Hi, I’m Jeremy Quittner, a writer for Fortune.com’s Venture channel. Ellen McGirt will return to raceAhead tomorrow.
In a week that saw a horrific attack against a disabled man posted to Facebook, and an impassioned reminder from actress Meryl Streep that our President-elect once openly mocked a disabled news reporter, there was some good news for people with disabilities: they’ve made important inroads in the workforce.
December marked the ninth straight month of employment gains by people with disabilities, according to a report released this week by the Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire. That’s the longest stretch of gains seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began tracking employment of the disabled in 2008.
In December alone, the employment-to-population ratio for working age people with disabilities rose to 28.7% from 26.6% the same month a year ago, according to the report. For working age people without disabilities, the ratio was mostly flat.
If you’re wondering whether the rise has something to do with the fact that more people are continuing to work in their later years, when disability is more prevalent, it’s not. To get the clearest picture of what’s going on, the researchers behind the monthly report crunch the BLS data in such a way that they avoid having a sample dominated by older workers. They also combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64).
In any case, while the disabled have an unemployment rate that is roughly twice the national average of 4.9%, the gains seen this year reflect a changing view among employers. In a job market where employers are struggling to find qualified workers, businesses are becoming more open-minded.
“Employers are looking for alternative sources of labor, and they are more willing to overcome potential concerns about disabilities,” says Andrew Houtenville, an associate professor of economics at the University of New Hampshire, who co-authored the report.
In fact, more than a few large corporations have made hiring employees with disabilities a priority. Professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young), for example, launched a program recently to hire accounting associates with autism. In so doing it joined the ranks of Microsoft and SAP, which have similar programs.
Yet if we look to the future, it’s small businesses that may have some of the greatest impact in hiring disabled workers. The Small Business Administration points out that entrepreneurs can benefit from tax credits, built into the Americans with Disabilities Act, for hiring and accommodating workers with disabilities. And because businesses may individually lack the wherewithal and knowledge of how to best serve their disabled employees, programs such as Add Us In, launched by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, encourage local community groups to work with small businesses to provide guidance.
Baby steps, yes. But all in the right direction.
President Obama: Race still a ‘potent and often divisive force’ in America
Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, bid farewell to the nation in a nearly hour-long speech on Tuesday in Chicago, the city that launched his political career. His speech touched on themes of participatory democracy, public service, and race. The speech was in part an appraisal of his eight years in office--the president talked about successes such as securing health care for 20 million people, marriage equality, and renewed relations with Cuba. But he also sounded a note of caution, particularly around race. “After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic,” Obama said. “Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.”
Police say their jobs have become more difficult
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Here’s why Facebook continues to struggle with diversity
The social media giant has made a concerted effort to recruit more black, Latino and female engineers. But certain aspects of its hiring process appear to be stumbling blocks.
Ellen Pao lands new role as diversity chief
Ellen Pao made headlines in 2012 when she filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins -- a case she ultimately lost. On Tuesday, she announced she will be the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact and a venture partner at Kapor Capital. The firms, run by technology veterans Freada Kapor Klein and her husband Mitch Kapor have made it their mission to bring more women and minorities into the industry.
The Woke Leader
What Dylann Roof found on Google
How much was Dylann Roof -- the young white man sentenced to death Tuesday for murdering nine black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015 -- influenced by what turned up in his Google searches? It’s almost impossible to know, but it doesn’t make the question any less relevant.
The power of empathy in the workplace
“Empathy” has become the new buzzword in corporate settings, but it’s hardly fluff. As actress Meryl Streep reminded us in her Trump-focused Golden Globes speech on Sunday, “when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.” It’s a message that needs to be heard, particularly in the workplace.
—Zora Neale Hurston