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A Corporate “Mobility Linked” Lock-out – guest blog post by Susan Plunkett PhD

Over the past months I’ve read a number of engaging SheEO blogs on women in leadership roles and moving into the boardroom.  Those are aspirational goals and ones that every little girl should have in her toy garage or dollhouse at the ready.  But, what about those women who are more than competent, but for whom corporate Australia is largely out of reach?  What about those of us with mobility issues who are dealing with lockout and who can’t even get through the front door of the building?

Although the aim of this blog is to raise awareness and consideration of this issue and not to be self-serving, please allow me to tell you a little about me.  I haven’t always had a mobility issue but I now do.  I have four tertiary degrees including a research based Masters and PhD.  I have a wealth of experience across several industries and I am a wiz researcher and social media strategist.

Obviously, I know I don’t have to tell a recruiter or company (looking to hire) about my mobility problem but, for the sake of open disclosure, I generally do.

The reception? One male recruiter yelled down the phone “Don’t tell me that!!  Now you’ve biased me, I can’t deal with you!”

A top female recruiter said, “Are you thin? I won’t be able to get you work with any Sydney CEO if you’re overweight.” * Good lord, so, I guess I could be acceptable to some (in her eyes) as long as I am really slim. 

I have openly informed HR staff, GM’s et al and never heard from them again after initial excitement and energy and “could you come for interview asap?”

It’s 2010.  Is this really the state of play or, am I yet to encounter the truly enlightened – and equality minded – corporations and recruiters?

I just rang a specialty service for disabled people and for them I was out of the box.  They conceded that I was well above the general educational level of the vast majority of people they assist.  Still, despite them wondering whether they could in fact help me, they said they would ring around various recruiters and see if anyone was prepared to advocate on my behalf. 

So, people ‘like me’ (did I just say that?) find we need advocates.  So, just as Jen advocates women taking leadership and board roles, I am here to ask those of you with the power to do so, to please examine – or re-examine – your corporate activity on hiring talent.  Yes, talent.  Because talent and skills aren’t generally affected by mobility problems, nor age, nor gender.  My legs may be weak but that doesn’t mean my brain is.

Is anyone afraid to hire because a person who may look disabled makes you uncomfortable?  Or, you worry about your clients needing to deal with this issue at presentations?  I accept these concerns, but talk about them and address your fears rather than turning someone away.

Is anyone willing to seriously consider a hire?  In this context that’s a rhetorical question, but I so hope so as this is a lonely, unfulfilled place to be.

I encourage relevant readers to take advantage of the Board Diversity Scholarships Jen blogged about last week.  As you do consider walking through that door, may I ask you to look back and see what is happening for women, at all levels both corporate and societal.

If anyone would like to connect with me to offer feedback, to share similar stories, or to let me know about the positive actions (not just policies) being undertaken in your workplace, I’d love to hear from you. 

I’d also encourage comments here, and, once again, do feel free to be candid in your questions, concerns about hiring employees with disabilities, positive experiences, and so forth. 

* Just so readers know, I did not leave this question and statement without feedback.

About the Author | Susan Plunkett PhD is a Social Media, Digital and Online Communications Consultant 



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