Out of the starting blocks – recruiting for change

What are the forces in play that mean D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people are far less represented across the museum sector than in the UK workforce?

When we first started planning the Curating for Change project, we asked focus groups of those already working in museums – and those who would like to, about their experiences of recruitment.

We also wanted to think about how to get our own recruitment processes right across our 16 Fellow and trainee posts –  creating a model that others can use as a guide.

Understanding the barriers: Disability Evasive?

What we learned is that there are plenty of ways of to give a veneer of inclusion, without ever in practice recruiting anyone from the one in five of the working population with a disability.

For example, many in our focus groups told us that they felt cynical about the Disability Confident scheme, which in theory encourages employers to recruit disabled colleagues, but which appears to have minimal external regulation or verification. Though some employers undoubtedly use it to reflect a real commitment to change, disabled people we spoke to who had been invited to interview felt they had been invited as a box ticking exercise – wasting time, energy and often travel expenses.

Pre-pandemic others were also told that it was out of the question to be interviewed for a post remotely – only to find that ‘necessity’ swept away when the non-disabled majority of people could not attend interviews in person.

There is also undoubtedly a level of hidden prejudice. One workshop participant told us:

“Because I started telling employers in applications that I have got a disability, I’m
suddenly not getting anything. I’ve been rejected from 41 jobs already! Only had three
interviews. Whereas, before I started saying I have got a disability, I used to get the first job
I applied to… It’s really very frustrating because nothing for me has changed, except the fact
that now I want to have that safeguard by saying I have a disability.”

What we learned is that there are plenty of ways of to give a veneer of inclusion, without ever in practice recruiting anyone from the one in five of the working population with a disability.