Today's young leaders are tomorrow's business gamechangers

When you consider the biggest cultural paradigm shifts that have taken place over the last few decades, it’s clear to see that it is young people, hungry for progress, who have pushed these changes into place. Progress on LGBTQI+ rights, gender equality and climate change have all been heavily reliant on young, engaged people who won’t stay silent – and who want to take action to create a better world for their generation.

The current generation of young people is no different. Rather than shying away from ‘otherness’, they value difference. For this generation, social issues like LGBTQI+ rights are a de-facto requirement, not a debate. Like me, today’s young people feel the same urge to challenge the barriers that they see to diversity.

By 2020, the present generation of young people will make up 50 per cent of the global workforce. By 2040, many of today’s young leaders will be at the helm of our biggest, most powerful businesses, and in a position to radically drive progress on the issue for which I have spent the last 20 years campaigning: inclusivity for disabled people.

Business has proven its social muscle time and time again, making huge progress advancing gender, race and LGBTQI+ equality over the last 50 years. My campaign, #valuable, believes that now is the time for business to take disability seriously – and we’re counting on young people to help us to do this.

There are an estimated one billion people worldwide living with a disability, but their value is routinely ignored by business. The current employment rate for people with disabilities is half that of people without disabilities, a gap that has widened since 2010. This is unacceptable and we need to implement solutions that ensure that this demographic are acknowledged and valued. With their friends, families and communities, the one billion disabled members of the population hold a disposable annual income of $8 trillion a year – an opportunity that business cannot afford to continue to ignore. 

In 2014, I took to the stage of the One Young World summit to throw out a challenge to the young leaders present to focus on “what we can do, not what we can’t”. Our call to action generated an incredible reaction from the young leaders sitting in the audience – and I saw first-hand the passion and engagement that they will deploy to change the world.

This week, I’ll be taking to the main stage at One Young World for a second time. On behalf of the #valuable campaign, I’ll be standing in front of 1,500 young leaders from all 196 countries on the planet, alongside some of the world’s leading CEOs, to launch a call to action to the world’s business leaders to put disability on their boardroom agenda – and ignite a global conversation about a world where everyone is valued equally.

I’ll be calling for high profile business leaders to come forward and lead the charge for the one billion global disabled people. Real progress will be pioneered by the business leaders with the power to implement meaningful change and engage the attention of global audiences.

Ultimately, #valuable seeks to spark a global revolution of inclusion that puts disability equally on the business agenda.

In partnership with One Young World, #valuable has selected ten young ambassadors who will drive the #valuable campaign forward for the next generation. These ten young people will stand with me this week, serving as credible messengers for the disability community and role models to their peers; defiant leaders who will champion this issue for their generation.

Action will be driven by the next generation. We’re depending on young people everywhere to knock on the boardroom door of the businesses they work for and call on the brands they buy from and ask them put this issue on their boardroom agenda. Go to our website valuable.global and you’ll find the tools you need to do just that. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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