An estimated 80 business leaders, nonprofits and local government officials gathered Thursday to discuss inclusion in the workplace as part of the third annual Business Recognition Luncheon.
The event was organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee to shine a light on what guest speaker Liji Thomas, head of diversity and inclusion for Southern California Edison, called a major gap that “persists in the employment of people with disabilities.”
During her presentation, Thomas shared data indicating that nearly 30 million people in the United States have a disability. Out of that number, 15 million are of working age and only 4.4 million, or 29 percent, are employed.
When examining the state of the economy, Thomas highlighted research that looked into what would the effect be on the gross domestic product if businesses increased by 1 percent the employment of people with disabilities.
“What the conclusion was, was that the GDP would get a boost of up to $25 billion,” she said.
Local employers who have prioritized inclusive hiring practices were presented with awards, which included, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Princess Cruises, Naysmyth, Neotech Products, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and the city of Santa Clarita.
“The topic is inclusion and we are also recognizing the businesses that are making those strides and making a priority to include individuals with disabilities into their business and that they understand the importance of it,” said Araz Valijan, a city administrative analyst with the Public Works Department.
Also in attendance, Mayor Marsha McLean announced that businesses recognized Thursday would receive a framed copy of an art piece by William S. Hart Union High School District student Soobeen Ju, first-place winner of the 2019 Mayor’s Committee Art Contest, which depicts a young woman in a wheelchair at the workplace.
To learn more about the Mayor’s Committee, visit scvmayorscommittee.org.