​Data on Disabled Women in Leadership: We’re Gathering It Ourselves!

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Life After Paralysis on March 23, 2022 # Employment

Glasses and a computer

Last year I wrote about how girls with disabilities desperately need disabled women as mentors. In that article, I emphasized that I had been searching for studies, articles, research – anything at all – that demonstrates the prevalence of women with disabilities in leadership in America, and I had yet to find anything of substance. Because while some studies and statistics exist about women in leadership, nothing I could find had data or information specific to women with disabilities in leadership. Since writing that article, I have not given up on my quest for this information.

In my pursuit for this knowledge, I met Tim Cornelius, CEO of P3 Technology. P3 Technology’s goal is to give a voice to people with disabilities in research. While I was meeting with Tim on a completely different subject, I could not pass up the opportunity to tell him about how frustrated I was with the lack of information available about women with disabilities in leadership positions. He asked me to tell him a little more, which opened the floodgates to me ranting about how lived experience shows us that disabled women are often relegated to entry-level jobs, despite being qualified for so much more and that only data that I can find that even comes close to being relevant is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows that women with disabilities are often in service jobs and that disabled women experience higher unemployment rates. I also shared data that when women with disabilities are employed, we’re often paid significantly less than men with disabilities and people without disabilities. Tim seemed intrigued, but we eventually got back to the purpose of our meeting and I thought the conversation would end there.

Soon after our call, Tim followed up with an email to tell me that P3 would begin a study on women with disabilities in leadership. He sent me some equations that I will admit that I definitely did not understand and showed me the questions that he’d already begun asking through a process that is way above my head. Needless to say, I was impressed. Within a few weeks, P3 had preliminary data for us to work with. The study found that only 18% of the participants said a leader in their organization has a disability. Additionally, only 0.01% of the US population could name a disabled female leader on the world stage as a whole.

FINALLY! We finally have data about women with disabilities in leadership. The study wasn’t perfect - it was short and quick, but it was the beginning of something great.

Now that we have a little bit of data to work with, and a great disability-led research company to partner with, my goal is to dive deeper into this research and publish the reports with Disability EmpowHer Network and other like-minded disability-led organizations. This information is valuable and important. Once we are able to collect and publish data on the prevalence of women with disabilities in leadership positions in our nation now, we’ll have a starting point to work from and we’ll be able to set goals to increase that number. We’ll also be better informed on how to help women with disabilities become leaders and how to help companies uplift more disabled women.

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney and Executive Director of Disability EmpowHer Network, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women with disabilities. Stephanie is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to bringing more women and girls with disabilities to the forefront through mentoring and activism.

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