The Arc Westchester Hosts Panel on the Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Discussion featured employers who have hired individuals with developmental disabilities, including Regeneron, Cambria Hotels & Suites, Digital Eye Lab at ABB Optical Group & Maier Markey & Justic LLP

Westchester County, N.Y. (May 1, 2021) – The Arc Westchester recently hosted a virtual panel discussion that focused on the benefits of having a diverse, skilled and inclusive workforce and how hiring individuals with disabilities can contribute to business goals, inspire a workforce and add to company culture.

“Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Successful Strategies and Business Benefits of Hiring People with Developmental Disabilities” took place on April 29 and was moderated by Dr. Marsha Gordon, President/CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. The event featured esteemed panelists Sally Paull, Senior Vice President/Chief Human Resources Officer, Regeneron; Tibi Guzmán, Executive Director/CEO, The Arc Westchester; Anthony Justic, Managing Partner, Maier Markey & Justic LLP; Sean Meade, General Manager, Cambria Hotels & Suites; and Scott Pearl, Managing Director, Digital Eye Lab at ABB Optical Group.

Regeneron has been a flagship employer for The Arc Westchester since 2011, having hired 12 individuals with developmental disabilities, eight of which remain employed there today.

“As employers, what is most critical for us is to widen the aperture through which we are actually viewing the lens of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion). Diversity is critically important and is foundational in having a strong, inclusive culture. In the absence of diversity and inclusion, it’s very difficult to achieve true equity,” said Paull. “Our goal at Regeneron centers around three pillars: health equity, social equity and talent equity. Our partnership with The Arc Westchester allows us to make a difference in both talent equity and social equity because these are individuals who have value to contribute. They can make a difference in the business outcomes.”

For Cambria Hotels & Suites, which currently has two part-time employees with developmental disabilities, participating in The Arc Westchester’s Employment Program made perfect sense for their business.

“The Arc Westchester’s Employment Program works great for hospitality, as well as other industries. Staffing for hospitality has always been a challenge and will always be a challenge. And the characteristics that you look for in a staff member – friendliness, being on time, looking professional – we have found are traits that program participants possess,” said Meade. “When we hired our first employee, Eddie, he started in a maintenance position and has been promoted into a new position as a Breakfast Runner, where he delivers breakfasts to our guest rooms. When our staff went from 55 people to six people during the pandemic, Eddie was one of the first few people that we brought back.”

At ABB Optical, the largest distributor in the optical space in the country, which now employs eight individuals with developmental disabilities, participation in the program is not about feeling good, it makes good business sense.

“We run factories, so attendance, consistency, execution and teamwork are what governs our success or failure. For years we’ve been able to onboard, with the help of The Arc’s job coaches, what I consider to be dream matches, which are positions where the outcome is extraordinary performance and a consistent level of execution,” said Pearl. “The greatest compliment I can give on how I view the relationship with The Arc is that it is something that we depend on, and that dependency is not built on feeling good. The foundation of our involvement is the very sober understanding that we will be able to find new associates that will function at extraordinary levels within our business.”

According to Justic, the smooth process of hiring Alexandria (Alex) for Maier Markey & Justic LLP and her years of success at the company is a testament to the support The Arc Westchester provides to both employees and employers.

“From day one the job coaches worked with Alex to prepare her for her arrival and came with her on her first day to ensure a smooth transition. Throughout the whole process, the job coach has helped Alex become more independent, be confident, deal with the day-to-day challenges of being an employee and has been a partner to Alex and to us,” he said. “Alex is in touch with her job coach not only when she is here, but outside of being here as well. The need for the job coach has not been significant, because Alex has adapted so well, but our job coach is always accessible.”

After hearing the employer perspective, Tibi Guzmán, Executive Director/CEO, The Arc Westchester, shared insights into how the organization’s Employment Program works, and how it makes business sense for their partners throughout the County.

She said, “We all know that individuals with developmental disabilities is a population full of talent, but often forgotten or left out of the DEI discussion. Our employment rate for individuals with developmental disabilities is over 60 percent, nearly double the national average. The real key to our success is the partnership between the potential employer and The Arc Westchester staff. This special relationship helps us better prepare the employment candidates and assist the employers, wherever needed, for long-term, successful outcomes.”

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