Picture. John Allen

AbbVie’s ‘Ability’ Employee Resource Group on How the Company Champions People With Seen and Unseen Disabilities

Originally published at stories.abbvie.com. AbbVie ranked No. 15 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.

 

In the sixth of a seven-part Employee Resource Group (ERG) series, we’re shining the spotlight on Ability at AbbVie. This group focuses on advocacy and inclusion, uniting employees with disabilities, caregivers of people with disabilities and other allies of the community. Some disabilities are visible, like blindness or one affecting mobility. But not all disabilities can be seen, such as mental illness, some chronic illnesses, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Seven leaders of Ability detail the reasons they were drawn to the group, how they define the mission and why some good things came out of the pandemic.

 

1. How would you define the mission of Ability?

Laurie Asbeck-Hickman, associate director of marketing compliance operations and Ability chair: Our mission is that everyone feels like they belong. We want to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their disabilities with their managers and peers.

Erica Wolf, U.S. market access regional account executive and Ability co-chair: It’s a forum for disability inclusion. It means advancing the awareness and understanding of seen and unseen disabilities to build trust, so people feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. It’s about building a disability-inclusive mindset into our recruiting and onboarding processes.

Zilma Martinez, maintenance superintendent, Ability Puerto Rico member: Ability wants employees to be able to be fully productive, no matter what limitations they have. This way, people can focus on their talent rather than their limitations.

 

2. What brought you to Ability?

Adam Bugenske, immunology specialist and Ability field liaison: I am the father of an extraordinary kid named Leo. Through Leo and his diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, my eyes have been opened to the importance of going beyond just making things accessible. Ability has given me the opportunity to help build a company culture around the inclusion of all abilities, skills and talents.

Sarah Graham, supply chain quality integration lead, Ability Ireland field member: When our company’s leaders reemphasized our commitment to EED&I (equity, equality, diversity and inclusion), I started to explore and found Ability. My daughter has three genetic disorders and her illness is progressive, so I have taken an active role in raising awareness, especially around chronic illness.

Erica Wolf: I am an ally. My closest friend from childhood is profoundly deaf so I grew up around her impairment and saw what she faced around her. Now, I see her experience in the work world.

Laurinda Cooker, associate director, strategic global labeling & Ability communications chair: I had never joined an employee resource group before. When I saw there was one focused on disability, I was interested because I have a son on the autism spectrum and I want to take down barriers.

Laurie Asbeck-Hickman: My mom had a physical disability, Multi-Symptom Atrophy, that began around age 55. It’s a horrible condition to watch a loved one suffer from. My mom also had mental health issues, which at times were more devastating than her physical issues.

Sherri Oliver, director of North American optimization programs and Ability co-chair: Two of my daughters are disabled and I see what they have gone through and continue to go through since many other workplace managers aren’t trained to support people who have a disability. I have a passion for the rights of people with disabilities.

Zilma Martinez: I’m an ally and want to help educate employees about disabilities and opportunities in the work environment. Each of us can maximize the ability that others have.

 

3. What’s something people may not know about your community?

Sherri Oliver: I think that the neurodiversity community likes to focus on ability rather than disability – by focusing on what we can do versus what we can’t. But the physically disabled community often prefers the term “people with disabilities” because they want recognition of the challenges they face, even if they overcome them. At Ability, we try to be respectful of these differences.

Laurie Asbeck-Hickman: When it comes to disabilities, everyone has a story. Disabilities affect everyone. It might be themselves, their family members, neighbors or friends.

 

4. Ability had just gotten off the ground when the pandemic hit. What did this mean for Ability and its members?

Laurie Asbeck-Hickman: We had to take a different approach to raise awareness and increase membership. We started Ability Circles, groups focused on a specific topic such as neurodiversity, chronic illness and physical disabilities and mental health, that enable people to come together to connect and discuss how this topic affects them. We also had the opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health. These tactics worked. Today, we have members in more than 25 countries.

Sherri Oliver: A large portion of the world’s disability community is standing up and saying, “See, we can be an effective employee working from home.” In some ways, we’re hoping it is going to enable the conversation about different ways to work and what it means to be an impactful, fully engaged employee.

Ability at AbbVie focuses on advocacy and inclusion, uniting employees with disabilities, caregivers of people with disabilities and other allies of the community. We want members of our community to be empowered to reach their full potential. Learn more about Ability at AbbVie.

Latest News

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert Makes Anti-Muslim Comments Against Fellow Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota

Following the horrific example of Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who posted an animated video depicting the killing of his congressional colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another member of the House of Representatives has made a similarly vile attack on a co-worker based purely on her religious beliefs. James Anderson of the…

Pinterest app

Pinterest Enacting New Company-Wide DEI Initiatives Following Gender and Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Following a lawsuit led by the General Treasurer of Rhode Island, social media company Pinterest has announced that it will be enacting a series of new diversity, equity and inclusion workplace reforms to settle a recent lawsuit against them. Patrick Anderson of The Providence Journal reported that “the reforms are…

Boeing Company Expands Sustainability Alliance With Etihad Airways To Drive Innovation in the Aviation Industry

Originally published at boeing.mediaroom.com. Boeing Company ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   On Nov. 15, Boeing and Etihad Airways announced they will expand the companies’ deep collaboration towards environmental goals. Centered on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner fleet, the new memorandum of understanding…

KPMG on Celebrating Its Military Veteran Workforce

Originally published at info.kpmg.us. KPMG ranked No. 16 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   As we commemorate Veterans Day and honor all who served in the United States Armed Forces, we spotlight Air Force veteran Heather Paquette and Marine Corps veteran Joe Bergeron, two KPMG professionals who are members…