organizations tend to be focused on one or a few specific topics, we take a broad, life-cycle approach, covering topics from birth through aging.
  • Whereas other organizations tend to focus on individuals or on the context in which individuals live, we take an ecological approach, looking at individuals in terms of their work, their families, and their communities.
  • Whereas other organizations tend to be either focused on conducting research or in advocating for changes, we are a research organization that works to ensure that the rigorous finding resulting from our studies can or do lead to action.
  • Whereas other organizations that focus on action tend to stop there, we additionally work to ensure that our action projects are change experiments—they are evaluated by research and then improved.

I have known Deb Dagit through most of these 25 years and she has been a stalwart guide, a source of inspiration, and of wisdom throughout. We are proud that she joined the Board of the Families and Work Institute five years ago, and we look forward to working with her, Dan Dagit, and all of you as we shape a new research-to-action initiative on employees with disabilities from our 2014 National Study of the Changing Workforce. Stay tuned!

Being Out and Proud As a Person with a Disability

A day I will never forget: July 26, 1990. It was incredibly hot and sticky on the South Lawn of the White House, as about 2,000 people with disabilities and their allies raptly watched President George H.W. Bush Sr. sign the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. I was shocked when the president stepped off the podium and walked directly towards me to extend his hand and say, “Congratulations, young lady.” I was too surprised and overwhelmed to say anything more than, “Thank you, Mr. President!” I left that day feeling both energized and optimistic about the progress we would make due to this landmark legislation. signingOver the next 22 years I lead all aspects of diversity in three different Fortune 200 firms. As an N=1, I experienced both the ecstasy (I got invited to almost every diversity gathering) and agony (it was very lonely and intimidating to be the only diversity practitioner at every meeting who was “out” as a person with a disability). I constantly wondered, why am I the only one? Fast-forward to March 24, 2014, when Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act went into effect with a 7% aspirational goal for self-identification of people with disabilities. We now know that about 50% of the U.S. population is directly or indirectly impacted by disability, and 71% of disabilities are non-apparent. Despite the fast growing size and scope of this “majority minority”—thanks to the aging baby boomers—we have seen virtually no progress in reducing the high unemployment rate of people with disabilities as we approach the 25th anniversary of the ADA. My friend and colleague, Rich Donovan, CEO of The Donovan Group, hit the nail on the head when he said this: “As firms react to the new 503 rules, they have an opportunity to create value for shareholders.* To do this, the firm must go beyond compliance to act in ways that generate new revenue and leverage disability to reduce cost. Senior management must decide if its scarce budget will be spent on legal fees and narrow checklists or on robust strategies that address the demands and talents of customers and employees.” I believe it is time for bold action, and I know that if you have read this far into my message, you are ready to be bold too. My bold? Utilizing my experiences as a lifelong ally for the LGBT community, I have adapted proven strategies to inspire and motivate allies for people with disabilities. The VOICE© Program includes a multimedia video and three facilitator’s guides that help organizations foster allies at all levels. What is your bold?  As you consider your organization’s options for doing more when it comes to hiring and including people with disabilities, are you selecting strategies and tools that were created by people who have a disability? No organization would even consider creating a program to enhance representation and inclusion for women, people of color or the LGBT community without leaders of these constituencies playing a central role in developing and executing the strategy. We must follow the same “not-about-us-without-us” anthem for people with disabilities. If you hire an organization to help you with your disability hiring and inclusion efforts, explicitly ask, “Who on your team is out and proud as a person with a disability?” I was recently at a large, three day meeting for businesses in our nation’s capital that was focused on compliance with the new 503 disability regulations. Out of the dozens of speakers, I was the only one who identified as being a person with a disability, and I was told I could only attend the workshop I lead. No, I am not kidding. I invite you to take a look and provide your feedback about the VOICE Program and the other resources available on this site. Please know that if I’m not the right resource for you, I will help you find a great subject matter expert who is an “out and proud” member of the disability community. * Fifth Quadrant Analytics (FQA) published research demonstrates that firms that engage the disability market as valued customers and employees outperform their peers in creating shareholder value. FQA recommends transforming the government mandate into an opportunity to serve shareholders and grow profits. Learn more.