Updated: Sep 29, 2018
My disability has always played a large role in my life in terms of how others react to me and how I handle physical barriers around me, but there have been moments where my less dominant identities such as being Asian or being a female has impacted me. I was recently at an interview where all three individuals in the panel interview were female. Towards the end of my interview, I asked about the demographics and diversity of the organization. They said it was mainly female, with the exception of the executive leaders, and that they had a diverse workforce. I then asked if they had any employees with physical disabilities. They looked at each other bewildered, and then muttered that there may be one or two employees with "invisible" disabilities.
Two things bothered me during this conversation. First, 1 in 5 individuals have a disability in the U.S., making us the largest minority group. Also, anyone at any time can develop a short-term or long-term disability. Why are there not more efforts made to include individuals with disabilities in the workforce? And when I ask about the "diversity" of their workforce, why don't they include individuals with disabilities in their conceptualization of "diversity"? Many employers — when I ask about the diversity of their workplace — they talk about race, they talk about gender, they sometimes talk about sexual orientation, they talk about religion, they talk about political affiliations but they do not talk about disability! Why??? Are we not also people that deserve the right to be included in the workplace, deserve an income that allow us to buy homes, start families, and have a successful life?!
The other thing that bothered me about my conversation with these ladies was how natural it was to them that their executive leadership team is mainly male when the rest of their team is female. Some of them started climbing the organizational ladder by working the most entry level positions in their company. Any yet, after all these years, they are unable to be hired onto the executive team. Millennials, we are the generation that is NOT going to tolerate this anymore.
Generation millennial says, ENOUGH! As long as we have the qualifications and experience, individuals with disabilities are going to be included in all facets of society: workforce, housing, education, family planning, infrastructure, etc...everything. We are also done having men tell us what to do. We are going to boldly apply for leadership positions. The age of narrow-minded thinking and patriarchy is over!!