Adapt Business Resource Group and Disability:IN – Creating Pathways to Acceptance

Miranda McCarthy and Laura Nietupski appear to be healthy, happy, successful MassMutual employees. Miranda is a Change Readiness Consultant and Laura is an Insurance Operations Senior Director. Each has been with the company for over 10 years. Both have potentially debilitating disabilities.

Miranda has a health condition called cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS). Like a migraine disorder, she can be incapacitated for hours on end. She has also been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Laura has been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder which can be especially disruptive. She can become unexpectedly irritable and irrational by some social standards.

How have these women been able to thrive? What resources have they been able to access?  What impact are they having on the company and its diversity journey? The answers to those questions can be traced to MassMutual’s Adapt business resource group (BRG) and its relationship with Disability:IN, a global resource for disability inclusion.

“I’ve been a member of Adapt pretty much my entire career,” says Miranda. “I initially joined because I am the primary caretaker for my husband, who suffered a massive stroke soon after we were married.” It wasn’t until later that she was diagnosed with CVS.

For Laura, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened awareness of mental health issues across the corporate landscape and the isolation of work-from-home exacerbated the effects of her disability.

“It’s easy to hide when you’re neurodivergent. It’s an unseen disability: no one would ever know,” she says.

Either of these women could have chosen to remain “unseen” by not divulging their disabilities. But that’s not who they are.

Miranda grew increasingly weary hiding her CVS diagnosis: “It’s hard, as a female manager, to continually show up as a servant leader. It’s even harder when you’re pretending.” The pandemic-induced increase in mental health awareness helped her realize that she was not being her full self.

Through Adapt, Miranda became familiar with Disability:IN.

“Our BRG had, for years, focused on workplace issues like assistive technology and ADA access,” Miranda says. “That began to change, and I think we saw Disability:IN’s unwavering advocacy for the people with disabilities as a spark that could affect real change here at MassMutual.”

Miranda explains that Disability:IN’s efforts reached a zenith at the organization’s annual meeting last year.

“We saw companies really throwing down the gauntlet in terms of making significant changes to create cultures of acceptance for people with disabilities,” she says. “It was like Pride! You could be who you are and there was no judgement.” The organization has been a catalyst for Miranda, helping her “come out” as neuro divergent and as a person with an unseen disability.

Laura’s story intertwines with Disability:IN in a similar way.

“I’ve been here 12 years. I come across quiet and more introverted. A lot of that is because of my disability. My involvement in Adapt has given me the safe space to become my authentic self,”

Laura, whose mind trends to the analytical, highlights Adapt’s progress over the years.

“Adapt has a big role in our corporate diversity efforts,” she says. “We’ve grown from providing accessibility advice to truly advocating for those with any kind of disability, neurological or physical. In 10 years, we’ve grown from 100 members to over 500 employees. We’ve helped to change the company’s benefits offering to include more mental health care. We’ve seen a real – and organic – change in the corporate culture. There is even time allotted in the workweek to talk about triggering issues.”

Laura is quick to point out that Disability:IN has helped the Adapt BRG connect with other facets of MassMutual’s diversity efforts.

“Last year’s meeting was important because we met April Cimorelli and her supplier diversity team,” she says. “Adapt is helping introduce them to what’s possible with disabled-led companies and they’ve been able to tap into Disability:IN to source an ever-increasing pool of talented vendors and service providers. It’s a great, mutually beneficial, circular partnership. These relationships and partnerships are impacting the company’s bottom line, and that’s essential.”

For Miranda and Laura, Adapt’s President and Secretary-Elect, respectively, their work at MassMutual has been surprisingly fulfilling.

“The change we’ve seen over the past several years has been unexpectedly organic,” Laura says. “It’s really cool to watch this company’s diversity journey!”

Miranda echoes the sentiment: “We’re so fortunate to be able to bring our full selves to work. It’s quite something to combine your passion with your paycheck!”