This item originally appeared on the website of Minnesota Diversified Industries.
Minnesota has come a long way when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We’ve learned that our differences are assets, and diversity of thought, experience and identity translates into meaningful work, success and growth, no matter the industry. Companies and their leaders have made commitments to diversity and inclusion, setting goals and benchmarks for success – but most of those commitments are missing a huge piece of the puzzle.
People with disabilities represent an untapped workforce that is continually left out of the diversity and inclusion conversation in the business community, and it shows. While Minnesota faces a deepening workforce shortage, individuals with disabilities are 2.6 times more likely to be unemployed than the general population among people ages 18-64, according to a 2017 report from the Minnesota State Demographic Center.
At MDI, we operate on a social-enterprise model, successfully hiring and training people with disabilities who make up nearly 45 percent of our 450 employees. Our operations in plastics manufacturing and assembly services are second to none, providing high-quality and efficient services to everyone from food distributors to medical device companies to the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS and Amazon. People with disabilities bring unique skills and talents to the table that make our organization great, and it doesn’t take much to create an inclusive environment for them. Support, limited accommodations and focusing on their abilities – instead of disabilities – are the key ingredients to creating an inclusive and productive culture for people with disabilities.
Businesses cannot be truly diverse if people with disabilities are continuingly ignored on leadership agendas and in diversity, equity and inclusion statements. In honor of October’s National Disability Employment Awareness month, we are calling on all of Minnesota’s incredible organizations, both large and small, to reexamine or rewrite their diversity and inclusion statements to intentionally include people with disabilities.
We know that our differences make us stronger – but it takes inclusion to make them matter. Unified work brings us one step closer to realizing it.
Peter McDermott is president and CEO of Minnesota Diversified Industries, Inc., a not for profit social enterprise serving people with disabilities by offering inclusive employment opportunities and services.