I first met Greg at a Disability:IN conference and I knew right away that this young man was someone who was going to do great things. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I refer to Greg as my son because he is one of those people who I have come to know well enough to be a family member. Greg did a great job with his work at Dow and I knew exactly the company he would be a fit for when he expressed an interest in Pittsburgh.

PNC has been a strong supporter of Bender Consulting Services. With great leadership like Steve Van Wyk, their entire human resources team including Tom, Joy, Bob and Vince, and their diversity and inclusion team, including Josh, PNC has shown a commitment to hiring people with disabilities. I knew that Greg would fit in well with this group of dynamic people who are making a difference in the area of employment of people with disabilities.

A Strategic Business Imperative

By Greg Pollock

Several years ago, I attended a USBLN (now “Disability: In”) Conference for the first time. During the awards ceremony dinner, a curly, red-haired woman with round glasses was being recognized for her ongoing work in Disability Inclusion. As I would with anyone receiving acclamations for their success, I listened to her story with great interest. She proceeded to tell the audience the tale of her journey with Epilepsy and how it was the driving force in the founding of her organization: Bender Consulting Services.

It wasn’t until she mentioned her hometown that I started leaning forward in my seat. “Pittsburgh?! That’s right in my hometown!” At that point, I knew I had to introduce myself. Not to let an opportunity pass, I snuck over to her table while all eyes were on the next speaker. Under the cover of darkness, I swiftly kneeled to her side and whispered a simple question.

“Do you know my father...?” I whispered his name to her. She jerked back with a curious face that demonstrated her familiarity with the name. I told her, “I’m from Pittsburgh too!” She grinned with surprise. “Really?”

At that moment, I had no idea that I was meeting one of the most impactful role models I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Joyce was quick to introduce me to Mary Brougher, Executive Vice President of Operations for Bender Consulting Services, who instantly became one of my favorite people.

My company at the time went on to build a strong partnership with Bender Consulting, starting with the purchase of their new training series: The iDisability eLearning Modules. The off-the-shelf product offered us a number of just-in-time training resources geared to suit a variety of corporate scenarios. The content was engaging, simple, and necessary.  We integrated it into our company and began tracking the number of employees that took the modules.

During this time, Joyce turned into many things: a friend, a mentor, and a second mother who took ownership of my success as if it were her own. Among many things, she taught me not to become complacent with the mediocrity of my career. My skills demanded growth, my value demanded recognition, and Joyce insisted that I take full control of my potential. In many ways, she reminded me that I’m worth more than I credit myself for.

As individuals with disabilities, we bring so much value to our workspaces in the form of innovation, critical thinking, and solutions to modern challenges. Yet, our working environments allow us to remain as undervalued as we are. Our career paths often reveal themselves to be hamster wheels spinning below our feet. The harder you run, the more you realize you’re going nowhere. We are brought to the painful reality that the employment of individuals with disabilities continues to be subconsciously viewed as a charity, rather than a strategic business imperative.

In fact, when PNC announced that they were seeking an Accessibility Officer, Joyce was among the first they approached to identify someone capable of filling the role. Almost immediately, Joyce and Mary suggested me as the perfect candidate. They called me to place this opportunity on my radar and made arrangements for a series of phone interviews. Ultimately, I was offered the role.

Assuming the new role was a life-changing experience. It reminded me that I have a purpose in this life. There are new pathways beyond what I originally believed possible; conduits that allow me to truly influence companies that are committed to making the world a better place for people with disabilities.

PNC is a phenomenal example of a company that continues to challenge not only the status quo of the Fortune 1000, but also of itself. Its operating model is rooted in innovation and superior customer service. I’m very proud to be a part of it. It is a critical time for companies like ours to begin arming ourselves with the resources we need to ensure that all of our people are set up for success. PNC continues to hire individuals with disabilities across the enterprise. Given our thirst for progress and commitment to inclusion, it will not be long before PNC goes from ‘a long way to go’ to ‘almost there’.

We owe it to organizations like Bender to continue to drive the critical conversations that challenge the status quo within our own respective communities. More and more Fortune 1000 Companies are beginning to recognize that individuals with disabilities are among the most valuable assets a company could hope to have. Necessity, after all, is the mother of all innovation.

As a Fortune 1000 company, it’s critical, to be conscious of our internal cultures. We can no longer just hire people. We must be prepared for them, too. We are currently living in an employer’s market – gone are the days where companies choose their people. Now, people can choose their companies. Failing to focus on inclusive practices can truly harm the bottom line. That’s why it’s so important to continue to partner with companies like Bender that have spent decades perfecting best practices for companies that want to earn their place in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Bender continues to spearhead the difficult task of changing the attitudes and mindsets of the Fortune 1000. Unfortunately, Joyce Bender and her team cannot do this alone. It is up to us to capitalize on the momentum they’ve created and fuel the dialogue until deeply rooted negative attitudes begin to skew towards positivity. As Joyce always says, “paychecks, not pity”.

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