Diversity in Leadership: From 100 failed job applications to founder

The Diversability Card

This blog is part of the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce’s (ABCC) Diversity in Leadership campaign.

The Diversity in Leadership campaign works with some of the regions’ biggest employers in order to boost the numbers of women and those from black and minority ethnic (BAME), lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and disability groups being represented on boards of directors and in leadership roles.

Click here to find out more about the campaign. 

With my passion for creating everyday equality, I’m a business and culture change agent, social entrepreneur and disability rights advocate, writes Shani Dhanda.

However, my career began with having over 100 job applications turned down while I was at university – until I stopped disclosing my condition.

I was born with a rare genetic condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), more commonly known as Brittle Bones, affecting one in every 15,000 people in the UK.

My condition is characterised by bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause.

Though fragile bones are the hallmark of OI, other medical problems also stem from this condition, the most obvious being a short stature and I’m 3'10''.

I attended a special needs primary school as no mainstream school in the 1980s could deal with such an unpredictable condition.

As a child I spent many summers in hospital with broken leg after broken leg, after learning to walk again for the sixth time, I undertook treatment to strengthen my bone density and multiple surgeries in my teenage years.

In 2011, I graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a degree in Event and Venue Management, and my dissertation around barriers to accessible leisure was published by an American charity.

Upon graduation, I received an award from my University and was one of the first in my class to be offered an event management job.

I was working in the world of events for 10 years before founding the UK’s first Asian Woman Festival, smashing stereotypes and stigma to empower and celebrate the female Asian identity.

I’m the founder of The Diversability Card, the UK’s first official discount card for disabled people, helping to reduce the financial pressure faced due to the extra costs of living with a disability.

As part of my efforts to challenge perceptions and change attitudes around disability, I founded the Asian Disability Network to provide support and education to the Asian community on disability matters.

I currently work with Virgin Media as a disability project management role, transforming the experience for their disabled employees and customers.

As a disability rights advocate, I regularly speak on discussions around disability, intersectionality and inclusion matters, driven by the undeniable impulse to make things better by the everyday lived experience of feeling excluded and underrepresented in society.

In addition to being a speaker and columnist on disability and inclusion matters, I hold several non-executive roles in regional and international charities and is one of the most influential disabled people in Britain, Shaw Trust Power List 2018.