Thought for the week

Profitable Wellbeing: An interview with Jane Hatton

Jane Hatton is a disabled social entrepreneur, TEDx Speaker and author. She founded the award-winning social enterprise Evenbreak in 2011 and in conjunction with the talk she gave during our January 2021 Dialogue, we interviewed her.

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What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to be a ballerina but I have two left feet so that wasn't going to work out. Then I wanted to be a vet, but my daughter is allergic to animals. Oh, and I also wanted to be a musician, but it turns out I have no musical talent!

What sparked your initial interest in the field in which you work?

I fell into it. I started off in civil engineering, which was very strange for a woman back in the 70’s. And then I went into social work, where I worked with children. It was at this stage that I got a handle on just how unfair the world is for certain groups of people. This propelled me to become very interested in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and it was around this time I began to deliver training. This all happened before I became disabled myself. Before my disability, I was interested in diversity as a whole, but after, it suddenly became up close and personal. The silver lining is that my disability gives me more credibility and more understanding from a lived experience. It was a quirky twist of fate that meant what I was already invested in, suddenly became a lot more interesting to me.

What is your favourite part of your job?

That’s easy. My favourite part is when someone who has really struggled to find work and has been greatly affected by this - not just financially but in terms of their dignity and dependence, self-worth and confidence - finds a job. When an employer recognises how much talent a disabled person has, and this absolutely changes their life? This is everything. Again, I am not just referring to financial freedom but rather giving someone the chance to find joy in life again. I live for seeing someone’s life transform from “I can't get past all these barriers that society has put in my way” to “Yes, I've got such a lot to offer”.

And what is your least favourite?

Chasing slow payers!

What skill could you not do your job without?

For this particular job, I could not do my job without my lived experience. Having been non-disabled and now being disabled, trying to imagine someone’s reality is very different to actually living it. I thought I had a handle on disability because I had a lot of experience working with disabled people, but until it actually happens to you, the perspective you have is inevitably distorted. I have greater credibility now as well as a degree of authenticity that cannot be manufactured.  

What gets you energised?

First and foremost, the team of people around me at Evenbreak, who are all disabled. Equal to that are the candidates facing employment challenges. When we hear stories about someone who is so talented and highly motivated, with so much to offer but can't get a job – this gives us tremendous energy to break down those barriers to disabled talent.

What keeps you awake at night?

There is so much to do and so much opportunity out there that we want to make the most of - how can we do it all?

What is one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your career?

Things take a lot longer than you want them to - they don't happen overnight. I wish I had known how to manage my own expectations and have greater patience with myself and others.

What message or piece of advice would you give a student or young entrepreneur wanting to follow the same career trajectory as you?

The most important one is to really take the time to learn what your strengths are and build on those, rather than focus too much on your weaknesses. Over time, you’ll find people who have the strengths you don’t have. A successful business has a diverse group of people with diverse skill and strengths, so play to your strength and find people who will plug the gaps.                                                       

For more information about Jane's work, visit ……

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