Disability needs to be higher on the DE&I agenda and accorded equal weight to corded equal weight to other sectors of the diversity spectrum. This was the message of Jane Hatton, founder and CEO at Evenbreak – an award-winning not-for-profit social enterprise, run by and for disabled people, which connects inclusive employers with talented disabled people – during episode nine, season two of Inside your Brand.
The online hub turns 10 next month. “I started Evenbreak by myself, back in 2011, in response to a need which I could see which just wasn’t being fulfilled,” Hatton told host, Daniel Fellows. “I was in DE&I for many years and talked about diversity in the broadest sense but, when I talked about disability, they would have two reactions.
“One would be: Why would I employ a disabled person? They wouldn’t say it in those words exactly but you knew what was being inferred. The second would say ‘we recognise this is a pool of talent we should be attracting but have no idea how to do that, plus disabled people never apply.’”
Hatton revealed: “I remember thinking at the time ‘oh that’s bad, someone ought to do something about that’ and then I became one of the 83 per cent who become disabled as adults and it became a bit more up close and personal.”
Having found her calling, there was no stopping Hatton who was struck by an epiphany. “I realised there was an obvious solution – why don’t we have a job board for disabled candidates and those employers who are enlightened enough to employ them. And that’s really how it happened,” she said.
Throughout the 30-minute episode, Hatton was keen to stress that Evenbreak is a social enterprise rather than a charity. “We’re definitely not a charity as the whole message is that employing disabled people is a sensible business decision, not a charitable one,” she explained. “I also wanted it, right from the beginning, to be led by lived experience – I only ever employ disabled people.”
Ten years down the line, Evenbreak now employs 17 disabled people and has “50,00 candidates we work with and hundreds of employers including large corporations like Tesco, Unilever and Facebook,” said Hatton.
The social enterprise has certainly come into its own. Hatton explained: “The job board remains the core of what we do but employers started saying ‘I am not sure we are doing this right… if we are as inclusive as we should be’ and so we started developing support systems for employers and now have an online ‘best practices’ portal for employers.”
Then, in February 2021, Evenbreak launched a career hive “for those looking for new or better work. It offers bespoke careers coaching, networking events, and lists of available jobs,” said Hatton.
When asked by Daniel as to whether some organisations still stick disability in the ‘too difficult box, Hatton replied: “Most people want to do the right thing but [...] what we have done for centuries is made decisions on behalf of other people. I remember going to diversity conferences and you’d have a load of white people talking about race, a load of men talking about gender, non-disabled talking about disability.
“I am sure they were all well-intentioned and wanted to make the world a better place but they were trying to guess what people like me might need – why not bring us to the table and find out?!
“We need to bring as many people to the table to share experiences otherwise we are just going to make assumptions – well-meaning ones, maybe – about what other people might need.”
During the episode, Daniel revealed how he had recently spoken to a CEO who said he had never interviewed a disabled candidate because no one had ever put one in front of him and queried whether video interviews might help? For candidates with disabilities, it can be much easier to connect with recruiters via a video interview.
Hatton agreed to a degree pointing out that, for disabled candidates, it can be difficult to travel to an interview meaning they may miss out on a great job opportunity. However, she added a caveat: “I’m anti interviews anyway – I am not sure they are the best way of predicting future performance.
Host, Daniel, concurred: “I hate interviews, that’s why I started my own business!”
Catch episode nine of season two of Inside your Brand over on Get-Optimal’s YouTube channel.