Scope’s Chair, Alice Maynard, has been recognised for her significant contribution to society by the University of York. The University, where Alice also did an undergraduate degree, has given her an honorary degree.
Alice has been chair of Scope since 2009. She is also founder of Future Inclusion Ltd, which works to encourage good governance, inclusive practice and ethical business.
Alice was previously Head of Disability Strategy at Network Rail, and in 2001 was seconded to Transport for London where she developed its first social inclusion plan.
Here is an extract from an interview with York Vision, in which Alice describes what the honorary degree means to her…
Firstly, congratulations! What does honorary degree from the University of York mean to you?
Thank you. It’s amazing. It’s a bit like getting to the top of Everest (not that I ever have) without actually having to make the effort to get there. It was great getting the doctorate that I’d worked for, but I’d worked for it, whereas this is a real gift and an honour.
You have BA in Language from the University of York. How did your time at York help you become what you are today?
I had a great time at York. I learned a huge amount – not just about language and linguistics. It was a time when I really became a grown-up. I began to understand what I was capable of in the big wide world. I was effectively a fairly small fish in a big pond rather than being the big fish in the small pond that I had been in the girls only special school I went to as a teenager. But I did end up using my language and linguistics. When I left York I was working in the IT industry, and my second job involved localising a US product for the European market. I found my linguistics really useful for that. It made me a valuable team member, and enabled me to demonstrate what I was really capable of and really shine. It was in that job, and the subsequent job with another US company, that I really established myself in business and laid the foundations that helped me get my MBA, set up companies, and even chair Scope.
What are the biggest challenges for disabled graduates entering the labour market in 2014?
There are enormous challenges for any graduates entering the labour market in 2014. When I graduated, it wasn’t all sweetness and light – I had a choice between two jobs and, fortunately, the one I chose was secure. Had I chosen the other, I would have lost it straight away. They rescinded their offers to all graduates because of the economic conditions at the time and several of my student friends were affected. But I guess today part of the issue is there are just more graduates now than there were in 1980. So if you’re disabled, the competition is even more fierce, and although the attitudes of many employers have improved over the years, disabled employees can still be seen as a potential burden on the firm rather than a really valuable potential employee. Disabled graduates need to demonstrate even more strongly, therefore, what their ‘unique selling point’ is and find a company that will appreciate them. But they still need to look for somewhere they can work that they can really passionate about, though, because if you enjoy your work you’re most likely to shine – and doing something you hate is pretty miserable anyway!
What do you hope to achieve as chair of Scope?
At the very least, I’d like to think I’ll leave the organisation in a better place than I found it and give the next chair a solid foundation to build on. But really I want to make sure that when I step down in October this year I leave an organisation that is fit for the future and better able to achieve its vision of a world where disabled people have the same opportunity to achieve their life ambitions as everyone else does. To do that, I have to make sure that the Board is fit for purpose: that the right people with the right skills, who are passionate and knowledgeable about the issues, are round the table, and that they work effectively as a team. Then they can both support and challenge the Chief Executive and his senior team as they implement our strategy so Scope can drive the change in society that will move us all ever closer to that vision.