Diversity and Disability: The Importance of Empowering All Employees

Krystal Clark

| 2 min read

Two multi-ethnic business people in a meeting in an office boardroom. An African-American woman in a wheelchair is writing on a white board. Her coworker, a businessman wearing a shirt and tie, is holding up his notes for her to see. Both workers are in their 30s.
One in four adults are living with a disability in the U.S. Of that group, 8% are unemployed—more than double the rate of those with no disability (3.7%). This disparity can be linked to multiple factors including social stigma and poor hiring practices. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to closing the gap and is encouraging others to do the same. For four consecutive years, Blue Cross has scored 100% on the Disability Equality Index (DEI), due in large part to the efforts by our Talent Acquisition team. We understand every employee, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or disability, can add value. It’s different perspectives that help drive innovation, increase productivity and boost morale. To expand one’s reach, employers must look beyond traditional recruitment. In 2015, Blue Cross launched the Blue Paths to Success internship which offers on-the-job training to college students with disabilities. Founded by Libbie Ward, manager, Talent Acquisition, Blue Paths is a unique opportunity that promotes an underserved and underemployed demographic. “Unless a company is actively reaching out to candidates with disabilities and educating its hiring leaders, they’re likely overlooking great interns and potential full-time candidates,” Ward explained. In addition to Blue Paths, there’s also the BrightBlue employee resource network. As part of the Inclusion and Diversity strategy, Bright Blue, established in 2017, educates the community about the varying mental and physical capabilities of individuals and employees. BrightBlue is one 10 Employee Resource Networks committed to advancing Blue Cross’ Diversity and Inclusion strategy. “Diversity is more than recognizing race and gender,” said Bridget Hurd, vice president, Inclusion and Diversity. “It is recognizing the uniqueness of each individual, the many dimensions of diversity and that we all have different experiences and perspectives.” This is a crucial observation and major key to building a successful company. Although the tide is changing, there’s still room for improvement. People with disabilities must be a part of this ongoing conversation. As recruiters, the objective should be attracting top-tier talent, in every form. “It takes someone who thinks about communication differently, someone who is interested in taking a step back to focus on the end goal as opposed to how it’s always been done,” Ward said. With better training and more opportunities, businesses can raise awareness, improve hiring practices and make lasting change. For more information on workplace diversity, check out these blogs:
Photo credit: kali9 This blog was originally published Aug. 14, 2019 and updated Nov. 12, 2020.
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association