In most of North America, October is a month that stimulates our awareness in the natural world – leaves are changing from their summer-time greens to their fall reds, oranges, and yellows; we hear the sounds of geese flying south for the winter; the temperature is dropping, ushering arguably the most comfortable season of the year: jeans and hoodies; and we are deluged with the scents of pumpkin-spice everything.
October is also when we celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month – to help our employees, co-workers, and friends recognize that not everyone experiences the world in the same way. At Pega Inclusivity is one of our core values, and we are proud of the work our Persons with Disabilities @ Pega (PwD@Pega) group has accomplished in their first year as an official employee resource group (ERG) – and we plan to celebrate and expand on that work this month.
Disability inclusion in action
Andy Huang (Diversity Talent Attraction Partner, Pegasystems) and Olivia Christmann (Solutions Consultant and PWD@Pega Global Co-Chair, Pegasystems) representing Pega at the DEI Awards Ceremony.
The team hit the ground running and worked with the incredible folks at Disability:IN to establish a benchmark of where we are with respect to disability equality and inclusion throughout our organization and identify where we can do better. We were incredibly proud to receive the highest possible score of 100 and the distinction of “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion.” It is important to note that despite getting a score of 100, there is no “perfect” score, and we know there is more we can and will do to improve accessibility in our products, offices and internal communications.
Conferences, workshops, and webinars: increasing awareness on all fronts
PwD@Pega kicked off Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) with an incredibly engaging discussion where John Higgins (Chief of Client and Partner Success) and Kieran Tarrant (Head of Sales in EMEA), shared their thoughts on the importance of leading with empathy in the workplace. John and Kieran shared their mutual understanding of the importance of supporting colleagues with a broad spectrum of disabilities.
Throughout October, we will be hosting a wide variety of Webinars and Workshops, focusing on a different topic each week:
- Week 1 - What Disability Is
- Week 2 - Mental Health
- Week 3 - Invisible Disability
- Week 4 - Visible Disability/Accessibility
We have over a dozen events lined up with speakers from around the world to increase awareness and to promote employment inclusion for persons with disabilities. We are proud that some of our clients raised their hand to participate in the discussions with us as we celebrate the many and varied contributions of persons with disabilities, and we look forward to hearing insights and learnings from them.
Disability: A deeply personal topic that deserves more attention
My own journey of disability started at a young age as my father was wheelchair bound and partially blind. Watching him navigate a world that was not designed with his needs in mind had a profound impact on me, though I largely kept that experience to myself at work.
It wasn’t until I started speaking with coworkers about some challenges I was having at work, which ultimately led me to a neurodivergent diagnosis, that I became passionate about the growing awareness around this issue. I realized that while my personal accessibility needs were quite different than those of my father, we shared a common need of understanding and accommodation. Since then, I have made it my mission to be an advocate and champion of disability awareness.
Like me, many PwD@Pega ERG members are building awareness and spreading the message that a strong workplace is inclusive of the skills and talents of all individuals, including persons with disabilities.
“PwD has been a great community of people brought together by the sheer fact that we are “different”. I have always been an outspoken person when it comes to who I am and what I represent, having a group that is not only part of my work environment, but also supported and encouraged by those in charge means the world to me and many others. As a person with a non-apparent disability, I have gone through life deciding if I will or will not disclose my disability to my leadership, in fear of a negative reaction. And while I have experienced that in the past with previous employers, at Pega I have always felt welcomed, accepted, and supported, no matter what. “
“I was very recently diagnosed with ADHD: Inattentive Type, and while it was a relief to finally have answers and treatment options, having a community to lean on has been very helpful. When suffering with invisible disabilities it is very easy to get trapped in your own mind with destructive self-talk: “What’s wrong with me?”, “I’m a failure”, “Why am I so lazy?”, “I’m going to get fired”, “I’m useless”, “I’m alone”.
PwD@Pega and PwD@Pega – Members ERG groups provide me with another type of relief, a sense of community and support. Prior to my diagnosis I was struggling a lot. I felt helpless and hopeless, so I took a chance and asked for help in the ERG groups. I anticipated responses of generic platitudes: “Everyone feels that way”, “We all have challenges to overcome”, “It will be better tomorrow”. But, to my surprise, I received support and understanding! Strangers reaching out to me and throwing me a lifeline. People listening for understanding instead of telling. Direct messages from so many folks letting me know I can reach out at any time if I need help or just someone to talk to. I even got a few virtual hugs. It was such a relief, a weight off of my shoulders.” g to get fired”, “I’m useless”, “I’m alone”.
Finally, conversations around disability employment, accessibility, and disability inclusion should not only be limited to the month of October as a diverse and inclusive workforce holds immense potential for communities and our economy. These conversations must continue year-round and together with the PwD@Pega team I am committed to ensuring our employees have a safe space to share their journeys, express their concerns, ask questions and celebrate their successes.