Athlete, Sophie Christiansen CBE, has represented Britain in four consecutive Paralympic Games, picking up eight gold medals in the process. She also graduated with a First Class Master’s degree in mathematics from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2011 and now works at Goldman Sachs.
Next month, Sophie is headline speaker at the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative’s (RIDI) Annual Conference. Here she explains how her disability has impacted her own career – and why she is getting involved.
“From my point of view, as a person with Cerebral Palsy, landing my first job as a statistician was really difficult. With my first-class master’s degree, I wanted to get a high-flying job in the City but I went to loads of interviews and ended up thinking, this isn’t going to work. Firstly, I wouldn’t be able to live in London because of access, and secondly, I thought I could never compete with able bodied candidates who did not need that bit of extra help. For example, I couldn’t go on a placement for a week in Edinburgh because I needed to take a carer with me.
While public transport can still be challenging – I’ve lost count of the number of times members of the general public had to lift my wheelchair off the train because I wasn’t offered the assistance I requested – today I work as an analyst at the global investment bank Goldman Sachs in the technology division. They’ve created the perfect role for me, which fits around my impairment and my sport commitments. I know it’ll be hard for me to progress in my career while I’m doing dressage, which is frustrating, but everyone I work with is so understanding. It would help support a lot more disabled people into work if more employers were as creative and flexible with roles as mine.
I think often employers and recruiters simply don’t understand the needs of, or aren’t confident in engaging with, disabled candidates – and as a result they’re missing out on a huge talent pool. RIDI is a not-for-profit organisation working to increase the inclusion of disabled people in the workplace and its Annual Conference will offer attendees the information they need to become more inclusive to disabled talent as well as providing a platform for discussion.
There is a large employment gap between disabled people and able-bodied people and if I can talk about my experience of work that might give others confidence to break down barriers. I believe that everyone should be able to fulfil their potential in life and employment is a big part of that. This is an event not to be missed and by the end of the conference I’m sure attendees will be in a much stronger position to engage with disabled talent.”