Jane Hatton

Jane Hatton is a disabled social entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, author, Londoner, mother and grandmother. 

She tells us that, “Fairness has always been important to me, and much of my career has revolved around equality, inclusion and diversity. Since becoming disabled, I have focused more on disability and intersectionality, particularly in the workplace. Outside of work I love spending time with my family, travelling, and singing in local choirs.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.

I was a fairly confident child, lucky enough to live in an area with many other children, so as an only child, I was never really lonely. Apparently, at the age of 7 or 8, I suddenly stopped wanting to go to school, having loved it up to that point. My mother tells me it was because I was outraged that the children who had free school meals were made to queue separately from those of us who didn’t. She took this issue to the head teacher, and the practice was changed. My determination around fairness was apparent even then. My career was varied, starting in civil engineering (very much a woman in a man’s world), moving to social work (much more dominated by women – at least at the lower paid, lower status levels, and then, inevitably, into inclusion, as an Inclusion Consultant, and then starting a diversity training and consultancy business.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”

I had been working in the field of inclusion for many years, and had noticed a specific problem around disability. Many employers were reluctant to employ disabled people because they believed (wrongly) that they would be risky, expensive and less productive. More enlightened employers recognised that disabled people form a valuable source of talent, but didn’t know how to attract them, and said few disabled people applied for their jobs. Disabled people said they didn’t know which employers were genuinely open to their talent. I remember being horrified by this situation, and wondering why no-one had addressed it. Subsequently, I became one of the 83% of disabled people who acquire a disability or a long-term health condition. At the age of 44 I was diagnosed with a spinal condition, and following unsuccessful spinal surgery, found myself with limited ability to walk, stand or even sit, and so found myself largely lying flat in bed. I had become one of the disabled people I had been concerned about. Now this was up close and personal, and I wanted to make the world a place where disabled people had the same opportunities to enter, thrive and progress in the workplace as non-disabled people, and so Evenbreak was born.

Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?

Evenbreak is a not-for-profit social enterprise run by and for disabled people. We aim to reduce the disability employment gap in three ways. We support employers to become more inclusive and accessible through training and consultancy and an online best practice portal. We offer inclusive and accessible careers support for disabled people looking for new or better work. And we help each group to find each other through an award-winning disability job board. All our services are designed and delivered by people with lived experience of disability. Started in 2011, we are now the only global job board run by and or disabled people in the world. We are working to make the world a place where disabled people have the same opportunities to enter, thrive and progress in the workplace as non-disabled people – a world where services like Evenbreak are no longer needed.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I’m particularly proud of the Evenbreak team. They are a diverse group of talented disabled people who have so many strengths, and who make Evenbreak the success it is. Their motivation, innovative ideas and commitment to excellence is humbling, and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such great people. I’m also quite proud of the two books I published about disability equality.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I’d like to see a world where people are seen as unique individuals, rather than assumptions (positive or negative) being made just because of a person’s gender, skin colour, job title or any other characteristic that bears no relation to their worth. Where everyone has the same choices and options available to them, and they aren’t judged on the choices they make.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?

The current world of work requires leaders who have emotional intelligence, compassion, and empathy. Leaders who have credibility and foster loyalty. Leaders who engage and involve their people in decisions. Many men can do those, of course, but so can women. Gone are the days when only women who behaved like men could succeed. Now, women should not be required to sacrifice femininity in order to succeed.

What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

I would say, be authentic, be yourself, and celebrate the strengths you bring with you to a role. Have confidence in your own unique abilities. You are more than enough – make sure everyone knows that!