How we lit up purple to celebrate disability networks

Fujitsu turned purple on International Day of Disabled People this year.  PurpleSpace, the networking and development hub for disabled employees, organized an event on 4 December to celebrate their second anniversary and mark the launch of their Purple Champions & Allies Guide. Over 100 people attended, including representatives from the Office of Disability Issues and the Equality and Human Rights Commission

We were all invited to wear purple clothes and don purple ribbon badges in recognition of the disability movement and, of course, we didn’t disappoint!

I was particularly excited to see Fujitsu supporting this initiative, given my new role as Chair of our recently founded EMEIA Diversity and Inclusion Council.

We’ve already achieved some amazing things in terms of improving accessibility, recruitment and working conditions for people with disabilities, so it was great to have the opportunity to look back and celebrate these.

Here are the highlights from the event:

PurpleSpace and Fujitsu: a history of collaboration

PurpleSpace and Fujitsu have closely co-operated from the very beginning, and Kate Nash, founder of PurpleSpace, has been a long-term advisor to our Responsible Business Board.

“I felt it was time we did something to amplify the voices of disabled employees,” she explained, “and I knew I would have a partner in Fujitsu.”

Her close connection to many Fujitsu senior leaders has translated into various opportunities to work together along the years. But this collaboration was really born out of shared values.

Both of our organizations recognize the importance of Inclusion in making sure that everyone can work in an environment that suits them and where they feel welcomed.

This is why we set up our Disability Network, SEED, which is now one of the leading disability networks in PurpleSpace. SEED chair, Sarah Simcoe, is also a PurpleSpace Ambassadorand was one of the authors of the new allies and champions guide that was launched during the event.

Winning the right way: why it matters

Fujitsu’s philosophy is all about ‘winning the right way’. This is important to us for many reasons, the first of which is talent. To be the best organization we can possibly be, we need world-class people, no matter who they are or where they’re from.

That’s the reason why we’ve changed our approach to recruitment, in order to attract and recruit more people with disabilities. This year, almost 20% of our new graduate intake have a disability or a health condition.

An inclusive approach is also important to us from a human perspective. A large number of people are not born with a disability; they acquire it in the course of their lives – often their working lives. We want our employees to know that they will always be welcomed and supported at Fujitsu, whether they get married, have children, have a change in family circumstance, or acquire a disability.

In the words of Juliet Silvester, Head of Responsible Business EMEIA at Fujitsu: “A commitment to responsible business is a commitment to our people. It’s as simple as that.”

Practical measures to create visibility for disabled people in the workplace

Our Be Completely You campaign has been hugely important in starting conversations about disability in the workplace.

We tried to encapsulate this at our event by giving out purple ribbon badges, which Fujitsu employees can wear at the office to show their support for disability issues.

I also hope these badges will prompt more discussions about disability, which is still sometimes an uncomfortable or difficult subject – many people are afraid of saying the wrong thing.

The alternative, however, is a silent approach, which can be really damaging. How can we expect to build a workplace fit for everyone if we don’t understand everyone in it and encourage people to be completely themselves at work?

The new allies and champions guide will also work towards dispelling feelings of nervousness around the topic of disability. It’s been endorsed and supported by Business Disability Forum, and is available as a free resource through PurpleSpace. It sets out what allies and champions, who support the disability movement although they may not be disabled themselves, can do in order to make their workplace a better environment for everyone.

Another initiative is our disability & adjustment passport, which is a record of the workplace adjustments agreed between the employee and the line manager. As the employee moves around the organization, it’s automatically sent to their new line manager.

This means that they don’t have to keep repeating the same potentially awkward conversation with a new line manager, while being assured that the workplace adjustments they need to work effectively will always be in place.

The openness around disability in our workplace, together with the support of the disability & adjustment passport, are the main reasons why the percentage of employees who feel confident about telling us they have a disability has doubled from 3% to 6% in the past two years.

Extending the network across new organizations

I’m very proud of the event and all it represented. 

Fujitsu has been an open and inclusive employer for some time now, and this event was a very positive milestone to celebrate that, as we continue our work to continuously improve the experience of our employees with disabilities.

But ultimately all employers should be disability confident. We should encourage more organizations to set up disability networks and get more people involved.

It was amazing to light up Fujitsu in purple this year, but I hope that next year we will see even more companies going purple too.

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First published on  in Responsible Business