Women with Disabilities: Barriers and Bias in the Workplace

By Kellie Hale

Women with disabilities will often experience an array of barriers and biases in the workplace. They often experience an imbalance in hiring and promotion opportunities, limited access to training and retraining opportunities, and unequal pay rates. Women with disabilities in the workplace tend to be ignored in conversations about economic decision-making.

The unemployment rate amongst women with disabilities is 9.4%. For women without disabilities, the unemployment rate is 4%. What do these percentages indicate? It means that, compared to their non-disabled counterparts, “Women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed.” If we are to look at it from a gender perspective, when it comes to men with disabilities are twice as likely to have jobs. Women with disabilities also earn less than men with disabilities.

Too many glass ceilings remain unbroken. Women still make up half of the U.S. labor force. But still, women with disabilities continue to be overlooked and undervalued in the labor force. “They are far more likely than women overall to be interrupted, to have their judgment questioned, and to hear that they are too angry or emotional, and they are also less likely to feel supported by their managers.” So, what is being done about this issue? Unfortunately, some companies are not implementing the necessary resources and processes or taking enough action to address the problems. Reportedly, only 25% of employees can say that their company includes disability in its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been particularly challenging for women with disabilities. “Remote work and flexibility have been critical to their health and safety, but they are also more likely than women overall to worry they will face negative consequences from working flexibly.” No one should feel judged about requesting their workplace to provide remote options or help establish a work schedule with flexible hours.

As a society, the first step is to shift narratives and create opportunities for progress that advance women with disabilities in the workplace. Most people want to participate and contribute in all aspects of society; women with disabilities deserve the same inclusion and chances as any abled-body person.


ODEP COVID-19 Resources:

Additional Resource:

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Return to Work Interventions:

Self-employment and Entrepreneurship:

ODEP resources on accommodations for older workers:

Campaign for Disability Employment:

Inclusion@Work Framework: