On 13 February, Sodexo hosted its first UK conference on disability in the workplace. The event, called “Open Your Mind: Driving Disability Inclusion”, welcomed an audience of 75 representatives from the public and private sector.
Organised in partnership with the ILO Global Business and Disability Network and the Business Disability Forum UK, the event focused on how companies can create more inclusive environments across a diverse global landscape.
Guests had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues with a panel of disability experts from leading global enterprises, including GSK, Microsoft, Shell, Unilever and Sodexo. The keynote speaker was Kate Nash OBE, Creator and CEO at PurpleSpace, a networking and professional development hub for employees with disabilities.
Addressing the audience, Kate said it was “important for large organisations to create change by developing a systematic approach, rather than seeing disability inclusion as a ‘project’ or ‘initiative’. Those that get it right have a clear route map and an end in sight.” She added that “learning directly from your own disabled people is the most authentic way of finding out where the challenges are, so you can develop the right priorities for your business.”
Meg Horsburgh, Sodexo’s Head of Disability and Inclusion was the conference’s lead organiser. Explaining why it’s important for Sodexo to host conferences like this, Meg said: “Globally, people with disabilities continue to be an untapped source of talent. In the UK, in 2018, for example, figures showed that only 49.2% of adults with a disability were employed, compared to 80.6% of those without a disability. The biggest barrier to employment continues to be other people’s attitudes.”
She continued: “At Sodexo, we want to learn from others, share our experiences and have honest conversations about how to provide more inclusive environments for people with disabilities. Events like this are so valuable – we’re planning to do more this year in other global locations.”
Sodexo’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy includes a global commitment that by 2025, 100% of its workforce will have access to programmes for people with disabilities.