While most diversity and inclusion initiatives focus on gender and, to a lesser extent, ethnicity, SAP believes it is breaking new ground by starting to concentrate on the “differently-abled”.
More than a billion people, or 15% of the global population, are estimated to live with some form of disability, according to the last comprehensive report on the subject undertaken by the World Health Organisation and World Bank.
This number is only set to increase, of course, as populations, particularly in the developed world, continue to age, and chronic health conditions associated with disability such as cardiovascular disease and mental illness continue to increase.
The problem is that barriers ranging from discriminatory attitudes and practices to the availability of inadequate services all take their toll on disabled people’s lives.
As a result, despite the achievements of remarkable individuals such as physicist Stephen Hawking who suffered from motor neurone disease and died earlier this week, it is unsurprising to learn that people with disabilities are less likely to be employed than their non-disabled counterparts – and generally earn less even if they are.
For example, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is cited as saying that the average employment rate for disabled people stands at a mere 44% compared with just over half that for people without disabilities (75%).
On the one hand, this means that individual potential is failing to be realised on a massive scale. But on the other, it also means that people with disabilities actually comprise a largely untapped talent pool, which given today’s extensive skills shortages, it would appear sensible to woo.
And this is exactly what software giant SAP is attempting to do by setting up a work stream for “differently-abled people”, which sits alongside ‘gender’, ‘generations’ and ‘ethnicity’ in its diversity and inclusion (D&I) portfolio. Stefanie Nennstiel, the company’s senior director of D&I, explains:
When looking for early-stage talent, the market, especially for IT or so-called STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] profiles, is almost empty. Everyone is going after the same candidates so we discovered we needed to think differently about the situation.