We Need To See Disabled Women in Leadership Positions

A woman working on a laptopYoung disabled women need to see disabled women in leadership positions – not only in work, but in all aspects of life. Disabled individuals of any gender are already at a disadvantage when it comes to employment, raising a family, fostering relationships, and directing their care. These disadvantages mostly stem from ableism, which is the systematic exclusion of disabled people in society. But within this ableist framework, disabled people continue living; our world doesn’t stop because society says so.

Disabled women face an extra stigma. We are pressured to conform to impossible beauty standards. We deal with high rates of sexual and other physical assault. We are repeatedly told we are less than our abled, masculine peers, meaning we have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition. And we must also look at the ways queer identity, race, and class affect how we are viewed and treated by society.

Easterseals Thrive is a program that aims to empower young disabled women by giving them the tools needed to achieve the life they want. Through our social media communities or our offline mentoring program in Massachusetts, Thrive gives space for young disabled women to lift each other up so they can all become leaders. And when I say leaders, I mean everything from taking initiative to help out a friend, to running for political office. Being able to witness disabled women in these roles lets us know that we can exist and thrive just as we are.

I want the younger generation to recognize the struggles we face and how we are pushing against those struggles. And more importantly, I want young disabled women to see possibility – because that narrative is often ignored in mainstream media. We must celebrate disabled women more, like Tammy Duckworth – a Senator who advocates for disability justice and human rights. Or Keah Brown, who started the #DisabledAndCute hashtag to promote a positive self-image. These women are both leaders.

And if you want to chat with Keah about her work, you can! This Thursday at 7pm EST, Easterseals Thrive is hosting a Twitter chat called #DisabledWomenLead. We’re talking about ways young women can lead in a myriad of ways, and Keah is just one of our featured panelists. Other panelists include: Madeline Stuart, the first supermodel with Down Syndrome; Jen Venegas, a fashionista and lifestyle blogger with mental illnesses; and Jessica Jones, a blind art teacher. Anyone is free to join in the conversation, though! Just visit the website for more info.


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