Championing your strengths, not your weaknesses
March 8, 2022
Emma Olivier is the Executive Sponsor of Accenture ANZ Disability Inclusion. Find out how Emma is using her own experience as someone with a limb difference to champion for other people with disabilities within Accenture.
I was born without my left forearm so I have never known a life with two hands. It has forced me to be creative in how to tackle things as well as see the world a different way. These are great skills to have in life and have served me well in my 22 year career at Accenture as well as a mum to my two teenage boys. Being flexible in my approach to life has honed my problem solving skills. Useful for work as well as parenting 😊.
As one of the 20% of Australians with a disability, I feel lucky to work in an environment where difference is valued, supported and encouraged. My disability is visible and it has opened many opportunities for me including being a cover girl for The Age newspaper in 2016 when I obtained my Lifesaving Bronze Medallion. My difference and imperfections are definitely my superpower.
It is important to recognise that disability is a very wide spectrum and all of us have a different experience. Disability is like a fingerprint , absolutely unique to the individual. In addition, there are many invisible disabilities. My disability is open for the world to see but many are not. All of us need to be aware that just because you can’t see a disability , doesn’t mean it’s not there.
We are striving hard at Accenture to create an environment that allows people to bring their whole selves to work. From my own personal experience, I know how much easier life can be when I feel accepted and supported for who I am. It is something that I am proud that Accenture is working towards for all our employees.
It’s incredibly important to have visible roles models. It was so exciting to see Dylan Alcott named as Australian of the Year in 2022. Disability is going to have a seat at the table like never before. We don’t just need diversity, we need inclusion and accessibility for all as well.
If you don’t ask, you don’t know
Through my work with the Disability Inclusion, I want to encourage the creation of a barrier-free workplace where people feel comfortable to share their needs. We have confidential processes in place to let your needs be known, and it’s up to you how widely that information will be shared. Our goal is for all our employees to operate free of stigma and discrimination.
Don’t limit yourself by your own assumptions about the adjustments you can ask for, or the types of roles that might be available. Ask the question – we want to challenge the status quo and not assume that there’s only one way to do things.
Equally, for our employees who aren’t managing disabilities, we want to create an environment where our whole workforce feels comfortable and supported, as well as supporting others to be their best. I've had many situations over my career where people have been slightly uncomfortable about whether to ask about why I've got one hand. I found talking about it has taken that mystery away. I've had great conversations with my clients about having one hand and I joke about it all the time, and I think that makes other people comfortable if they see that you're not stressed about it.
Keep the focus on strengths, not weaknesses
In many ways, I think the word disability is misleading and generates negative connotations. As the Paralympics has recently demonstrated, ability can be showcased in many different ways. It’s the same in the workplace. As a strengths-based organisation, we want to focus more on what you can do and the unique value you bring, rather than the things you can’t do.
Accenture is all about helping our clients to innovate. That’s our purpose. The insights, perspectives and creativity of a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities, helps us to better come up with new ideas for clients. It's important for our clients to see that we employ people that aren't all the same, because that's how we live diversity and inclusion out in the broader marketplace.
I've been very lucky in my career that people have focused on what I can do as opposed to what I can't do. Giving people the time and space to work out a different way to do something and respecting that it might not be the same way as you do it, is the key. As well as ensuring that as an organisation we provide the support required for people to be their best.
Disability – and your needs – can change
I was born with a disability – I’ve never known life any other way. But this isn’t the case for everyone. Life can change, and you can find yourself suddenly managing very different needs. This might be a permanent change, or it could be temporary. That’s why Accenture’s policies are deliberately broad and the workplace adjustments we offer are designed to be flexible. Any adjustments you need are funded centrally, rather than from a project budget and can include things such as physical adaptations to your workspace, flexible working arrangements, office modifications or processes for how you receive feedback.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the only person in Accenture with a particular requirement. We want to collaborate with our people to find solutions and adjustments that make work better for them. When people feel accepted and supported, only good things come of that for us as an organisation. We can tap into a wider range of talented people and offer opportunities for people to thrive.
Accenture is committed to creating a more equitable environment for our people – whether that’s people with disabilities, the LGBTIQ+ community, or women. And our Better to Belong research shows this is good for business too. Explore the research and find out more about what life is like at Accenture.