When I think about the disability pay gap, I feel a seething anger. I consider my own recent experiences of trying to further my career and can’t help wanting to stamp my foot at the unfairness of it all.
I’ve been for 3 internal job interviews in the last few years and all have been unsuccessful. All 3 jobs I’d either done before or have considerable skills and experience in similar roles so why has it been so hard for me? Does my spectacular failure have anything to do with my disability or am I just paranoid?
It’s important to point out that having MS can make the gruelling and stressful interview process more difficult anyway. One of my recent interviews took 2 hours and involved watching a video of practice and preparing feedback, a 15-minute presentation, followed by a 40-minute formal interview.
I started off well and was told the feedback I delivered scored maximum points, but cognitive fatigue kicked in at this point and by the time we began the formal interview I was unable to hold a coherent thought in my head! I was told afterwards that my answers were vague, and I forgot to mention so many of my skills and experiences. This taught me a valuable lesson about job interviews and how we must ask for help for it to be a level playing field. If I’d asked to do each part of the interview separately, I would have done myself justice and could have got that job.
There was no mechanism within the recruitment process for me to ask for help though and the interviewer agreed with this when giving me feedback. Another applicant had dyslexia apparently and had found it equally difficult for different reasons, so employers need to be more mindful of people’s needs.
For another job I was told my disability was the “elephant in the room” that no one wanted to talk about! Why didn’t they ask me how my disability impacts me and my ability to do the job? The interviewer for the most recent job said she didn’t know how I would have managed all the travelling if she had offered the job to me. Why did she assume I have a problem with travelling and why didn’t she ask me?
In job descriptions for internal roles, the following statement has been included in the essential criteria, “be free from any medical condition which would prevent you from fulfilling duties of the role”
What does this statement actually mean and what impact do they think it has on someone like me? Does this mean my opinion of my medical condition or theirs? Obviously the 2 opinions are vastly different and surely this is discrimination and illegal. I tried to bring it up with HR but no-one returned my calls.
There’s another job that closes today that I didn’t have the energy to apply for. Again, I have all the skills and experience needed but can’t put myself through it again, knowing I don’t stand a chance.
In a culture where disabled people are demonised for applying for benefits when they can’t work, why aren’t we applauded and celebrated when we do?