The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently published a profound study examining the representation and experiences of employees with disabilities in the workplace. The findings were both enlightening and deeply concerning, revealing a substantial gap between employer perceptions and the reality experienced by employees with disabilities.
A common belief among most organizations is that their workforce includes a relatively small percentage of individuals with disabilities, typically estimated at 4% to 7%. However, the BCG survey, which involved nearly 28,000 employees across 16 countries, found that 25% of respondents identified as having a disability or health condition that significantly impacts a major life activity. This figure falls within the range of prevalence rates for workers with disabilities across several countries, which is around 13% to 30%1.
Three key issues were identified in the survey:
- Under-disclosure: Employees with disabilities significantly under-disclose their conditions to their employers. The fears of stigma, job insecurity, or negative impacts on promotion prospects are likely contributing factors to this under-disclosure2.
- Missed opportunities: Employers are missing substantial opportunities to enable a significant portion of their workforce to bring their full selves to work. Encouraging self-disclosure and providing appropriate support can lead to a more inclusive and productive work environment3.
- Inaccurate information: Employers often make decisions and investments regarding their workforce based on inaccurate information about the prevalence of disabilities among their employees4.
To address these issues, organizations can foster greater feelings of inclusion by providing employee-centric policies and programs, mentorship, and reasonable accommodations. These initiatives can create a work environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities, enabling them to bring their full selves to work5.
In the light of this evidence, it’s clear that there is a substantial need for organizations to reevaluate their understanding of disabilities within their workforce and redefine their strategies for inclusion. By taking proactive steps, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone.
Let’s take this as an opportunity to open a dialogue about disability inclusion in our workplaces. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other and work together to create more inclusive workplaces.