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Doing Seniority Differently

Radar (Disability Rights UK legacy organisation) conducted the first ever survey of disabled people holding senior management roles across the private, public and voluntary sectors. 

The research identified a pool of ‘disabled high fliers’ and highlighted that disabled people experience significant inequality on their way up the corporate ladder.

The findings of the research, which was supported by Lloyds Banking Group, indentified a significant talent pool of ‘disabled high fliers’, with 110 earning £80,000 a year or above and a further 186 earning from £40,000 to £79,999. Those surveyed agreed overwhelmingly on the factors that enabled them to progress – mentoring and career-long support from senior managers, in other words senior people prepared to back their careers, not limit their ambition.

Despite the presence of talented disabled workers amongst the upper echelons of British business, the findings also highlight a continued inequality in the workplace. We compared 911 disabled and 550 non-disabled respondents and found:

Non-disabled people were over 3 times more likely than disabled people to earn £80,000 or above; and twice as likely to be Board-level directors.

  • Disabled people were significantly less likely to get mentoring and senior support – the very supports that the disabled high fliers said made such a difference to their progression.
  • There are also inequalities between disabled people. Those with mental health conditions were significantly less likely than other disabled people to earn £80,000 or above and to be Board-level directors; as were women, reflecting wider gender differences in the labour market.
  • 75 per cent of those disabled people who could keep a disability or health condition hidden at work did so sometimes or always. For some this was because they saw the impairment as irrelevant to their work lives. But others, especially with mental health conditions (who were nearly four times more likely than other disabled people to be open to no one at work) feared being pigeonholed, stereotyped or stopped from progressing.

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