Many leadership opportunities arise because someone knows someone and the network circles around to you. If you aren’t part of those networks then you are significantly disadvantaged.
Networking can be different for people with disabilities and the DLI 2016 survey of leaders illustrated a number of barriers to networking that we face, for example:
– the costs associated with attending
– the extra hours and energy needed – many events happen after hours
– being in the mainstream / prejudice
– crowds, noise.
These are just some of the issues raised as barriers to being in the room and being able to network effectively.
There are now a number of apps that scan business cards to assist leaders who need alternative formats or who can’t carry cards, but not all are suitable for the needs of leaders with disabilities, so don’t assume technology solves everything.
The cost of networking is a distinct barrier that is very difficult to overcome. If you can’t afford to be in the room, regularly, then you won’t get to meet the people that you need to meet. People quickly forget someone that isn’t seen often, and that means they forget that you might be a suitable candidate for something. While online social networking does assist in some ways, it simply doesn’t replace being in the room and meeting people.
Above all, networking is something you get better at with practice. So, barriers experienced by leaders with disabilities must be addressed so that we can get the practice, and through that get the opportunities that networking provides.
Christina Ryan is the Founder of the Disability Leadership Institute, a specialist leadership and coaching consultant, and a 2017 Westpac Social Change Scholar