Hiring People With Disabilities Is Good Business

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By: Ted Kennedy Jr.

Microsoft, Bank of America and CVS are just a few big companies that profit from their proactive employment practices.

For years, companies have maintained low expectations about hiring people with disabilities. Most of these companies believed that employees with disabilities could not perform well in the workplace and that actively hiring them would drag company performance and profits down.

Thankfully, over time, many employers have come to understand that these perceptions are untrue. And new research strongly suggests that the opposite — that hiring people with disabilities is good for business.

A recent study has shown, for the first time, that companies that championed people with disabilities actually outperformed others — driving profitability and shareholder returns. Revenues were 28 percent higher, net income 200 percent higher, and profit margins 30 percent higher. Companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were also four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

These findings, presented in a report from Accenture, in partnership with Disability: IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, give companies a new reason to hire people with disabilities. The results are based on an analysis of the financial performance of 140 companies that averaged annual revenues of $43 billion and participated in the Disability Equality Index, an annual benchmarking tool that objectively rates company disability policies and practices.

What exactly are these exemplary companies doing?

Well, Bank of America brought together 300 people with intellectual disabilities to create a support services team to manage fulfillment services and external client engagement. Microsoft built a successful disability hiring program specifically for people on the autism spectrum. The program, designed to attract talent, is a multiday, hands-on academy that gives candidates an opportunity to meet hiring managers and learn about the company as an employer of choice. And CVS Health refocused its training programs to capitalize on characteristics — creativity, problem-solving ability and loyalty — that people with disabilities often demonstrate.

The new research identifies five common denominators among such organizations. First, they hire people with disabilities, ensuring that they’re represented in the workplace. Second, they carry out practices that encourage and advance those employees. Third, they provide accessible tools and technologies, paired with a formal accommodations program. Fourth, they generate awareness through recruitment efforts, disability education programs and grass-roots-led initiatives. Fifth, they create empowering environments through mentoring and coaching initiatives.

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

Degree Designed a Deodorant for People With Upper-Limb Disabilities and Visual Impairment

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The Degree Inclusive antiperspirant was made with accessibility in mind — and with the input of those who've been hoping for more personal-care products just like it.

, Allure

Living without disabilities, for many, means taking certain seemingly simple tasks for granted. When’s the last time you put on your antiperspirant and actually thought for a moment how challenging that action — something you do each and every day without obstacle — might be for someone else? So perhaps it’s because so many of us without disabilities haven’t considered the needs of those who have them that it took so long for a mainstream drugstore brand to finally design something long overdue: a deodorant made to be accessible for those with a visual impairment and upper-limb disabilities.

Unilever has partnered with a team of design experts, occupational therapists, engineers, consultants, and people living with disabilities to create Degree Inclusive. Unlike conventional deodorants — which often involve twisting a cap, turning a stick, or pushing down on a spray nozzle — this new personal-care innovation is built with features that make it much easier for those with upper-limb disabilities and visual impairment to use.

That means a hooked design for one-handed usage, magnetic closures for taking the cap off and on more easily for those with limited grip or vision impairment, enhanced grip placement for easier application for those with limited grip or no arms, a larger roll-on applicator to reach more surface area per swipe, and a Braille label including instructions.

For author, journalist, and disability rights activist Keah Brown, who has limited use of one of her hands and was involved in the Degree Inclusive project, this is a more-than-welcome step in the right direction — especially since Degree made an effort to be as inclusive in the process as they are in the result.

“I’m really excited that Degree took the time to let us be a part of it,” Brown tells Allure. “My hope is that other personal-care brands will jump on board because it’s truly an untapped market. That, and we deserve the ability to feel comfortable and prosper with our personal care as well.”

As for the experience using the product itself, “the biggest difference for me is that I’m able to comfortably hold the deodorant and apply it evenly instead of having to do multiple swipes to get everything,” Brown says. “With this new deodorant, I can get it all in one go, which I love.”

That’s exactly what Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Beauty & Personal Care at Unilever North America, is hoping to hear from those who try Degree Inclusive, and it’s what drives the company to make this project become a reality. “Unilever will not settle until we ensure all of our products are accessible to anyone who wants to use them,” she tells Allure. “When it comes to deodorant, we saw that across the beauty and personal care industry, there is currently no deodorant designed specifically for people with upper body disabilities or visual impairment to use.”

Bracey tells Allure that Unilever is currently completing a beta program for Degree Inclusive to engage and get input from people with disabilities — a process that has already taken over a year so far. “We’ve invited 200 people with disabilities in the U.S. to trial the prototype design and give their feedback on its concept, product features, and messaging, to help improve the design for future commercial launch.”

Click here to read the full article on Allure.

People with disabilities still face barriers finding work during the pandemic—here’s how companies can help

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Photo of an asian woman in a dress and a cane. People with disabilities still face barriers finding work during the pandemic—here’s how companies can help

By Morgan Smith, Make It

For nearly 20 months, debates about the future of work have dominated meetings and Twitter feeds as the coronavirus pandemic upended every aspect of our jobs from commutes to office dress codes. These conversations continue to influence companies’ return-to-office plans and their remote work policies. But despite the pandemic taking a disproportionate toll on their job prospects and well-being, people with disabilities continue to be left out of many of these critical conversations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double that of those without: 9% compared to 4.4% as of September. People with disabilities are also far less likely to be employed than workers with no disabilities. There are several factors driving this disparity, including discriminatory hiring practices and fewer people with disabilities completing bachelor’s degrees.

The pandemic has only exacerbated this gap. Before the pandemic, workers with disabilities were more likely than those without disabilities to work from home, a new report from Rutgers University found. But because people with disabilities are more likely to hold blue-collar and service jobs, they have had far fewer options for remote or flexible work arrangements during the Covid-19 crisis, the report notes.

As employers announce plans to bring people back to offices and experiment with hybrid work schedules in the coming months, workers with disabilities and disability advocates are urging companies to rethink the structure of their organizations to better accommodate people with disabilities. “Folks with disabilities have been asking for flexible and remote work options for decades and have been consistently denied,” Maria Town, the president and CEO of The American Association of People with Disabilities, tells CNBC Make It. “Now we know these jobs can be done remotely — and people don’t want to see these options go away the moment we decide the pandemic is over.”

The pandemic created new challenges for workers who were already struggling
People with disabilities already experienced “significant” barriers while navigating the pre-pandemic job market — the pandemic has both amplified existing barriers and removed certain hurdles, Town points out. Job applications and interviews are increasingly online, but Town observes that many people with disabilities don’t have access to the assistive technology they need to navigate online job boards. “The expectation is that you will find and apply for jobs online, and for many people with disabilities, that’s not possible,” she says. “But they can’t approach a community center or store in person and ask if they’re hiring anymore, because it’s riskier during the pandemic.” Some people with disabilities are more likely to get infected or have severe illness from coronavirus, according to the CDC.

The ongoing pandemic has also heightened the isolation people with disabilities faced prior to the pandemic. A recent study published by the Disability and Health Journal shows that people with disabilities experience loneliness and social isolation at much higher rates than those without disabilities. “With social distancing and the rise in new variants, it’s even harder to find out about job opportunities and connect with others,” Town says.

People with disabilities have also struggled to get certain accommodations approved for their work throughout the pandemic. Town notes, for example, that some immunocompromised teachers have been asked to be in the classroom or host in-person office hours despite their concerns of falling severely ill from the virus. People infected with long Covid may also qualify as disabled, but struggle to get the accommodations and benefits that come with a more well-known condition.

Click here to read the full article on Make It.

First of its kind –The ZIPPIE Sphynx is a truly transportable tilt wheelchair specially designed for families on the move

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man pushing happy daughter in ZIPPEE wheelchair

Sunrise Medical is excited to expand the ZIPPIE pediatric mobility line with the new ZIPPIE® Sphynx™. For busy families that are always on the go, this compact, transportable wheelchair has static tilt and recline to accommodate various client needs.

The Sphynx’s patent-pending one-step fold is easy and intuitive, quickly transforming into an ultra-compact package that will fit within a compact car’s trunk. Weighing only 28 lbs., the Sphynx can be easily lifted for the ultimate portability.

With available tilt angles of 10⁰, 20⁰, or 30⁰, clinicians can select a seat position to accommodate weight shift as needed to support optimal posture. The Sphynx back support can be quickly adjusted from 85⁰ to 100⁰ recline to assist with feeding, digestion, respiratory function, and visual orientation. To support a broad range of users from pediatric clients to young adults with diverse mobility needs, numerous adaptable seating and positioning options are available, including JAY® and WHITMYER® options.

“At ZIPPIE, we wanted to design an adaptive stroller that could support active families when they want to get out and explore without compromising seating and positioning,” says Kelsey DiGiacomo, Pediatric Product Manager at Sunrise Medical. “The Sphynx is easy to transport for children who need postural support.”

For more information, please visit: www.sunrisemedical.com.

ZIPPEE wheelchair imageAbout Sunrise Medical: Committed to improving people’s lives, Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the innovation, manufacture and distribution of advanced assistive mobility devices and solutions. Distributed in more than 130 countries under its own 17 proprietary brands, the key products include manual and power wheelchairs, e-mobility products, motorized scooters, seating & positioning systems and daily living aids. Operating in 18 countries, Sunrise Medical group is headquartered in Malsch, Germany and employs over 2,200 associates worldwide.

For additional information, please contact David Algood; David.Algood@sunmed.com.

Creating Career Pathways through Inclusive Apprenticeship

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Man in wheelchair on computer doing Apprenticeship

Companies are searching for candidates to fill positions in growing industries, including clean energy, healthcare, information technology, cybersecurity and finance. Yet, more than half of human resource professionals believe the pool of qualified candidates that can fill these jobs is shrinking, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Apprenticeship programs can aid employers in tackling this challenge.

Traditionally, apprenticeship programs have focused on training job seekers to enter skilled trades in occupations such as manufacturing and construction. However, new approaches to apprenticeships are taking shape to meet employers’ talent needs in a wider range of industries; these programs help diversify the workforce and enable job seekers with disabilities to gain credentials and skills to succeed in high-growth, high-demand industries.

An inclusive apprenticeship program is an employer-driven program that can help provide access to lifelong career pathways for job seekers from diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities. Training and instruction focus on helping apprentices master skills needed to succeed in a specific occupation. These programs offer opportunities for job seekers with disabilities from diverse backgrounds to sharpen their skill sets and pursue career paths through work-based learning that is accessible to everyone.

The Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. We collaborate with employers and the organizations that connect employers with apprentices–known as industry intermediaries–to expand the number of inclusive apprenticeship programs in the U.S. Job seekers with disabilities can benefit from joining a program that is fully committed to diversity and inclusion. For instance, people with disabilities who enroll in inclusive apprenticeship programs can:

  • Attain accessible on-the-job training and work in an accessible environment
  • Earn money through wages or stipends while training to be an apprentice
  • Gain skills and credentials (e.g., certifications, certificates, etc.) that can facilitate a pathway to in-demand jobs
  • Work directly with employers and mentors–those who understand the importance of inclusion and accessibility–to receive on-the-job experience

If you are interested in learning more about inclusive apprenticeship programs and enrolling in a program, these resources can help you on your career journey:

Visit Apprenticeship.gov

Lululemon pledges $75 million to wellbeing programs

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Lululemon Athletica inc. has committed $75 million to supporting physical, mental, and social wellbeing programs by 2025

By Anne Stych, Biz Journals

Lululemon Athletica inc. has committed $75 million to supporting physical, mental, and social wellbeing programs by 2025, starting with a $5 million investment in three nonprofits, and through the launch of a Centre for Social Impact.

Lululemon said that through the Centre, it will invest in removing barriers through philanthropy, research, and advocacy, amplifying its existing social impact programs, with a goal to positively impact more than 10 million people.

The three organizations that will receive initial grants are:

  • The Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation that empowers adolescent girls around the world through education.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the United States’ largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Lululemon will help lead the establishment of a 9-8-8 crisis number for mental health and suicide prevention services.
  • The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.

“At Lululemon, we believe everyone has the right to be well and we know the path to wellbeing is possible when tools, support, and resources are accessible to all,” said Esther Speck, Lululemon vice president of global sustainability and social impact.

Lululemon said that since 2016, its Here to Be program has supported more than 750 non-profit organizations with grants amounting to $25 million, and that its Peace on Purpose program has provided thousands of UN workers with mindfulness and self-care tools for their physical and mental health since the collaboration’s launch in 2019.

Click here to read the full article on Biz Journals.

It’s a New Era for Mental Health at Work

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illustration to describe mental health. A person in a suit with water color design covering their face

By Kelly Greenwood and Julia Anas, Harvard Business Review

When we published our research on workplace mental health in October 2019, we never could have predicted how much our lives would soon be upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Then the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police; the rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs); wildfires; political unrest; and other major stressors unfolded in quick succession, compounding the damage to our collective mental health.

One silver lining amid all the disruption and trauma is the normalization of mental health challenges at work. In 2019, employers were just starting to grasp the prevalence of these challenges, the need to address stigma, and the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative. Fast forward to 2021, and the stakes have been raised even higher thanks to a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around its intersections with DEI.

Although employers have responded with initiatives like mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and enhanced counseling benefits or apps, they’re not enough. Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.

Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow offers a rare comparison of the state of mental health, stigma, and work culture in U.S. workplaces before and during the pandemic. This follow-up study to our 2019 Mental Health at Work Report uses the same metrics and includes additional questions and segmentations on the effects of the pandemic, racial trauma, and the return to office; it also fleshes out our less comprehensive study from April 2020. As in 2019, we collected responses from 1,500 U.S. adults in full-time jobs, with statistically significant representation across racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, membership in the LGBTQ+ community, generational divides, primary caregiver statuses, levels of seniority, and other factors. Here’s a summary of what we learned and our recommendations for what employers need to do to support their employees’ mental health.

The Employee Mental Health Experience

When we examined the data on how employees experience mental health challenges, we found that prevalence increased from 2019 to 2021 and that younger and historically underrepresented workers still struggle the most.

Increased attrition. More employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, including those caused by workplace factors like overwhelming and unsustainable work. While the 2019 rates of attrition were already surprisingly high, they’ve gone up even more since then. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials (50% in 2019) and 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019) have left roles for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily, compared with 50% of respondents overall (34% in 2019). Ninety-one percent of respondents believed that a company’s culture should support mental health, up from 86% in 2019.High prevalence. Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, up from 59% in 2019. While that’s not surprising due to the many macro stressors, it supports the notion that mental health challenges affect nearly all of us on a regular basis.
Our 2019 study showed the same prevalence of mental health symptoms across all levels of seniority, debunking the myth that successful leaders are immune. Perhaps as a result of having to lead through this unprecedented era, our 2021 study showed that C-level and executive respondents were now actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom. Let’s finally put the stigma to rest and admit that mental health challenges affect us all.

Widespread disclosure. More employees are talking about mental health at work than in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of respondents talked about their mental health to someone at work in the past year. This is an important step in the right direction, especially in terms of reducing stigma, which affects willingness to seek treatment. That said, only 49% of respondents described their experience of talking about mental health at work as positive or reported that they received a positive or supportive response, which is comparable to 2019 rates.DEI implications. Demographics continue to play a strong role in workplace mental health, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups still struggling the most. Millennials and Gen Zers, as well as LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents were all significantly more likely to experience mental health symptoms. Like Millennials and Gen Zers, caregiver respondents and members of historically underrepresented groups — including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx respondents — all were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and to believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. In fact, 54% of all respondents said that mental health is a DEI issue, an increase from 41% in 2019.

The Company’s Role in Employee Mental Health

Employees don’t experience mental health challenges in isolation. Employers play a role, too — both good and bad.

Certain workplace factors negatively affected mental health. The way we’re working isn’t sustainable, and it’s hurting our mental health. Until recently, the conversation has primarily centered on preexisting mental health conditions and the related stigma. Increasingly, the focus is on work’s effect on everyone’s mental health.

An overwhelming 84% of respondents reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. Younger workers and members of underrepresented groups were affected even more severely. When looking across all respondents, the most common factor was emotionally draining (e.g., stressful, overwhelming, boring, or monotonous) work, which also worsened since the pandemic. This was closely followed by work-life balance.

The other workplace factors that most notably worsened since the pandemic were poor communication practices and a low sense of connection to or support from one’s colleagues or manager, perhaps unsurprising in a predominantly remote workforce. The workaholism that characterizes much of U.S. culture has only been exacerbated by the challenges of the pandemic, leading to increased employee burnout.

Companies increased investment in employee mental health — sort of. Companies are finally investing more in mental health support out of necessity, but they still haven’t achieved true culture change. Our respondents noted that the availability of many resources provided by employers grew since the pandemic, including extra paid time off, company-wide mental health days, and mental health training.

In addition, employees used accommodations to a much greater extent — especially those that provided day-to-day support. These included extended or more frequent breaks from work and time during the workday for therapy appointments. Utilization rates for other accommodations included time off and leaves of absence, which saw no growth from 2019. This highlights a contrast in what employees used versus what employers provided, which were often more temporary, Band-Aid solutions. In fact, the “resource” most desired by respondents (31%) was a more open culture around mental health.

Companies took steps toward culture change. While there is still a great deal to be done, some companies have made progress on the culture front, likely fueled by the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed that mental health was prioritized at their company compared to other priorities, up from 41% in 2019. In addition, 47% of respondents believed that their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work (compared to 37% in 2019), and 47% believed that their manager was equipped to support them if they had a mental health condition or symptom (compared to 39% in 2019). These are both potentially results of increased training and discussion.

However, the added awareness surprisingly didn’t translate across all dimensions. There was a 5% decline in respondents who felt comfortable supporting a coworker with their mental health and a comparable percentage in who knew the proper procedure to get support for mental health at work.

Employers benefit from supporting mental health at work. Employers that have supported their employees with the pandemic, racial injustices, return-to-office planning, and/or mental health overall have better mental health and engagement outcomes. For example, workers who felt supported with their mental health overall were 26% less likely to report at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. Respondents who felt supported by their employer also tended to be less likely to experience mental health symptoms, less likely to underperform and miss work, and more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. In addition, they had higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company. Lastly, they had more positive views of their company and its leaders, including trusting their company and being proud to work there. This reinforces the tie between workplace culture and its ability to support mental health at work when done intentionally.

What Employers Need to Provide

Employers must move from seeing mental health as an individual challenge to a collective priority. Given all the workplace factors at play, companies can no longer compartmentalize mental health as an individual’s responsibility to address alone through self-care, mental health days, or employee benefits. Here’s what they need to provide to make real progress.

Culture change. Culture change requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach to succeed. Workplace mental health is no different — our recommendations from 2019 still hold. Mind Share Partners’ Ecosystem of a Mentally Healthy Workplace Framework illustrates that everyone has a role to play, starting with leaders and managers.

Leaders must treat mental health as an organizational priority with accountability mechanisms such as regular pulse surveys and clear ownership. It should not just be relegated to HR. Leaders should serve as allies by sharing their own personal experiences to foster an environment of transparency and openness. Due to fear and shame, even companies with the best mental health benefits won’t see an uptick in usage unless a stigma-free culture exists.

Organizations have to train leaders, managers, and all employees on how to navigate mental health at work, have difficult conversations, and create supportive workplaces. Managers are often the first line in noticing changes and supporting their direct reports. Building an environment of psychological safety is key. Mental health policies, practices, culturally competent benefits, and other resources must be put in place and (over)communicated.

Investing in DEI to support employee mental health and address its intersectionality is also crucial. Black and AAPI employees have been hit especially hard by the trauma of systemic racism and violence. Workers who are caregivers — often mothers — have faced school closures and the associated burnout. Our study found that allowing employees to discuss challenging social and political topics at work is also part of a mentally healthy culture. At the grassroots level, employees should be empowered to form mental health employee resource groups (ERGs) and other affinity groups, become mental health champions, and start peer listening initiatives.

Click here to read the full article on the Harvard Business Review.

Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

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Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

A Senate panel plans to bring tech executives back to Capitol Hill following a revealing report from The Wall Street Journal about the impact of Facebook’s Instagram platform on teens’ mental health.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, announced the hearing in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Blackburn said the hearing would take place in a couple weeks and would include representatives from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Google-owned YouTube.

A spokesperson for Blackburn said a hearing date and the specific attendees from the companies have not yet been confirmed.

The Journal’s report, which the outlet said was based on internal documents from Facebook, revealed that the company had been aware of significant negative impacts of its photo-sharing Instagram app on teenage girls. At a March hearing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in response to a question about children and mental health, that research he’s seen shows that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.”

While the research cited in the Journal’s report did not show entirely negative effects, it seemed to cut against Facebook’s narrative about mental health. That angered several lawmakers across parties and chambers of Congress, some of whom called for Facebook to abandon plans to create a child-focused Instagram product.

“What we know is a lot of this anecdotal information that we had from parents, teachers, pediatricians about the harms of social media to children, that Facebook was aware of this,” Blackburn said. “They chose not to make this public.”

Blackburn said her staff met Friday with a whistleblower who has worked for Facebook, and who had access to documents on which the Journal reported.

Although both the House and the Senate have hauled tech CEOs to Congress several times over the past couple years, Blackburn said she expects this hearing to stand out because of its bipartisan nature. She said she is working with the subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on the effort and the two will look at rules around how social media is able to market to children, as well as statutes meant to protect them online, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule.

Representatives for Blumenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are determined to do something in a bipartisan way that is going to protect our children in the virtual space, that will allow them to be able to use the internet, do Zoom school if they need to, do research, but to be protected and to have their privacy protected when they are online,” Blackburn said.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Your Supplier Diversity Starter Guide

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Businesswoman shaking hands with disabled business owner

By: Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

There are some common misconceptions regarding supplier diversity (SD) programs and how to get started the right way. Among those are the costs associated with a new SD program as well as the quality of services received and the product. However, studies have shown that a properly organized and managed program can not only increase a company’s ROI, but still create ample competition amongst qualified suppliers.

With that being said, supplier diversity does not mean ‘hand out’ or ‘give me’ program. The suppliers must still be inventive, tech-savvy and proficient enough to be able to compete for your business.

So, how do you get started? Here are our top 4 tips:

  1. Preparation

Preparation is key to any successful endeavor. Beginning your supplier diversity program is no different. Is their support from the top echelon of the company all the way to the bottom rung of the structure? Take a step back and self-evaluate for a moment to make sure you’re the right company to begin a supplier diversity program. Is diversity and culture something reflected already currently reflected in your business and values? Next, identify where a lack of support exists and then determine how to bolster enthusiasm, or at least, understanding and expectations in those areas. Supplier diversification is going to be a boon to every area of your business, so highlight the reasons why this decision should and is being made.

Also, talk about how each team can assist in making the transition a success so that there isn’t confusion regarding expectations or the roadmap that’s been chosen. This might look like new training procedures, unconscious bias programs, securing cross-functional ownership of the process and communication with stakeholders. Also, don’t forget to establish your baseline spend with diverse suppliers — this is critical to keeping track of your progress as things move forward. We’re going to touch on this again in the Evaluation step.

  1. Identification

A common question from and challenge for companies beginning their first supplier diversity program is, “How do I find quality, competitive diverse suppliers?” The answer is simpler than you’ve believed and actually quite easy. There are multiple avenues one can use to find suppliers who from underrepresented groups. For example, tapping into groups that cater to diverse suppliers in your area like a local chamber of commerce, minority business council or diverse supplier organization.

Of course, some great organizations to start your search would include, but are not limited to, the National Minority Business Council, Inc., Disability:IN, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and, of course, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. They focus on advocating and expanding opportunities for their respective underserved communities. Another great option is, once you find a supplier in your area, ask them what organizations or groups they are a part of or partner with, so that you can increase your network. Also, if someone in your network has a diverse supplier program already that’s thriving, seek assistance. Finally, publicize your efforts to be more diverse and this will most certainly attract suppliers to you and your program.

  1. Integration

Don’t fall into the trap of failing in organizational change management. Integrating new processes or partnerships can be rocky. The seeming contradiction to remember here is that sometimes the fastest way to hit the end goal is take things slowly and at a measured pace. Be prepared to repeat steps and recommunicate with as well as reeducate teams and stakeholders about their commitment to common goal. Very few steps in your process are going to be one and done scenarios.

Identify a key member, hopefully someone trained or reeducated in diversity, equity and inclusion, to head up your new program and be in charge of not only implementation but tracking as well. Recruited other like-minded individuals to the new department as well to help bolster these new efforts. Be prepared to make a technology investment along with these personnel changes to help streamline your process through analytics, supplier tracking or further training. You might also consider supplier development in your integration plan.

  1. Evaluation

The most important step to any implementation is evaluation. By measuring where you are against where you started and where you wanted to be, it becomes easier to assess what is working and what could work better. This might look similar to the processes already in place in your organization: assessing how well the supplier has overall met your requirements. Did the cost, service, quality and capacity of the needs met for your organization add up in a satisfactory fashion? How much contribution was made to innovation, mitigating risks and losses, as well as sales and marketing growth? What was the savings? Was there an impact to your engagement with customers or the markets you serve? Using these questions and any qualifiers you already use as a guide can help you better assess where your program is and where it can go.

Worthwhile change takes time, effort and intentionality. Be steadfast in the process, and you will see the fruits of your labor. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as the saying goes, and neither will the best parts of your program be built all at once. Continue to work as a team and communicate openly about questions or ideas. Together, your program can take your business one step closer to your goals.

Google, Stanford are teaming up to cultivate greater neurodiversity in the high tech workplace

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Google announced the launch of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program for neurodiversity..

By Sam Farmer, The Hill

When a leading technology company and a leading institution of higher learning partner with each other to make things better for an unfairly marginalized segment of society, there is cause for celebration. Particularly if you are a neurodiverse individual (autistic, for example) aspiring to a career in technology. The cloud industry is growing rapidly and Goggle is a key player with their Google Cloud services. To their credit, they have chosen to proceed in a way that is mindful of inclusivity and of the talents that people with autism bring to the table, and they have wisely decided not to go it alone in meeting the challenge.

As such, Google recently announced the launch of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program. The program’s purpose is not merely to hire but also to support more autistic talent in the Google workforce. To that end, they are collaborating with experts from the Stanford Neurodiversity Project which advises employers on opportunities and success metrics for neurodivergent individuals in the workplace. Stanford will also coach applicants and provide support not only for them but for their colleagues and managers as well, once they join the Google Cloud team.

The Stanford Neurodiversity Project works toward the establishment of a culture that values the capabilities of neurodiverse people and empowers them to develop their identity and daily living skills. It trains talented individuals for successful inclusion in the workforce and seeks to disseminate its methodology on a global scale. The end goal, which is also that of the Neurodiversity Movement in general, is to reveal the strengths of neurodivergent individuals and leverage these strengths to increase society’s capacity for innovation and productivity.

The Google/Stanford partnership makes perfect sense, considering that products that are intended for use by everybody everywhere, including the Google Cloud services, are best designed and built by as wide a diversity of people as possible. The Google Cloud team is therefore optimized when neurodiverse and neurotypical people work side by side. Ideally, the team would reflect diversity in other respects as well (race, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, etc.).

Rob Enslin is the President of Global Customer Operations for Google Cloud. In the company’s formal announcement of the Google Cloud Autism Career Program, Enslin speaks of Google’s intent to train and empower as many as 500 Google Cloud managers and others involved in hiring processes “to work effectively and empathetically with autistic candidates and ensure Google’s onboarding processes are accessible and equitable.” He added that the Autism Career Program also aims to “break down the barriers that autistic candidates most often face,” citing the traditional job interview as a common impediment to an autistic candidate’s efforts at getting his foot in the door, because of the lack of accommodations which would enable the candidate to showcase his strengths. For example, allowing for more time for the interviewee to respond to a question or permitting him to answer the questions in writing. No unfair advantage in this case. Rather, the elimination of an unfair disadvantage.

As an autistic individual, I can attest. Back in my high school days when I took the SAT’s, my verbal score took a beating as a result of time running out well before I could finish. Many reading comprehension questions toward the end of the verbal portion went unanswered. In retrospect, it was foolish of me to decline the offer to take the test untimed, choosing instead to be evaluated on the same terms as my classmates. Had I chosen the untimed option, I would not have been granted an unfair advantage. I rejected a necessary accommodation and paid the price on a high stakes exam.

Conversely, I had a music history professor in college who, out of the kindness of her heart, remained in the classroom with me until I completed her exams, sometimes long after time had expired and everybody else had left, no matter how long I took. As a result, I was able to prove the true extent of my knowledge of the topics the exam questions raised. Her flexibility and understanding meant the world to me, knowing that I worked significantly slower than most and that she could have enforced the same expectations equally for everybody in her classes but instead chose to exempt me. I felt understood and valued at a time in my life when I often felt misunderstood and marginalized.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

Meet John Cronin: The Founder of John’s Crazy Socks

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John and his dad hugging

During Fall 2016, John Cronin began his senior year of high school and like most high school seniors, John began looking at his options for the career world. He was currently studying retail and customer service, but he also wanted to work in an atmosphere that was creative and enjoyable. Not liking any of the options that were currently available to him, John decided that the best way to find his ideal workplace was to create it himself.

That’s when John decided to team up with his father, Mark Cronin, who created small businesses online. After bouncing around creative business ideas that they could start, John decided that he wanted to start a sock company that specifically sold “crazy” socks.

“I wore crazy socks my entire life,” John said of his choice in business. “They are fun, colorful and creative. They let me be me.”

And thus, John’s Crazy Socks was born, an online sock company specializing in the exact brand of sock that John had come to love himself. The two got right to work in setting up their e-commerce platform, finding sock suppliers to support John’s dream and even shot some commercials that they posted to Facebook.

Despite technical difficulties on their first day, John’s business took off from day one. Orders began piling in from local members of his community who were made aware of the new business from the company’s Facebook videos. With such a positive response, John decided to step up his customer service game and make the first batch of deliveries extra special. He packaged each sock order in a red box accompanied with candy and a handwritten thank you note and made many of the first deliveries personally. As he arrived on the doorsteps of his customers with their orders, his customers began to post their purchases on social media, creating exposure and eventually attracting a larger demographic. In the first month of business, John’s Crazy Socks had shipped over 450 orders and earned over $13,000 in revenue.

But even with the excitement and success that came, the two businessowners decided that they wanted to do more than just sell socks, they wanted to help the organizations that were closest to them. So, from the beginning to now, 5% of all sales are donated to the special Olympics, one of John’s favorite organizations. From there, the duo decided that they wanted to expand their advocacy and create “awareness” themed socks. 10% of profits from these specially-themed socks support awareness efforts for Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and more.

“Everything we do is designed to spread happiness,” their mission statement reads. “The more we can do for others, the more we can make people happy, the better off we are.”

Entering their fifth year of business, John’s Crazy Socks is thriving now more than ever. Their inventory has expanded to include home apparel, mugs, greeting cards, accessories, masks and customizable socks. Customers can even sign up for a sock subscription club that delivers a new pair of crazy socks to your doorstep every month.

Additionally, the business strives to follow its four business pillars: Inspiration and Hope, Giving Back, Socks You Can Love and Making it Personal. Through these four pillars, John and Mark have additionally began to take part in speaking engagements, facility tours and social events where the two men advocate for people with differing abilities, especially in the workforce.

“We learned three things,” Mark said of his business venture with his son, “People want to buy socks; people want to buy socks from John, and this young man and this old man can sell socks.”

To order your own pair of socks and to learn more about the business, visit johnscrazysocks.com.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022