Published on Voices

Advancing disability inclusion with the Young Professionals Program

Programa de Jóvenes Profesionales Programa de Jóvenes Profesionales

Last year, the World Bank Group (WBG) announced ten commitments to accelerate the global agenda for disability-inclusive development. At the core of these commitments was the Bank's pledge to create a more disability-inclusive workplace: "actively seeking to hire and retain staff with disabilities, and improving accessibility, services, and inclusion."

To support this commitment, the World Bank Group is revamping its flagship recruitment program, the Young Professionals Program (YPP). This covers all aspects of the program—from outreach and recruitment to onboarding and training—to ensure that young development professionals with disabilities are given an equal opportunity: to be recruited and succeed as YPs.

Disability inclusion strengthens our mission & reinforces our core values

A disability-inclusive workforce strengthens both our mission and our core values—15 percent of the world's population (one billion people) lives with some form of disability.   Hiring and supporting underrepresented staff reinforces that we are doing what is right (Integrity), caring for our own (Respect), and seeking diverse views, perspectives and experiences in achieving our goals (Teamwork). And, we know that inclusive diversity unlocks Innovation, to create greater Impact for our clients. According to a recent study by Accenture, employers that prioritize disability inclusion outperform those that don't by as much as 30 percent.

Representation matters. It also shapes our future.

Creating a culture of inclusion can take many forms , including awareness campaigns, policy reviews, resource groups, and corporate champions. What is even more impactful is creating a leadership cadre that is representative of the global population and that will advance inclusion goals into the future. The YPP has for many years provided a strong leadership pipeline for the Bank. Recruiting YPs with disabilities not only contributes to a more inclusive workplace and global economy today but also adds to the diversity of voices that will shape the World Bank Group of tomorrow. 

Inclusive development starts with inclusive recruitment  

Increasing the number of staff with disabilities requires designing a more inclusive approach to recruitment and outreach.  For the YPP, this journey began with hiring disability inclusion consultants—young professionals living with disability—for strategic advice. To date, the YPP has updated its application form to include a statement on the Bank Group's commitment to disability inclusion, the availability of disability accommodations throughout the evaluation process and sign language among WBG languages. But to reinforce that a WBG career is accessible to all, the YPP has leveraged strategic communication, specifically representation in storytelling, to help applicants picture themselves here. To this end, the YPP has additionally created marketing material in accessible formats, such as brochures in braille and audio-narrated video, while engaging with disability employment networks locally, globally and online.

Overcoming obstacles in the journey to inclusion

​In hiring disability inclusion consultants, the YPP office quickly realized the fundamental challenges a person with disability might face at the World Bank Group. In the spirit of awareness and advocacy, the YPP would like to share that experience here. On the day of her interview, one consultant, Vivian Fridas, faced challenges simply accessing our buildings with her guide dog. As we work toward our ten commitments she recommends that "an increase in awareness and training is crucial and necessary for lasting and meaningful change to take place, and for people with disabilities to be fully included." It is said that inclusion is a journey (not a destination), and with obstacles come important learning opportunities along the way.​​​

The way forward​

We may have a long way to go, but the Young Professionals Program has started the journey in earnest and looks forward to a promising future. In September, the World Bank Group welcomed YP Özgül Cali​cioglu, an environmental engineer who is also legally blind. As she settles into her role in the East Asia and Pacific region (EAP), she shares, "there are many reasons to be cynical about disability inclusion in the workplace. But I think especially because there are so many issues to improve globally, the positive experiences must equally be heard. That is why I'd like to express that so far, as a person with low vision, my YPP experience has been a positive one. I didn't hesitate to disclose my disability in the first place, and by doing so, I was able to receive the accommodations I needed during the interview.

The YPP team, along with the Bank's Disability Accommodation Fund (DAF), have been very proactive at every stage of the recruitment process, from relocation to workplace accommodations. The YPP's willingness to improve its disability inclusion is apparent, and it will be a great model for the rest of the Bank, other international organizations, and hopefully will reflect in our development operations and actions."

For more on Özgül’s Journey to the YPP, watch this video:

For a version with audio description, click here.


M. Yaa Oppong

Sector Leader, Sustainable Development, Lead Social Development Specialist

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