“Disabilities in the Workplace” Working Mother Research Institute Unveils New Study

Oct 20, 2016

Employees Need to Feel Comfortable Disclosing Disabilities at Work | Blog by NOD President Carol Glazer


86% of Women and Men Respondents With A Visible Disability Disclose Their Issue at Work, Report Greater Happiness, Respect and Accommodation at Work Than Non-Visible

NEW YORK, October 20, 2016 — A new survey, released today, entitled Disabilities in the Workplace sheds important new information on how disability affects workplace experiences, employee engagement and overall career satisfaction. Conducted by the Working Mother Research Institute and sponsored by PwC, the survey of 1,368 women and men with disabilities, three-quarters of whom work full-time, reveals employees with a visible disability have much greater satisfaction at work across the board than employees with a non-visible disability, including in the hiring process, advancement opportunities, and accommodations at work.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The full survey report, done in partnership with the National Organization on Disability,  can be found on workingmother.com, also reveals that:

  • A vast majority (86%) of people with a visible disability disclose it to their employers, as opposed to only 67% with a non-visible disability—and 80% of men disclose their disability while only 68% of women say they do.
  • Employees with a visible disability are more likely to say they are excited to go to work each day (75% vs. 58%).  They are also more likely to believe their supervisor cares about their career (76 vs. 66%) and they are satisfied with how their career is progressing (78% vs. 66%).
  • The survey shows that employers can be less responsive to a non-visible disability. Indeed, one-third of respondents with a non-visible disability choose not to tell their employer. Of those who don’t, 43% say they keep it a secret because they want to hide their disability from their employer or don’t feel comfortable bringing it up.
  • Men with disabilities are more satisfied at work than women.. The male survey respondents say they feel more positive than women about their career prospects (69 vs. 60%), support for work/family demands from supervisors (74% vs. 63%), and how much their opinion counts at work (73% vs. 61%). One striking finding is that 79% of respondents with a disability report having a spouse at home who also has a disability, which the report says “may magnify a woman’s burden.”
  • The most common non-visible disabilities reported in the survey were: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cognitive impairments, back and spine impairments, and difficulties with hearing and vision.

Jennifer, Owens, editorial director, Working Mother Media, says, “The survey reveals a gender gap of women struggling harder with disability than men—women with a disability are less satisfied with their compensation, job security and career prospects than men with a disability. There is a tremendous opportunity for companies to tap into a huge pool of unemployed and underemployed talent, and ways for them to best serve workers who may need more flexibility and accommodation.”

Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability (NOD) says, “We find anecdotally that disclosing a disability at work can free up a huge amount of ‘emotional real estate.’…Being one’s full self at work, by disclosing a disability at a disability-friendly employer, can increase productivity by increasing trust with co-workers, bosses and lessen the stress from hiding it.” NOD served as Working Mother’s knowledge partner on the study.

Non-visible Disabilities: On the Job

  • Employees with a non-visible disability report less satisfaction with their company’s process of requesting accommodations than those with a visible one.
  • Thirty-one percent of women with disabilities who had an accommodation request rejected by an employer say they were told that their accommodation was “not necessary” vs. only 18% of men.
  • People with non-visible disabilities express less satisfaction and ease in the workplace with an overall satisfaction index that lags behind people with visible disabilities by 13 percentage points (measured across 13 indices).  They are less likely to be satisfied with how their careers are progressing or to believe job changes are possible to accommodate their disability.

Visible Disabilities: Getting Hired

  • Most respondents with a visible disability say that the hiring process went well, with 89% noting that an initial job recruiter discussed their disability respectfully with them. A majority (85%) of respondents with visible disabilities say, “my transition to the workplace went smoothly.”

Improvements in the Recruiting Process

  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents say “a better understanding of the company’s policy regarding the disabled and accommodations” would be important for improving their experience with the recruiting process vs. 44% of those with a non-visible disability.
  • Interestingly, 31% of those with a non-visible disability expressed that a manager who was knowledgeable about their disability would be helpful while only 17% with visible disabilities agree.

Subha V. Barry, VP, General Manager, Working Mother Media, notes, “Today 8 in 10 people with disabilities don’t have jobs. The most important issue for companies is to develop a best practices policy to foster an inclusive culture to help hire and accommodate people with disabilities.  The report found that those with a mentor have a much more positive workplace experience and higher satisfaction with their career progress than those without a mentor.”

About the Methodology

The Working Mother Research Institute developed a survey and fielded it nationally in March and April, 2016. A total of 1,882 employed people—51% men and 49% women—made up the sample. Of those,

1,368 had a disability, more than three-quarters work full-time and were hired at their current job with the disability they have now. The average age of the participants is 39 years old, 61% are married or partnered, and 55% have children under 18 at home.

About Working Mother Media

Working Mother Media (WMM), a division of Bonnier Corporation (bonnier.com), publishes Working Mother magazine and its companion website, workingmother.com. The Working Mother Research Institute (workingmother.com/wmri), the National Association for Female Executives (nafe.com) and Diversity Best Practices (diversitybestpractices.com) are also units within WMM. WMM’s mission is to serve as a champion of culture change. Working Mother magazine is the only national magazine for career-committed mothers. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

About PwC

Creating value for our clients, our people and the communities we live and work in is at the heart of PwC. We’re a member of the PwC network, which has firms in 157 countries with more than 223,000 people. We’re committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax and advisory services. And what binds us together is one common purpose – to build trust in society and solve important problems.

About NOD

The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is a private, non-profit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 79 percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. NOD has helped some of the world’s most recognized brands be more competitive in today’s global economy by building or enriching their disability inclusion programs. For more information about NOD and how its professional services, CEO Council of Corporate Leaders and Disability Employment Tracker™ can help your business, visit www.NOD.org.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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