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Insight Investment Management’s Michael Gentry tells us his compelling story

Category: Disability Confident, diversity, disability, Disability Awareness, Disability Inclusion

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Insight Investment Management is one of BNY Mellon’s specialist investment management firms. Hear from Insight Investment Management’s Michael Gentry on his personal experience and what we can all do to cultivate disability inclusion.

 

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My mother gave birth to my sister (Rebecca Gentry) in January 1976, and it was only during the labour process that it became clear that my mother was not physiologically able to give birth naturally.  Unfortunately, that realisation by the medical team came too late and the excessive force required via forceps to deliver my sister did irreparable damage to the left side of my sisters brain. The result of those birth related injuries was that from that point onwards, she was a left sided hemiplegic. I was delivered uninjured two years later via caesarean section due only to the lessons learned from the ordeal my sister went through.  Not a fact I try to dwell on but a fact nonetheless.  Great Ormand Street Hospital, my parents and of course my sister worked tirelessly over the proceeding years to limit/improve the damage – and whilst they did make great inroads they never eradicated the visible and debilitating aspects of her disability.

Determined to not be seen differently, my parents and sister decided she would go to an able-bodied school.  In fact my sister went to the same school as I.  I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you the (occasional) cruelty of children, but needless to say I saw first-hand how difficult it was for my sister to feel as an equal to the other children.  I also saw first-hand the depleting effect that her sense of exclusion and isolation had on my sisters self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief. Academically, she was bright but simply didn’t thrive in that kind of environment as anxiety manifested from feeling embarrassed of her disability and the reaction of her school friends.   Just getting to the class room table in itself was a psychological battle. 

The main outlet for my sister was swimming.   She joined the local disabled swimming club from a very young age and her talent for backstroke was spotted by a mutli-time Paralympian gold medallist (Beverley Gull).  Beverley was able to give my sister the confidence to compete and a platform to perform to the best of her ability.  A platform that my sister utilised to full affect and am very proud to say that my sister went on to be a multi-distance, multi-time World Champion herself.

Disabilities like my sisters are not just a physical limitation or hurdle.  They are psychological hurdles; hurdles of self-worth and self-belief; societal hurdles ranging from not wanting to have an ‘awkward conversation’ to outright discriminatory behaviour.  We must never take for granted the struggle disabled persons (and all marginalised groups) face just getting to the classroom, office, or meeting room.

I do not think it any coincidence that at the one aspect of life for which my sister was able to feel like an equal she became a world champion.  But where else could her resilience, determination and dedication have been harnessed to benefit a team, a business or wider society?  How many other world champions, CEO’s, innovators or collaborators have we lost along the way simply because they were not given a platform to be considered equal?

 The Facts:

  • There are around 7.7 million people of working age with a disability or long-term health condition in the UK.  Only half of them are in work (Scope).
  • Encouraging applications from disabled people is good for business. It can help to:
  • Increase the number of high-quality applicants available.
  • Create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers it serves and the community in which it is based.
  • Bring additional skills to the business e.g. the ability to use British Sign Language.
  • The benefits of retaining an experienced, skilled employee who has acquired an impairment (i.e. disability occurs during employment) are usually greater than recruiting and training new staff. It is also good for the individual.

   What Can We Do:

  • End The Awkward”.  Two thirds of Brits say they feel awkward around disabled people.  Some people feel so awkward they avoid disabled people all together.  (Scope).  So lets talk, engage, understand and share.  Lets end the awkward !
  • Become (and promote) being a “Disability Confident” Employer.  What this means:
  • Recruit, retain and develop disabled people.
  • increase understanding amongst employers of disability and the benefits disabled people can bring to their businesses.
  • steadily increase the number of employers, across all sizes, sectors and locations, signing up to be Disability Confident and taking action that will make a difference to disabled people.
  • Make a substantial contribution towards getting 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027.
  • Make clear in our recruitment literature of our commitment to welcoming applications from people with disability or long-term health conditions.
  • Advertise our vacancies through media that appeal to a diverse audiences including those that specifically reach disabled people.
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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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