About the Authors:
|Iain Wilkie is an executive coach who stutters and the founder of PathMaker Consulting. He is a former senior partner and UK leadership team member at global professional services firm EY.
Iain is a recognised leader in promoting disability employment. He founded 50 Million Voices, the EY Stammering Network, and co-founded the UK’s Employers Stammering Network. He is also a Trustee of the UK’s Business Disability Forum and an adviser to the UK government on improving disability employment.
|Helen Carpenter. Before working at the British Stammering Association (2015-18) on employment, I’d never given stuttering much thought.What I’ve since discovered has been a revelation. People tend not to talk about stuttering, but we can all play a part in changing that.
I have a degree in modern languages and I’m also a qualified librarian. I’ve a strong track-record in the not-for-profit sector, often leading programmes or new initiatives, in roles concerned with people, places and identity. I see myself as a catalyst and connection-maker, influencing positive change. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was awarded an MBE in 2008, after co-ordinating a national programme connecting public libraries and refugees. As well as working on 50 Million Voices, I’m currently co-running an initiative bringing people together to explore architecture, environment and social history in London’s fringes.
Globally an estimated 50 million people of working age stutter – every one of us with a voice – that’s 50 million voices. However, widespread bias means that across the world many millions of people who stutter are either unemployed or in jobs which are well below our potential.
Employers often mistakenly equate verbal dysfluency with low competence, whereas experience shows that, given the right environment, people who stutter can become highly successful leaders and truly authentic communicators. For example, Joe Biden (Vice President, USA), Jess Staley (Global CEO of Barclays), Capt James Lang (British Army) and Ed Balls (British politician and media personality). Concurrently, research suggests that people who stutter can develop strengths in creativity, empathy, resilience and listening – skills which we observe are in increasing demand in the changing workplace.
Further, as the future of work brings greater automation, algorithms and artificial intelligence, millions of new jobs will require different ways of leading, thinking and working together, ones where good interpersonal skills will be at a premium – the very skills often possessed by people who stutter.
To have an equal chance of getting into and thriving at work, we who stutter, our colleagues and employers need to be starting many more conversations and growing together through speaking and learning about stuttering. 50 Million Voices provides a way of accelerating that sharing and growth.
Transforming the world of work for people who stutter – and employers
‘50 Million Voices’ is an ambitious new global initiative to help transform the world of work for people who stutter – and for employers too. Launched in Spring 2019, we’ve brought stuttering leaders from 15 countries together to share ideas and best practice, including with some leading employers. Our vision is clear and simple: “A world in which everyone who stutters can have a good job and a rewarding career”.
50 Million Voices is led by Iain Wilkie. He is an executive coach who stutters and a former senior partner and UK leadership team member at global professional services firm EY. Iain is a recognised leader in promoting disability employment and previously founded the EY Stammering Network and co-founded the UK’s Employers Stammering Network. He is closely supported by Helen Carpenter MBE who has a strong track record in the not-for-profit sector, including working successfully with stuttering and employment.
Embracing stuttering as a different way of speaking at work
We’re looking for inclusive employers to come forward to hear and embrace stuttering as simply a different way of speaking. Our strategy includes partnering with employers, supporting our 50 Million Voices country leaders and inspiring role models who stutter at work. In a nutshell, 50 Million Voices is a stuttering leadership programme.
Our 50 Million Voices country leaders come from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Japan, Norway, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, UK and USA and are supported by a small central team in the UK. We are all contributing our time pro bono.
After just a few months 50 Million Voices is already creating change. Our group of committed leaders from across the world are using our platforms, sharing successes and taking ideas back to their countries for implementation. These include practice interview sessions, speaking events and language translations of best practice materials. Our leaders are also engaging in courageous conversations with more employers around stuttering and these are already resulting in more employer hosted events, workshops and education.
Feedback from our leaders
After an initial pilot, all of our country leaders are keen to continue with the 50 Million Voices initiative. Here’s a some of their feedback:
“As an advocate for stuttering awareness and outreach in the USA, it has been extremely helpful to collaborate with leaders in stuttering communities around the world. Making room for the 50 million voices that stutter will add new perspective and value to businesses and I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting initiative. I have already had several robust conversations with leaders from England, France, Israel and Australia and we all see the tremendous benefit of sharing and improving upon the wheel, instead of recreating it.”
Pamela Mertz – USA
“Thanks all country leaders. It’s motivated me so much to join this group.”
Daichi Iimura – Japan
“I think this is a great initiative and a fantastic project!”
Dina Lillian – South Africa
“50 Million Voices has really helped us get started. It opens the door for international cooperation to empower people who stutter at work. Sharing ideas with people from different cultures and points of view is the best way to come up with innovative ideas.”
Juliette Blondeau & Mounah Bizri, – France
Looking forward – and an invitation
Emboldened by our successes and the positive feedback, we are now working on our two year goals and strategy.
We would be delighted to hear from people and organisations interested in finding out more. This might be as a person who stutters, on behalf of an employer, or a leader for a country interested in becoming involved in 50 Million Voices.
Whom to contact
Please contact either Iain or Helen from the core team, or one of our country leaders. Also, you can follow us on Twitter at: @50MillionVoices
Iain Wilkie firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Carpenter email@example.com
15 Country Leaders to contact
- Australia – Vikesh Anand – President Australian Speak Easy Association https://speakeasy.org.au/
- Canada – Richard Parent L’Association bégaiement communication (ABC) (Montreal) http://www.abcbegaiement.com/
- France – Mounah Bizri & Juliette Blondeau – Board members Association Parole Bégaiement https://www.begaiement.org/
- Germany – Anja Herde – International representative Bundesvereinigung Stotterer-Selbsthilfe https://www.bvss.de/
- Ghana – Elias Apreko – President Ghana Stammering Association https://www.facebook.com/GhanaStammeringAssociation/
- Republic of Ireland – David Heney – President Irish Stammering Association http://stammeringireland.ie/
- Israel – Hanan Hurwitz – Chair, Israeli Stuttering Associationhttps://ambi.org.il/
- India – Shilpa Sagwal – Employment representative Indian Stammering Association https://stammer.in/
- Japan- Daichi Iimura https://d-iimura274.jimdo.com/
- Norway – Jon-Øivind Finbråten Norwegian Stuttering Association (NIFS) https://www.stamming.no/
- Rwanda – Dieudonné Nsabimana African Stuttering Centre https://africanstutteringc0.wixsite.com/childrenstutter
- Republic of South Africa – Graham Klawansky firstname.lastname@example.org www.speakeasy.org.za
- Spain – Ronan Miller Spanish Stuttering Foundation La Fundación Española de la Tartamudez https://www.fundacionttm.org/
- UK – Betony Kelly – Trustee British Stammering Association https://stamma.org/
- USA – Pamela Mertz – Board member National Stuttering Association https://westutter.org/
1 Stammering can be seen as something that can impart strengths, such as empathy and compassion for others, personal growth and strength of character and working to compensate through higher resilience or greater creativity (Hughes, S., and Strugalla, E. (2013). Recognizing Positive Aspects of Stuttering: A Survey of the General Public. Poster presented at Stuttering Attitudes Research Symposium (Morgantown 2013)). Butler (Butler, C. (2014) Wanted: straight talkers – stammering and aesthetic labour. Work, Employment & Society, 28, 5, 718-734) also identifies strengths such as “listening intelligence” and this ties in with Brocklehurst’s (Brocklehurst, P (2014). The Hidden Strengths of People who Stutter. www.stammeringresearch.org) findings that “Respondents identified a variety of strengths associated with their stammering and a number of ways in which their stammering had a positive impact on others.”
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