Schwab’s Journey to Making Meaningful Change for the Disability Community

Guest Author: Rachel Raines, Program Manager, Diversity & Inclusion | Charles Schwab

Here at Charles Schwab, we are fortunate to have a workforce that is dedicated to disability inclusion and are progressively developing initiatives and resources that will further these efforts. With the emergence of our Employee Resource Group, the Charles Schwab Ability Network (CSAN) in 2018, and the continuously expanding membership base, the conversation of bringing in a program for people with disabilities became timely and necessary.  Building on the momentum of CSAN, we are piloting the Abilities @ Schwab initiative in our Denver, CO and Westlake, TX areas. Our focus is based around three pillars: Education & Training, Enablement, and Outreach. This initiative is specifically designed to support the hiring and improved support of people with disabilities.

Like so many of us, I have family and friends who have been impacted by a disability. I think it’s interesting how 1 in 4 people have a disability but we so seldom talk about it. According to the Department of Labor, as of September 2019 only 20.6% of people (ages 16 and over) with disabilities are employed compared to 68.7% employment of those without a disability ( I’ve experienced family members hiding their disability from employers because they felt that management and their teams would put limitations on their ability to execute their work. A disability can impact anyone, at any time, and we probably are on teams with people who have a disability and we’re not aware. It’s our duty as an organization to ensure that we continue to foster an environment where everyone has the resources and support they need regardless of their abilities.  

Schwab’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, Sumayyah Emeh-Edu shares insights she has gleaned through her personal journey working with a disability:

“I have a neck/back injury that causes bouts of chronic pain and reduced mobility.  Although I was unable to work for a period of time, I’m fortunate to have the resources that have improved my condition enough to work full time.  Now that I am disabled, it gives me greater context Sumayyah Emeh Eduas to the challenges individuals within the workplace face. I’ve quickly realized how much privilege I have in being able to hide or disclose my disability—people with apparent disabilities do not have this option and are often judged for it.

Given I did not work a full time job for almost two years, I became increasingly disillusioned with stigma I got from potential employers because of my time off.  I also struggled with how I would answer ‘why’ I was out for so long.  These situations made me feel like the skills and competencies I developed over my career were not relevant. Disability can happen at any time.  Obtaining a disability is something I never thought could happen to me…Yet here I am.  I think it is important everyone understand that. At the time the experience of obtaining a disability and not being able to work was extremely difficult and humbling.  Ultimately I’m grateful for the resilience that situation has taught me and excited to utilize the humility, empathy and determination to create change for people with disabilities."

When asked about the “why” behind Schwab’s Abilities @ Schwab initiatives, Sumayyah shares:

“Plain and simple, it is the right thing to do. We also know all the benefits people with disabilities bring to innovation and culture. Also, we saw there was a need to better streamline processes like applicant experience, onboarding and everyday interactions. Branding the initiatives provide it exposure.”

With the formation of the Talent Accommodation Liaison roles, which are designated Talent Acquisition resources that align current and future Schwabbies with resources inside of Accommodations team, Schwab continues to move further down the road in fostering a more inclusive environment for all. The TA Liaison role is one that allows Schwab to streamline our processes so that we can provide more effective support for our internal employees and provide needed assistance to those that are seeking to join our organization. These “disability champions” are a result of a yearlong assessment of our current processes, and research on best practices from external partners such as Getting Hired. We can already see the impact of having dedicated resources to this initiative and we hope that over time we create a space where people continue to feel comfortable asking for assistance and disclosing their needs.

We have specifically designed workshops centered around our three pillars of Education & Training, Enablement, and Outreach. These workshops empower leaders with knowledge and insight that could benefit their employees with disabilities, remove any reservations around hiring people with disabilities, and holistically create a more inclusive environment for people with disabilities at Schwab. We are also holding intimate hiring nights on our two pilot campuses with the support of our CSAN ERG to bring in talent with disabilities into our workforce. We’re excited about the possibilities of Abilities @ Schwab and our goal is to create something that is impactful and meaningful to the disability community.

Our team is launching this initiative as a direct result of our employee champions—our Schwabbies have supported these efforts in every way. As employers we all have a part to play in this larger initiative to empower and hire talent with disabilities. Schwab is on a journey that we hope can touch many lives.

Check out Charles Schwab's inclusive job openings here!