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The US Disability Progression Gap

The US Progression Gap: professionals with a disability are 23% more likely to be stuck in training or entry level positions.

  • Just 7% of professionals with a learning disability are in executive positions.
  • Almost 20% more professionals without a disability have been offered a promotion than those with learning or sensory disabilities.
  • 1 in 5 professionals with a learning disability feel they receive a lack of support.
  • 40% of women with a learning disability have not received a promotion.
  •  67% more women than men with a physical disability feel underpaid.

Disabled professionals are 23% more likely to be stuck in junior or entry-level roles compared to their non-disabled counterparts.

What’s more, just 7% of professionals with a learning disability are in executive or leadership positions, a quarter of the rate for professionals without disabilities.

According to a recent survey into diversity and inclusion in the workplace from global recruiter Robert Walters (of +6,000 professionals across North America), one-quarter of professionals with mental health-related disabilities reported being entirely unaware of the pathways to progression within their organizations.

Coral Bamgboye, Global Head of ED&I at Robert Walters commented "The lack of clear signposting for career progression is a major challenge for disabled professionals across Canada. Companies must implement comprehensive and accessible training programs to ensure all employees have equal access to information and opportunities."

Disabled professionals were also found to face significant barriers to career advancement. In fact, 1 in 5 professionals with learning disabilities felt that there was a lack of resources and time to go "above and beyond" in their roles.

Coral adds, "To create more inclusive work environments, employers must address the specific challenges faced by disabled professionals. Creating a supportive workplace culture that values and accommodates diverse abilities is crucial for promoting career growth across all professionals."

Gender disparities across disabled professionals

The study also shed light on the gender disparities faced by disabled professionals. A staggering 40% of women with learning disabilities reported not receiving promotions at their current companies, compared to only 12% of men with similar disabilities.

Disabled women also felt significantly underpaid for their work - 67% more women with physical disabilities reported feeling undervalued compared to their male counterparts.

Salaries take a hit

The study revealed how the barriers professionals with disabilities face in terms of progression also directly impact their earning potential. Over 60% more professionals with learning disabilities, compared with professionals who do not have a disability, earned salaries of up to $28k.

+21% more professionals without disabilities also earned over $75k compared to those with mental health-related disabilities. Further to this, almost half (47%) of professionals with mental health-related disabilities felt underpaid at work, compared with 31% of professionals who do not have a disability.

Coral comments “These findings indicate a pressing need for organizations to ensure fair compensation and recognition for all employees.”

Coral shares her key recommendations for employers

“These findings bring to light the essential need for companies to prioritize inclusivity and accessibility to bridge the gap in career progression for disabled professionals. Implementing targeted programs, removing barriers, and raising awareness can empower disabled employees to thrive in their roles and reach their full potential.”

Ready, Willing & Able, an organization designed to increase the labour force participation of people with intellectual disabilities or on the autism spectrum, offers key recommendations on actions that businesses can take to enhance inclusivity. These include:

  1. Building a culture of inclusion
  2. Implementing disability inclusion metrics
  3. Creating employee resource groups

All recommendations can be found in the complete report here.


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