How this company is hiring and promoting people with disabilities to connect with others in their community.
At the 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) this past March, DIVERSEability Magazine caught up with Kathleen Martinez and Dena Wainwright of Well Fargo. They spoke to us about what Wells Fargo is doing to lead the way in promoting disability employment awareness and connecting with the communities they serve.
Kathleen Martinez, senior vice president in enterprise marketing, is the lead for Wells Fargo’s Disabilities and Strategies Segment. She’s been with the company for about a year and a half, in a position that was only recently created. She comes fresh from a career with the U.S. Department of Labor, where she served as the assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy. “Wells Fargo just created the disability segment in the last year, and the disability segment role is to develop an enterprise-wide strategy in four different areas: customer experience, team member experience, philanthropy and supplier diversity.” Martinez says these four areas encompasses all the work that Wells Fargo does, and “our goal is to weave disability into the DNA of the enterprise.”
With 15 representatives in attendance at the CSUN conference, Wells Fargo was out in full force, demonstrating its commitment to actively recruiting employees with disabilities. “We have a quite a few of our access specialists here and people from various compliance divisions positions in our line of business,” reported Martinez. “So the goal really is to begin weaving disability into the standard of our operating practice—more than what we’re already doing, because we have done quite a bit on our customer side.”
Martinez also pointed out that in the same month that she was hired, Dena Wainwright came on board, too. Wainwright is program manager of the Enterprise Online Accessibility Program. “That we hired two people in these prominent positions is a real statement,” remarks Martinez.
Wainwright says she laughs when she thinks about her path to this current position with Wells Fargo. “I came by my job through two degrees in counseling, and now I’m in finance, so it’s a very logical path that I took.” Having applied for a position in the firm’s consumer lending group, she was directed to this position by the hiring manager.
Her program is being transition into what will be the Digital Accessibility Program. She says it’s being renamed because it’s more than simply online and mobile: “It’s kind of anything you can’t touch—it’s software and web-based, and I’m part of Wells Fargo’s virtual channels, but I have an enterprise position, so I support our online and mobile properties that are customer facing, external properties companies.” She explains that there are approximately 700 of these, and all of Wells Fargo’s lines of business have an online accessibility liaison that they have appointed because of its corporate policy, which is held by Wainwright’s group—these are the Online Accessibility Standards. This corporate policy has been in effect since 2005, and Wainwright supports all the online accessibility liaisons and their lines of business, in their efforts to create accessible properties and maintain strong accessibility programs.
We asked Wainwright how a person with a disability would go about seeking a job at Wells Fargo. “First of all, we actively post jobs on different disability sites, and we actively attend conferences,” she told us. “We are at various disability conferences throughout the year, and prospective candidates can visit our job sites. Wells Fargo is very outspoken about wanting to include people with disabilities in the workforce at all levels.”
In addition to that, says Wainwright, last year on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, in conjunction with that event, Wells Fargo held numerous events that put a public face on the accessibility initiatives that it is trying to create. “We had a virtual job fair that attracted 1,500 people. Also, in my state of Minnesota, we have a very active disability team member network, which is a national network. That network is very active and we have performed a number of outreach efforts to local nonprofit and disability employment placement professionals to actively recruit and promote our desire for people with disabilities at Wells Fargo.”
Martinez says she believes that everyone has something to contribute. “For me, that has been the best thing about working for this company. When I came to Wells Fargo, I was in what we’d call the ‘disability bubble.’ Because disability is relatively new in terms of people at the senior executive level, I was nervous about how I would be received.” But her concerns quickly evaporated and she says her she immediate “felt very integrated into the flow of the organization.”
Wainwright agrees that the people at Wells Fargo are a shining example of a staff that is making it a priority to embrace accessibility as a cause. “So many are passionate and dedicated people, and I can’t say enough about management. I am supported by the best management. I could not ask for better.”
Martinez says, “I think they see disability as a real business opportunity, an untapped pool of talent. Wells Fargo has been committed to diversity for a long time, so they see disability as another car on the train for diversity.”
She views the disability movement in general as an evolution: “First we were called crippled, then handicapped. Then we took on the word disability and now, more and more people, especially in the corporate world, are using the word ‘diverseability.’ We are evolving.”
Martinez laughs, “I always say that the disability community is probably the only community that wants to pay taxes—because we want to work!”
For more information on a career at Wells Fargo, visit their web site at wellsfargo.com