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How Managers Can Move Employees with Disabilities into Leadership

How Managers Can Move Employees with Disabilities into Leadership

​A recent study found that employees with disabilities often believe they don’t have the same opportunities for advancement within their company as do employees without disabilities.Overall, employees with disabilities are less confident their skills will be used effectively or that their employer will trust them to use their own judgment when performing their job, according to a recent study on The State of Disability Employment Engagement by Mercer and Global Disability Inclusion. It often depends on a manager whether an employee with a disability gets the same leadership development opportunities as any other employee. “Leaders … need to look for ways to give people with disabilities opportunities to be visible in front of a group,” said PwC Tax Director Rob Rusch. “If we live in world where an individual in a wheelchair is visible, then it starts to break down that perception” that someone in a wheelchair may not be capable of performing a certain job.Here are three ways managers can provide leadership opportunities for employees with disabilities.Encourage Self-IdentificationMore companies are encouraging employees to self-identify that they have a disability, particularly if an employee has an invisible disability. People who disclose their disability are more engaged with the organization, their managers and their teams than those who have not disclosed, according to The State of Disability Employment Engagement. “I’m very comfortable identifying my disability, but I don’t have much choice because it’s an external physical disability,” said Rusch, who has a neuromuscular disability and uses a power wheelchair. Although Rusch understands that an employee with an invisible disability might not be as eager to disclose because of concerns about how a manager or co-worker could react, he doesn’t regret being open about his disability. “It has opened resources and doors for me to lean into that identity,” he said.Of the 45,078 PwC employees in 2020, 2.6 percent self-identified as having a disability, up from 1.6 percent of its 43,713 employees in 2018, according to the 2020 PwC Diversity & Inclusion Transparency Report. However, Senior Associate Nesa Mangal said, because PwC is relying on self-identification, the number of employees with disabilities is likely higher.At tech company Intel, 1.4 percent of the 110,600 employees self-identified as having a disability in 2020, said Dawn Jones, chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of social impact. Intel’s goal is to increase the percentage of employees who self-identify as having a disability to 10 percent of the workforce by 2030, Jones noted. “This is an important goal for us as we work toward an inclusive and psychologically safe environment where employees are empowered to bring their whole self to work and succeed,” she said.Address Inaccurate Perceptions “Because of first impressions, people with disabilities probably don’t always get the benefit of doubt that [other people] get, especially if their disability is visible,” said Paula Jenkins, a project manager and executive chef at The Galley Dining Hall in Charleston, S.C. Jenkins manages 120 employees, and about 92 percent have a disability. The Galley contracts with Palmetto Goodwill in …