Samantha Samel
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In the age of the #MeToo movement, when companies and their leaders are under more scrutiny than ever before, conversations about diversity and inclusion in the workplace have also become increasingly common. And from those conversations, there seems to be a common takeaway: diversity and inclusion are not merely nice to have or good for a company’s reputation — they also add value from a business perspective.

At AppNexus’ annual Women’s Leadership Forum, held in New York City, business leaders discussed just that. Experts across a range of industries came together not only to speak about why inclusion is beneficial, but also to share concrete strategies for creating workplaces that are supportive of all people.  

Among the speakers was JPMorgan Chase Managing Director Jim Sinocchi, who heads the company’s Office of Disability Inclusion. During a conversation with AppNexus’ Senior Director of Product Line Management Lindsay Van Kirk, Sinocchi told the crowd why he was brought on to lead JPMorgan’s effort to hire more people with disabilities. While the company had been making waves in its effort to hire more racially diverse candidates, it wanted to bring on more people with disabilities.

Sinocchi — who, nearly 40 years ago, broke his neck while body surfing — is fully cognizant of the issues faced by people with disabilities. He’s made it his mission to educate business leaders, as well as his colleagues, and to shift common, misguided attitudes. “Many of you are tentative about people with disabilities,” he said to the audience. “Whether you admit it or not, you ask yourself [things like], ‘Will I say the wrong thing? Will I be politically incorrect?’”

Sinocchi emphasized that people with disabilities simply want to be spoken to and treated like everyone else. “When I talk to people, I don’t talk about my disability. I talk about the same things you talk about.” (This sentiment was echoed later in the conference when Ila Eckhoff, a Managing Director at Black Rock, told the audience that if you ask Siri how to start a conversation with someone who has a disability, she’ll respond, ‘It’s easy! Just say hi.’”)

In just the past year, Sinocchi’s office has helped to hire 600 people with some sort of disability. He teaches his colleagues to try to shed their unconscious bias; when an interviewer learns of a candidate’s disability during an in-person interview, that means that on paper, the candidate showed promise. “I tell managers, ‘[these candidates] have 80% of what you need. That’s why they’re here [interviewing.] Why do you doubt their abilities?”

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