#TakeFiveWith Kate Nash OBE
Could you tell us about yourself and your job role? And one hobby/fun fact?
The first thing to say is I am not Kate Nash, the very talented but much younger musician! Just in case any of you saw my name and thought you’d be reading about the other Kate Nash.
I am Kate Nash, OBE, creator and CEO of PurpleSpace (www.purplespace.org) the world’s only network of disabled employee networks – delivering professional development to disabled employee network leaders in all sectors in the UK and across the globe.
My entire working life has been focused on making it easier for employers to routinely anticipate, expertly accommodate and positively celebrate the skills of disabled people. I do that by supporting disabled employees to take an active role in their organisation’s “third phase of change” – where disabled employees form positive networks / resource groups to drive and support their organisation’s disability strategy.
After leaving Radar (now Disability Rights UK) in 2007, I set up my own consulting company creating conversations between disabled employees within and across organisations of every size, sector and type of trade.
We helped employers set up networks or business resource groups and helped them to do this with a clear aim in mind – to help talented disabled employees be themselves, give their best, nurture their careers and to notice and support pipeline talent too.
In 2014, together with a team of equally passionate people, I wrote a book called “Secrets & Big News” which shared the views of 2,500 disabled employees in how they can bring their authentic selves to work in order to build inner confidence – and to help their organisation to build disability confidence from the inside out.
Many of the employers who had been involved in the research were also noticing the need to create a modern business-like approach to convey the value of purple talent – much in the same way people use the term “grey pound” to describe the spending power of older consumers or the term “pink pound” to denote the spender power of people from the LGBT community. And so PurpleSpace was born.
Our Mission is to make it easier for employees to navigate the experience of ill health, disability or the experience of an accident or injury, at the same time as flourishing at work.
In 2017 I sent out a simple tweet and ignited the #PurpleLightUp movement, a global movement using the colour purple to unite disabled people around the world and to encourage us all to celebrate the economic contribution of disabled people during International Day of Persons with Disability on 3rd December each year: https://www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up
A fun fact is that I have a huge collection of green glass vases, sculptures and figurines. My flat is full of the most amazing and colourful things that bring a smile to my face wherever I catch sight of one of these much-treasured works of art.
What is a typical day like for you?
As with many people nowadays, I don’t have a “typical” day. And that’s one of the many reasons I love what I do. One moment I can be talking to the chair of a newly formed disability employee network or employee resource group, helping them to make sense of the challenges they will face over the next 6 months. The next I can be talking to a government minister about how PurpleSpace’s Purple Confidence toolkit works in collaboration with the Government’s Disability Confidence scheme.
Could you tell us how you got into your role?
I was 15 when I suddenly contracted juvenile chronic arthritis, or Still’s disease. I was unable to walk and spent a year in hospital. It was one of the worst times of my life. The pain I experienced was beyond words. As a result, I had to create a tough exterior. You have to go inward to manage pain. I remember walking to the bus-stop on a “good” day and my friend asked why I wasn’t talking. I hadn’t noticed she was speaking. Pain management required every fibre of my energy to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Talking and moving at the same time was simply not an option.
Whilst pain management was a huge challenge, the biggest thing I had to learn was how to deal with people’s disappointment and pity. What I now call the “soft bigotry of low expectation”. I decided early on to use my personal experience of impairment and how people chose to react to me, so that my career would be spent trying to make a difference.
After a few false starts, I really found my niche in 1989 when I was appointed director of Young Arthritis Care, a section of the main Arthritis Care charity. I then went on to be the CEO of Radar, one of the legacy organisations of Disability Rights UK. With the approach of the Equality Act in 2010, I realised that many of my professional and personal aims had been achieved and the time was right for a change of direction. I took 6 months to sail around the world and clear my head before I set up my own consultancy business, which in turn led to the creation PurpleSpace.
What motivates you to do a good job?
To make a difference for disabled people, wherever they are. Driving change for disabled people, and to improve our life chances isn’t easy. It requires great skill, resilience, patience and impatience. That holds true whether you are a disabled employee network leader in a local NHS Hospital Trust, the director of a Centre for Independent Living in a large city or a civil servant introducing policies you don’t have your heart in.
At PurpleSpace we also know it’s important to have fun and find the humour in life. Laugh a lot. We are only here once and it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Enjoy it, enjoy the absurdity of human beings at the same time as changing the world.
How do you learn at work?
Through listening to the experiences of other disabled people, their allies and the stakeholders. Getting first hand information about the lived experience of disabled people is critical to understanding what needs to change to make that lived experience a better one. I also believe you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. When working with new allies or stakeholders who are new to disability, we have to present difficult information to parliamentarians or senior business leaders. We also have to listen to uncomfortable information and be bold enough to stay publicly, “this is unacceptable”.
What are your aims for the next year? For example, if you work in accessibility do you have any plans to help make workplaces more inclusive? If you work in Learning and Development how are you going to promote workplace learning?
We have introduced a new approach to Learning & Development at PurpleSpace which I am really excited about. We believe the only real way for employers and employees to build disability confidence is from the inside out, learning directly from their own people. Which is why we now deliver a unique programme of learning, support and networking across the course of the year.
Our programme is delivered through twelve monthly themes – all aligned to our mission: to make it easier for our members to help disabled employees to navigate the experience of ill health or disability at the same time as flourishing at work.
The topics have relevance for different types of “change agents” in an organisation, with a particular focus on delivering professional development “know-how” for network/resource group leaders. During the course of each month, our members can dip into the programme as much or as little as they can, safe in the knowledge that all the materials are stored in our Member Zone, waiting for whenever they have some time in their schedule.
You can learn more about PurpleSpace and #PurpleLightUp on the following platforms:
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