Creating groundbreaking medicines and therapies and providing world-class diagnostics isn’t easy. But every day, employees at Labcorp, the parent company of Covance, are improving the health and lives of patients around the world.
We recently had a virtual chat with Anna, a recruitment coordinator in our department of global talent advisors, who is on a stretch assignment with our inclusion & diversity (I&D) department to ensure we are also empowering our employees who identify as disabled to grow successful careers. Read more to find out why Anna is passionate about this work.
Stretch assignments are often based on personal interest or a desire to grow your career in a specific area. Is there a backstory to your involvement on this project?
“I recently celebrated my two-year anniversary with Covance, our drug development business. I’m looking forward to a bright career filled with possibilities, but I didn’t always think this would be an option for me due to my physical disability.
“I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a hereditary peripheral neuropathy. I was diagnosed at age three when my parents noticed me having difficulty walking. It took almost a full year to diagnose me. By age six, it had started affecting my hands and the way that I write, and by age 10, I was having such a hard time walking that I began using a mobility scooter full-time.”
You’ve lived with this for nearly your entire life then. Was that hard as a child?
“I am very fortunate to have wonderful parents that taught me I could always do whatever I put my mind to. Couple this with my stubborn nature, and you’ve got a determined tough cookie! Growing up, I never really thought of myself as disabled. I just had a different method of getting from point A to point B. I went off to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in women’s studies.”
You shared that you had concerns about your career. When did you start to have those concerns?
“After college the harsh realities of life started to set in as I realized how difficult it was to find a job. I went on hundreds of interviews, but I felt like interviewers only saw my scooter and figured someone else was more capable. It was a very painful period of my life. I wanted so much to be able to work and contribute to society.
“I ended up finding my first job after college working remotely in customer service, and I never felt the need to disclose my disability to anyone. That eventually led me into another remote job as a temporary recruiting coordinator. It was crucial for me to have the ability to work from home.”
Remote work has been a hot topic for years, but this was before COVID-19 shifted so many people to work-from-home situations.
“Yes, it was – and in late 2017, my temporary contract ended. I spent five months tirelessly searching and interviewing, but so many positions needed me in an office and I knew, long-term, that wouldn’t work out. Then I landed an interview with Covance. The interview experience alone made me want the position more than anything. All interviews were by phone so no one knew about my scooter, but the vibe everyone gave off made me know this was where I was meant to be. When the offer finally came, I was thrilled. My position allows me to work remotely from my home. To this day I still don’t know how I got so lucky to have a place with such a life-changing company.”
We think we’re lucky to have an employee who is willing to help us grow in this space. Did you feel included at Covance from the start?
“With my previous employer, it took me a solid year before I felt comfortable enough mentioning my scooter to my supervisor. At Covance, I opened up within a couple months. I do occasionally go to the Durham, N.C., USA office for meetings. Everyone knows how hard I work and how capable I am, and that’s all that really matters. My disability is something I’ve never felt the need to hide here.”
That’s really great to hear. How did you get involved in your current project?
“Now that I’ve found a company that values me for who I am and all that comes with me, I can shoot for the stars. About six months ago, I learned more about our inclusion & diversity department during a human resources call. A light bulb went off, and I knew this was something I wanted to learn about and become involved with. I reached out to Nancy, our I&D Director, and she agreed to be my mentor. Over these past few months, we’ve both learned from each other. We’ve discussed the company’s employee resource groups and how we’re missing a group for individuals with disabilities.”
Can you share what you’re currently working on in your project?
“We’re starting by engaging our employees. We are using a tool to gather feedback about whether our employees who identify as disabled would like to have an employee resource group and what benefits they’d like to receive from it. We also want to continue to build an inclusive environment for people who identify as disabled and are looking at partnerships to ensure we are including such people in our recruitment efforts, as well as creating awareness training for our hiring managers and broader employee population. Next on the list is a welcome packet for new employees who identify as disabled. We want to ensure they have every resource possible to be successful from day one.”
Those sound like really meaningful components to ensure we provide a great experience to our candidates and employees. What do you want others to understand about your experience?
“Disability can mean a lot of things: cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors. There have been plenty of times in my life where I wished my disability wasn’t so visible – wished my legs weren’t so skinny or my hands so small and claw-like – but I can’t recall ever wishing away my disability entirely. My scooter does not define me by any means, but it has shaped the woman I’ve become. Having a disability comes with unique challenges that provide a perspective most can’t identify with until it affects them on some personal level. My unique perspective can help others to grow and gain awareness, which is invaluable.”