Do you think the third sector has a problem with diversity related to disability?
Disability is the equality strand that is least understood and shows the least change. There are more disabled people working in disabled organisations in the third sector, but moving out of that sphere into the big mainstream charities the issues become very evident.
The conversation is being had, but you only have to look at the past 10 years and things haven’t really changed much. There’s a long way to go.
Is the diversity issue more concentrated at any level, do you think?
There tends to be more representation at lower levels than at board level.
For a lot of disabled people, the challenge is if you never get your foot in the door, how can you build up a track record?
It is incumbent on boards to think about how we encourage people and assess ability.
What has been your greatest career challenge?
Prior to Disability Rights UK, I worked much more at the grass roots. I saw lots of disabled people working at all levels, but never saw high-profile disabled people working at a national level, which was the next logical step for me.
I never really thought I would be able to step up to a national organisation because I didn’t see the role models who had achieved it and had a similar experience.
For me, as someone of a different ethnic background and disability, you experience intersectionality – challenges with both sides of diversity.
What do you think is the most important step to creating more diverse organisations?
I think it’s really important that organisations start to become transparent about what they are doing [equality-wise] and report on that.
The charity sector already reports on a multitude of areas so why not equality strands?
I think it starts to help organisations focus their minds if they are required to do it. I know people say it should be encouragement, not regulation, but we are starting from a low point.
Do you have any practical advice for improving diversity in an organisation?
Boards often focus on things like governance without as much emphasis on diversity targets and having an action plan – that needs to change.
Start recruiting people for their ability to learn, not just looking at what they have done in the past.
Diversity enriches an organisation. To be reflective of the society we work in is a real asset.