Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council's Position Diversity

Missouri public and private agencies and organizations should value and reflect the rich and diverse demographics of the state and implement policies and practices that are inclusive of disability, race, ethnicity, culture, age, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. Missouri should develop and implement laws, policies, and practices that ensure equal rights to all including full and equal access to goods and services.

The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council’s Reasons:

Diversity is important because it helps us learn from one another, empowering us to build upon our strengths to address common challenges and create a more equitable, effective, and inclusive society. [1]  Research shows that diversity is associated with improved human development and well-being [2] and that people from different cultures possess skills and perspectives that can maximize the abilities of others including theoretical and practical knowledge and access to professional and social networks. [3]  In addition, organizations that value and practice diversity are more productive [4], innovative [5],  and better at problem-solving. [6] For example, companies that hire people with disabilities have increased profitability, competitive advantage, and enhanced corporate image. [7]

However, public and private organizations too-often fail to reflect the characteristics and values of the communities they serve or society-at-large. [8] For example, despite recent encouragement and improvements in diversity, only 17% of board seats in Russell 3000 companies are held by underrepresented groups and only 27% are held by women. [9] In addition, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities report experiencing barriers to inclusion in Boards of Directors and other leadership positions and, when included, report being ignored or treated as a token.[10] Similarly, although government appointments have grown more diverse in recent years, they do not approach the diversity found in the general population. [11] In the words of former SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar, “It is past time to see the diversity of our nation reflected in corporate boardrooms, in the financial industry, and in the government.” [12]


The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council’s Recommendations:

  • As a state and society, we must value diversity of culture, experience, language, and ideas and acknowledge that diverse public and private businesses and organizations are more productive and effective.
  • Missouri should ensure that a diverse array of culturally, linguistically, and cognitively competent services and supports are available to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the state.
  • Missouri should develop and implement laws and policies that ensure equal rights, treatment, and opportunities to all regardless of disability, race, ethnicity, culture, age, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.
  • Missouri state government should take the lead and demonstrate the value of diversity by ensuring that appointments to state and local government positions, boards and advisory panels reflect the diverse demographics and values of the communities they serve and of society-at-large.
  • Missouri should conduct outreach to people of diverse cultures, experiences, languages, and ideas in a culturally and linguistically competent manner with the aim of increasing their use of available supports and services and their participation in public boards, agencies, and advisory panels.
  • Missouri should require that businesses and organizations contracting or doing business with the state value, encourage, and empower diversity and have policies and practices inclusive of disability, race, ethnicity, culture, age, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status
  • Missouri should require that businesses and organizations contracting or doing business with the state have products and services that are accessible to people of culturally, linguistically, and cognitively diverse backgrounds.
  • Grants funded by Missouri public agencies should have cultural, linguistic, and cognitive diversity and competency goals and include measurable outcomes reflecting outreach to people of diverse cultures and experiences.



[1] e.g., Phillips, K. (2014). How diversity makes us smarter. Scientific American. available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/
[2] VanALstine, J., Cox, S.R., & Roden, D.M. (2015). Cultural diversity in the United States and its impact on human development. Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, 18(1), 10.
[3] e.g., Boehm, S.A., & Dwertmann, D.J. (2014). Forging a single edged sword: Facilitating positive age and disability diversity effects in the workplace through leadership, positive climates, and HR practices. Work, Aging, and Retirement. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Dwertmann/publication/271846409_Forging_a_Single-Edged_Sword_Facilitating_Positive_Age_and_Disability_Diversity_Effects_in_the_Workplace_Through_Leadership_Positive_Climates_and_HR_Practices/links/550adeb70cf285564095c4b0/Forging-a-Single-Edged-Sword-Facilitating-Positive-Age-and-Disability-Diversity-Effects-in-the-Workplace-Through-Leadership-Positive-Climates-and-HR-Practices.pdf
[4] e.g., Saxena, A., (2014). Workforce diversity: A key to improve productivity. Procedia Economics and Finance, 11, 76-85. Suedekum, J., Wolf, K., & Blien, U. (2014). Cultural diversity and local labour markets. Regional Studies, 48(1), 173-191
[5] e.g., Jackson, S. E., May, K. E., & Whitney, K. (1995). Understanding the dynamics of diversity in decision-making teams. In R. A. Guzzo & E. Salas (Eds.), Team Decision-Making Effectiveness in Organizations San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; Ridley, M. (2010). Humans: Why they triumphed. The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2010, p. W1.
[6] Lazear, E. (1999). Globalisation and the market for team-mates. Economic Journal 105: 15-40.
[7] Lindsay, S., Cagliostro, E., Albarico, M., Mortaji, N., & Karon, L. (2018). A systematic review of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Journal of occupational rehabilitation28(4), 634-655
[8] e.g., Buse, K., Bernstein, R. S., & Bilimoria, D. (2016). The influence of board diversity, board diversity policies and practices, and board inclusion behaviors on nonprofit governance practices.Journal of Business Ethics133(1), 179-191.
[9] Eavis, P. (2022, January 3). Board diversity increased in 2021. Some ask what took so long. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/03/business/corporate-board-diversity.html#:~:text=Directors%20from%20underrepresented%20groups%20occupy,directors%2C%20up%20from%2024%20percent.
[10] e.g., Beckwith, R., Friedman, M, & Conroy, J. (2016). Beyond tokenism: People with complex needs in leadership roles: A review of the literature. Inclusion, 4(3), 137-155; Obermayer, L. (1999). Tokenism – It doesn’t look good! In Responding to the challenge: current trends and international issues in developmental disabilities: Essays in honor of Gunnar Dybwad. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books; Robinson, A. (2006). Presentations everyone can understand. Lecture presented at Michigan Leadership retread. Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council; Shoultz, B. (2003). Interview with Tia Nelis, Self-Advocate. The Research Exchange, 8(3), 6-7;  
[11] Feeney, M. K., & Camarena, L. (2021). Gender, race, and diversity values among local government leaders. Review of Public Personnel Administration41(1), 105-131.
[12] Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, Keynote Speech by SEC Commissioner: An Update on Diversity and Financial Literacy (Apr. 30, 2011), available at http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2011/spch043011laa.htm.
This document was developed in partnership and with support from the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (PL 106-402) and Jonathan Gerald Martinis, LLC (jgmartinisllc@gmail.com).