March 8, 2023 - There is limited research into career and leadership growth of women with disabilities despite there being over 20 million disabled women in the United States. What we do know is that disabled women are undereducated, underemployed, and under-invested in as leaders due to societal barriers such as sexism, racism, and ableism. The lack of research on this matter led to “Disabled Women in the Working World: Bias and Barriers that Hinder Workplace Advancement”, a new report by Disability EmpowHer Network, published today, International Women's Day.
“Hiring professionals having bias against women with disabilities wasn’t surprising,” said Valerie Novack, lead author of the paper and a disability issues researcher, “But the sheer amount of employers who make hiring decisions based on stereotypes and stigmatizing views of disability was very disappointing.”
The study surveyed 445 hiring professionals about their hiring practices, professional development and employee benefits, and disability representation within their organizations to gain perspective on the regular business practices that may hinder the career growth for women with disabilities. The study found that 44% of respondents had no women with disabilities in leadership or management positions and 47% of companies have no formal process in place for employees to ask for disability accommodations. Further, at least one quarter of respondents indicated that they would not offer basic accommodations during the interview process, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to offer reasonable accommodations.
Notably, nearly 50% of respondents said that tax incentives would motivate them to hire disabled women, however most were unaware of existing tax credits for hiring people with disabilities.
In addition to identifying barriers to leadership for women with disabilities, the report also includes recommendations for businesses to be more inclusive and accessible, such as implementing focused hiring initiatives for disabled women, providing equitable access to professional development opportunities, and offering benefits such as remote and hybrid work, robust paid time off, and flexible schedules.
“This report is just the beginning of our work to draw attention to the ways in which disabled women are overlooked and underestimated for leadership opportunities,” said Stephanie Woodward, Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network. “Our expectation is that employers will take this research and implement changes to their companies that will increase employment and leadership opportunities for disabled women, and when they do we will be here to support them through the process.”
Contact: Sophie Poost at Sophie@DisabilityEmpowHerNetwork.org