DECEMBER 03, 2021


Every year, #PurpleLightUp Day recognises the contribution of the 386 million disabled employees worldwide, in tandem with the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Today, we’ll be one of many companies celebrating their ‘purple talent’.

We’ll be posting throughout the day on our social channels – which you’ll notice have temporarily turned purple! Our people will also be dressed in purple, and we’ll be holding several celebratory events.

Inspired by #PurpleLightUp’s leader to leader conversation – we put questions to both Stuart Rowley our CEO Ford of Europe and Darren Coan, Chair of our Disability Support Group; Employee Resource Group (ERG). Here is what they said:

Why is Ford recognizing International Day of Persons with Disabilities? 

Stuart Rowley: International Day of Persons with Disabilities serves as a vital reminder of the importance of removing barriers for all people living with a disability, both visible and invisible.

We know that around 90 million people in the EU live with a severe disability. In Germany alone, it is estimated there are 7.9 million people who are severely disabled, while in the UK over 14 million people reported a disability in 2020.

At Ford, we are committed to creating a culture of belonging where everyone feels valued and welcome. Taking a stand in supporting IDPD is not only a signal to our own employees affected by disabilities or chronic illness; it also says something about who we want to be as a potential employer for new talents and as a brand for our customers.

Why are disability ERG/networks and/or learning directly from employees with disability such a powerful vehicle for cultural change?

Stuart Rowley: Our long-standing Disability Support Group (DSG) ERG, led by Darren Coan are working with us across our business to make sure our policies are inclusive, while tackling the stigma that surrounds disability. (Ford's Employee Awards for contributions towards Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

Darren is very much a leader in the role he takes in raising awareness and furthering our understanding of the value disabled employees bring to our organisation, and how we can become more inclusive. I am really pleased that Darren was specifically recognized for his ongoing contribution with a 2021 Ford DEI Award.

How do you see DSG supporting cultural change at Ford? 

Darren Coan: After gender, people with a disability are the largest minority globally.  1 in every 5 people has a disability. The DSG has a key part in supporting cultural change at Ford.  It brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding of the issues that disability brings and can signpost to relevant tools.  It is advocate and a champion of disability and the benefits that hiring people with disabilities brings. It can help the leadership understand the barriers faced, and ask the questions to make the workplace, products, and services more inclusive.

We work with other ERGs to ensure that every employee can have their voice heard and not be afraid to bring their whole self to work at Ford if they want to. People with Disabilities represent a large group of often untapped talent and the DSG can help Ford leverage the strengths that this pool brings and remove the perceived barriers to employment and highlight the opportunities available.

What are the characteristics of purposeful leadership?

Stuart Rowley: A key Ford behaviour is caring for each other, we do this by being open and curious to listening to and learning from each other. So, leaning into this year’s #PurpleLightUp theme of sparking conversations between CEOs and employees with disabilities, I am encouraging all our employees to share their thoughts and insights with our leadership.

Seeking to understanding our employee’s lived experiences will help us become an even more diverse, equitable and inclusive company.

I am also encouraging all employees to show their support for our disabled colleagues by wearing something purple today, use a purple background on WebEx or share a photo on our internal media.

As the leader of DSG what does purposeful leadership look like to you? 

Darren Coan: For me purposeful leadership is about inspiring people to look at the talent that people with disabilities bring with them and reduce the bias that leaders may have.  I want to highlight that disabled people are innovative and creative every single day of their life.  I want to give opportunities to Ford to engage with disabled people and not just listen to one disabled voice.  Everyone is unique and by listening to more than one voice, you have more opportunity to make your products inclusive to more groups.  I want employees to not be afraid to say that they have a disability if they have one and for other employees to hold their hand up and say that they will be an ally for disability.