Proud to be leading on disability inclusion

Mia Mends, Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and CEO, Impact Ventures, Sodexo North America
About the author : Mia Mends

Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and CEO, Impact Ventures, Sodexo North America

Published on : 5/20/21
  • Back in January 2020, Sodexo joined The Valuable 500, a global initiative focused on putting disability inclusion on the leadership agenda.

    Earlier this week – and a fantastic moment to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day – The Valuable 500 announced that it had reached 500 like-minded member corporations, all making strong commitments to drive disability inclusion in their organizations.

    So, what does disability inclusion mean for Sodexo and what are our commitments as part of The Valuable 500?

    We want 100% of our 420,000-employee workforce to have access to initiatives supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities by 2025. This means that in each country where we operate, we will have:

    • A non-discrimination policy regarding people with disabilities
    • Communication to support the inclusion of people with disabilities
    • An established disability champion responsible for the roll-out of initiatives.

    And just like all other aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion at Sodexo, disability inclusion is considered a strategic imperative and progress is driven by a global taskforce of employee representatives and sponsored by two members of our global executive committee. In other words, disability inclusion is firmly on the leadership agenda!

    Of course, having sponsorship from the executive committee is vital for any organization wanting to drive a more inclusive culture, but for a global company the size of Sodexo, it’s on the ground where that commitment really needs to make a difference. Our commitments have to translate into actions that make a difference to people’s lives… and we have some great examples of where we’re making progress.

    In addition to global awareness programs and training for managers on topics such as unconscious bias, we’re making significant efforts to broaden employment opportunities for people with disabilities and, importantly, making sure they feel included. 

    In India, for example, we work with NGOs and employment agencies who specialize in job readiness training and recruitment of people with disabilities. We then run sensitization sessions with the Sodexo team who will work closely with anyone we employ via this route, to ensure they have a better understanding of the potential challenges or difficulties that their new team mate might experience in the workplace. To provide further support when onboarding people with disabilities, we have a buddy program, designed to further enhance an inclusive culture and welcoming experience.

    In Brazil, where depending on the size of the company, employers have a legal requirement to ensure people with disabilities represent 2% to 5% of their workforce, Sodexo exceeds the quota with more than 2,100 employees with disabilities. To drive an inclusive culture, our teams have adopted practices – and been recognized for doing so – such as providing managers with training on LIBRAS (Brazilian sign language) to support the inclusion of employees with hearing impairments.

    Of course, there is much more we can do around disability inclusion. The context of the past 12-18 months with a global pandemic has helped to shine a light on the fact that not all disabilities are visible. Awareness of mental health issues is now far more prevalent and, at Sodexo, we have focused a lot of attention on mental health, providing our teams with training and collateral to support conversations about wellbeing and mental health. This has driven more focus around inclusive leadership and the importance of really understanding the people within our teams.

    We need to develop the muscles to acknowledge that, in order to engage our teams and get the most out of them at work, we must understand them as people. We must recognize their differences, listen to their challenges, be empathetic, appreciate the value they bring to the business and give them the tools and support to allow them to do their job as best they possibly can.

    I’m pleased to say, I work for a company that truly values the importance of having an inclusive culture and, in my new role, I’m excited to have the opportunity to influence that journey.

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    This article was created by Mia Mends, Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and CEO, Impact Ventures, Sodexo North America

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