I am Estelle Hollingsworth, Chief People Officer here at Virgin Atlantic. I’m also the sponsor of our internal Disability Engagement Network (DEN). The personal stories and passion of our DEN network have opened my eyes, educated me and enabled me to get inside their lives and start to understand what they have been through and what we can do to support them. That’s a real privilege for me because it allows me to work with, listen to and be humbled by the DEN network members. DEN’s quest is to raise awareness of people’s disabilities so together, we can build understanding. From there, we can start to change policy and bring about the required change to ensure that we are an employer of choice for people with disabilities where everyone can be themselves and add value to our company. That comes down to what we believe in and how we value the different perspectives of the people who work for us across all company areas.
Our deep belief is that we value the whole person, and we want every colleague to feel they can be at their best. By understanding and celebrating difference and introducing it through our recruitment, our teams will become more innovative. It also brings things we value like energy, laughter, and creativity to our teams, which creates the environment that makes us so special.
Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion encompass people with a disability of any nature, including physical, cognitive, sensory, intellectual, or emotional/mental health. The World Bank estimates that more than one billion people worldwide – around 15% of the population – live with a disability. Every one of us will be touched by disability at some point in our lives. I know I have. It has made me a stronger person and ally as a result and that is something that I feel very proud of.
Ultimately, we need to demonstrate how we attract, recruit, and retain people with any disability to be truly inclusive. My personal passion is to go beyond inclusion and create a sense of belonging for every person who works with us. If you feel a sense of belonging, you are safe, you are trusted, and you trust. That is when all of our incredible people are indeed at their best, and every single colleague makes a valued contribution to our company’s vision.
This year and beyond, we will be working with DEN and the other networks to understand what changes to policy and adjustments to our recruitment process we will make and what stories we can share to show that we are all in this together. Virgin Atlantic is the most inclusive company that I have worked for across my career, and that isn’t down to luck. It’s who we are, and I know that because of that there is still so much more to come. I can’t wait to see how we progress.