The Inclusion Project: Ability Reveals Itself
Brad Hopton Partner, NY Metro Tax Operations Leader and Disability Inclusion Networks Partner Champion at PricewaterhouseCoopers
On Monday, June 6, PwC is hosting the first Inclusion Project, an innovative business gathering of senior executives and thought leaders committed to figuring out how to make the business world a better place for employees with disabilities
When I started my career, I could never have predicted I would have a passion for this topic, let alone lead a convening on the subject.
After college I began working at PwC’s Cincinnati office. Work was, in large part, my life at that time. I made a lot of sacrifices and began to move up the corporate ladder. A promotion and related transfer brought my family to New Jersey and my wife, two daughters and I were thrilled. Life was good.
When my wife got pregnant again, there were no signs of any problems at her check-ups and we assumed everything would go the way it had with the births of our two daughters.
But this time, we had a son. And shortly thereafter we learned that he had a disability. My son Braden has Down Syndrome.
A few days after Braden was born, I remember sitting in the hospital with my head in my hands, distraught at the realization that my whole world had flipped upside down in an instant. I wasn’t sure what to tell my family, my friends, or my co-workers — What will this mean for me and my family? How will this affect my career? How will I ever be able to take care of a son with a disability, especially when so much of my focus is at work?
After another week or so, at around 2:30 AM during an early morning feeding, I was sitting in the ICU looking at Braden struggling to breathe when my world again shifted. This awesome little boy, only days old, was fighting for his life, fighting with every ounce of his being just to breathe. And I realized in that moment that my life, my view of the world and my career, had to change. It definitely wasn’t just about me anymore.
This early morning, clairvoyant moment was a true turning point. Braden transformed me and my family and is my inspiration now to help PwC and the business world realize the extraordinary impact that people with disabilities can have.
Eleven years later, Braden is doing really well and I now have a drastically different perspective on life and my career at PwC. Braden inspires me each and every day, teaching me how to be a more compassionate and patient partner, reinforcing the essential benefits of work/life balance, and expecting me to be a better leader for all of our people.
Rather than inhibiting my career, these realizations have clearly enhanced it. I’m currently PwC’s Tax Operations Leader for our NY Metro practice and I am so fortunate and proud to work at such an amazing firm with such amazing clients. And now I have the opportunity to give back and continue to help PwC drive to even greater heights in connection with our inclusion efforts for people with disabilities.
I admit that I’m obsessed with getting the best talent at PwC and I firmly believe that means seeking out people with disabilities. It isn’t just about giving them a fair chance to be contributing members of society, which is very important. It’s more than that — this is about talent and being able to offer the best talent to our clients, which is a business imperative for us. When we bring in people who have diverse perspectives, we’ve found it helps us solve important problems in creative and different ways. To me that’s diversity, that’s innovation and that’s what good business is all about.
So that brings us back to today. To address the complexity of workplace inclusion, we all have to question conventional thinking and honestly explore the opportunities and challenges of hiring and supporting more people with disabilities. The Inclusion Project: Ability reveals itself is about enhancing that dialogue with a group of forward-thinking, global companies with the common goal of developing specific strategies to assist with the hiring and retention of people with disabilities. I am really looking forward to this very innovative and thought-provoking inclusion event.
Interestingly, this summit is taking place on the same day PwC kicks off its sponsorship of Pursuit Ride, a 3,500-mile cross-country bike ride over the next 55 days to raise millions of dollars for The Center in Houston. This alternative school was founded 65 years ago by parents whose children with disabilities were not accepted into other programs and today it is a pioneer in the creation of ground-breaking, specialized programs to help individuals with disabilities.
I am so proud that PwC has supported these types of important programs locally, nationally as well as globally. It shows how committed we are to fostering an inclusive culture and what we can accomplish when we work together and drive towards a shared goal.
So I wish the riders well. There is much to work towards over these next two months. My colleagues and I will be cheering you on and waiting for you at the finish line in Washington, D.C. on August 1st. Good luck, be safe!