Radar: Disabled have less access to career boosters

Mentoring and senior management support are key to reaching senior job roles, however disabled people are far less likely to receive this than others, a survey by disability network Radar has found.

An interim report from Radar’s Doing seniority differently project – which is examining the factors behind career progression for disabled people – also found strong evidence of stigma, with most disabled people in senior roles who could hide their impairment doing so.

The survey of 911 disabled people and 550 non-disabled people in senior roles found 110 (12%) disabled respondents were earning £80,000 a year or more. Half of this group had had their impairments for 20 years or longer and some had significant impairments such as bipolar disorder or paraplegia.

Non-disabled people higher earners

However, non-disabled people were three times more likely to be earning at least £80,000 a year and twice as likely to be board directors.

For those earning £80,000 or above – disabled and non-disabled alike – there was a strong consensus on the secrets of success, with mentoring and career-long support from senior managers cited as key factors.

However, while 21% of all disabled respondents had had a mentor, this applied to 42% of non-disabled respondents, while 25% of disabled respondents had had the support of senior managers throughout their careers, compared with 55% of non-disabled people.

Similar aspirations, less success

Although the study found that disabled people and non-disabled people had similar career aspirations, non-disabled people were three times more likely to achieve them.

Radar found that of the 62% who could hide their disability, three-quarters sometimes or always hid it. While some of this group saw their impairment as irrelevant to their working lives, people with mental health problems, who were nearly four times more likely than other disabled people to be open to no one at work, feared being stereotyped or stopped from progressing. 

Those with mental health conditions and learning disabilities were found to have the worst prospects and were more likely to be in junior roles and feel less likely to succeed.

Male and middle-aged

Successful disabled people tended to be male, middle-aged private sector workers, reflecting other inequalities in the workforce.

While more disabled respondents were working in the public than private sectors those with the highest salaries were working in the private sector.

The survey was completed through an online questionnaire and respondents were asked to find other disabled people to take part, in order to reach those who were often left out of studies because they kept their impairments hidden.

Case Study: Helen Waygood, Interim HR manager

“I have bipolar, it was diagnosed 20 years ago. I was a fairly senior, young HR director. I chose to go into interim work and being an HR director I knew that disclosure could potentially mean rejection and so I formed a company and that meant I only had to disclose to myself.”

Read more on Waygood’s story.

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