Employer Spotlights

Paula J. Brown, MBA, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Office for Equal Opportunity/Government Affairs, Rush University Medical Center

Paula Brown

Please describe your work in the diversity hiring arena specific to individuals who have disabilities?

"Diversity on any level is intentional. We have to purposely go out to look for people with disabilities to hire. We want to exceed-we don't want to be average because we are not average in any way.

This is an on-going effort. The work never ends. There are always mind sets and hearts to change. We can find people to hire but we are at the discretion of hiring managers. It's difficult, people don't want to make mistakes so they do what they are used to."

What challenges do you encounter when expanding your diversity hiring initiative? How do you address them?

"What's still an issue is getting people to disclose that they have a disability. To encourage disclosure we created a video that features the tagline 'I choose Rush'. We have to keep talking about it, encourage people to share their brilliance. One way we do this is to host the Thonar awards every October. We celebrate people who have created a more inclusive space. For 26 years we have been showing how people with disabilities have changed the culture at Rush and the broader world.

We also have an ADA resource group that enhances the workplace and makes Rush more accessible. We manage to find processes to improve upon every year. For example, when a patient asked us why our conference center was not Looped (a process of placing magnetic fields in a room to improve sound quality), we brought it to the ADA Taskforce and now our conference center is Looped! We feel that this is an embodiment of inclusivity and because we created this Looped the conference center, our hope that people with disabilities will benefit from using it."

"It's as simple as when someone brings up an issue, we try to solve it."

What recommendations would you give to an employer seeking to employ more individuals who have disabilities?

"Their Human Resources Department should dedicate a recruiter or have conversations with all recruiters to say hiring this population matters. The hiring numbers should be monitored quarterly, to build in accountability.

We are always in a state of learning and we recognize that we don't know everything. I would also suggest that they share their efforts with external partners, who could help them figure out how to move their agenda along. For example, we hired a targeted recruiter for Veterans and people who have disabilities. The recruiter came with contacts in the disability services and Veteran world, and has already broadened our brand even further locally."

What is the most impactful thing you have done in your diversity and inclusion efforts?

"Creating an ADA Taskforce that meets monthly. Having a dedicated group of people who are paying attention to the needs and interests of people who have disabilities. We move projects along, address gaps and create programs."

Please view the "I Choose Rush" Video to learn more about Rush's innovations in diversity hiring and the creation of an inclusive work culture.