Disability and Leadership: New Challenges – New Possibilities?

online event
Wednesday 2 June 2021 (13:00-15:00)

This is presented by the Work Inclusivity Research Centre (WIRC) at the University of Birmingham, the (UK) National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) and PurpleSpace. 

The disrupting impacts on economy and society of the Covid-19 health pandemic will change radically the conditions of work, business and enterprise for disabled people. Leaders within organisations have responsibility for ensuring disability equality – and disability confidence - for employees and (where a service is provided) users. Hence, we need to better understand what supports successful leadership on disability equality and inclusion (including the presence of disabled people within decision-making, influencing and other structures which encourage and support the accountability of leaders on disability issues). Prompted by interventions from our influential and highly experienced guest speakers, we will discuss the limitations of conceptions and practices of leadership that continue to favour ‘normal’ and ableist understandings of what it means to ‘do’ successful leadership. 

In 20 minute Break-Out Sessions, participants will be invited to react to our speakers insights, and to share their thinking & experiences of/around 3 important themes: 

Theme 1: To what extent are disabled people making progress in/with leadership roles? What is getting in the way? 

Theme 2: What could people in positions of power and influence [business leaders, educations leaders, voluntary sector leaders, policy-makers] do to improve progress? 

Theme 3: Beyond the current pandemic - what might the term ‘successful’ leadership in business, education, the voluntary sector and public policy-making comprise/mean for disabled people? 


13:00: Welcome & introduction – John Gibney (The Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham) & Harriet Clarke (The School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham) 

13:10: Kate Nash OBE, CEO and Creator of PurpleSpace; Ambassador to Disability Rights UK. 

13:30: Professor Nicola Martin*, Head of Degrees and Student Experience, London South Bank University (LSBU); author of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education Stimulus Paper (2017), Encouraging Disabled Leaders in Higher Education; recognising hidden talents

13:50 to 14:00: (Virtual) Refreshment Break 

14:00: Jane Cordell, Deaf public speaker and coach; Co-Director, Result CIC; member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Entrepreneurship's Advisory Board. 

14:20: BREAK-OUT SESSIONS – Participants can choose to join one of the 3 themed break-out groups below: 

  • Theme 1: Break-out group Moderator: Tom Coogan, Assistant Professor and Academic in Residence – Ingenuity 2021; Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Nottingham University Business School. 
  • Theme 2: Break-out group Moderator: Vera Kubenz, Research Fellow, GCRF Network+ “Disability Under Siege” School of Education, College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham. 
  • Theme 3: Break-out group Moderator: Juliet Kele, Research Fellow, Centre for Responsible Business, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham 

14:45: Feedback from break-out groups (Moderators) 

15:00: Summary & next steps: Harriet Clarke & John Gibney 

15:15: Close 

*See also: Martin, N. (2019). A Practical Response to Ableism in Leadership in UK Higher Education. in: Brown, N. and Leigh, J. (ed.) Ableism in Academia, UCL Press. Available at: https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/researcher/8046z/dr-nicki-martin