Career ladder: new project aims to inspire women with learning difficulties to get into employment

An online event has given young women the chance to share stories about their career success to help others find ways into rewarding careers.

Sarah-Jayne Mawdsley, who completed Engage to Change project and works in a hospital pharmacy now.

Women with learning disabilities have been sharing their tales of career success to inspire others to take their first step onto the employment ladder.

“Women In Work” was an online event held for young women aged 15-26 to encouraged them to think about employment as part of their future. The data from Engage to Change project, which has been working across Wales to support young people who have a learning difficulty, learning disability and autism to find jobs, shows that fewer young women apply to take part in this project than young men.

Samantha Williams, the Communications Officer of Engage to Change said: “We believe that employment can have significant health and well-being benefits for young people with a learning disability or autism and we want to ensure that young women are making the most of the opportunities that the project can offer.”

Because of social norms, stereotypes and expectations on gender, young women especially who with a disability need more inspiration of being confident and achieving their potential.

“By sharing the success stories of women with a learning disability or autism we hoped to inspire young women who might not have previously considered paid employment as a viable option for them,” said Samantha Williams.

More than six women with a learning disability or autism shared their stories at the event. Some of them used to take part in Engage to Change project and found their favored jobs.

“Volunteering can be a good way to start building up your confidence,” said Elsa Jones, Project Ambassador for Engage to Change.

Elsa Jones, Project Ambassador for Engage to Change said: “I would say to any young women who are thinking about what to do when they finish school or college that volunteering can be a good way to start building up your confidence. It can also help you learn new skills so that you can start looking for paid employment and applying for jobs.”

“I really enjoy my work especially as it helps to change the way people think about people with a learning disability,” said Zarah Kaleem, Project Officer at Cardiff People First. “Being someone from a cultural background as well as having a learning disability, having a job has helped me gain more self-worth and I’m finally feeling like I’m someone important.”

There were two videos played at the event about women who have taken part in this project previously found their jobs at different places like Learning Disability Wales and hospital pharmacy. Participants could ask questions to speakers and staffs.

The Engage to Change project is delivered in partnership between Learning Disability Wales, Agoriad Cyf, All Wales People First, Cardiff University, ELITE Supported Employment and in collaboration with DFN Project SEARCH. You can find more information about this project by visiting their website.