In honor of Women’s History Month, Solutions Marketing Group recognizes and celebrates the achievements of women who’ve broken barriers, defied odds and make our world better. Kathy Martinez has shattered ceilings in government and corporate America and is the Senior Vice President and Head of the Disability Segment Market Brand and Strategy for Wells Fargo.
What sparked your desire to pursue disability advocacy as a career?
Growing up, people often reacted to the fact that I was blind—not as much to the fact that I was a woman or a Latina. I noticed how differently I was treated than my sighted brothers and sisters. When I was looking for a job in the early ‘80’s, the options were extremely limited and opportunities to escape from the poverty trap were practically nonexistent. I also noticed that when a friend or relative became disabled they had little access to services and opportunities, which are available to the nondisabled public and their friends and associates immediately lowered expectation for that person after the person acquired a disability. Those were some of the drivers that catapulted me into being a disability rights advocate.
What do your responsibilities include in your role at Wells Fargo?
I am responsible for establishing an enterprise-wide focus on improving the accessibility of Wells Fargo products and services for customers and team members with disabilities. This includes collaborating with Wells Fargo line of business and channel leaders, and the company’s Diverse Ability Team Member Network to implement a comprehensive strategy around recruiting, philanthropic donations, online accessibility and vendor policies dedicated to serving people with disabilities and their families.
Prior to working at Wells Fargo, where did you work?
I joined Wells Fargo in March of 2015 from the U.S. Department of Labor where I served as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). I led ODEP in putting policy priorities into practice through several innovative grant programs. These include Add Us In, through which a nationwide group worked to increase the capacity of small businesses to employ people with disabilities. The grant program also included the Employment First State Leadership Mentor Program, through which several states received support to promote community-based, integrated employment as the primary outcome for people with significant disabilities.
Under my leadership, ODEP also launched the award-winning Campaign for Disability Employment, a national, multi-organization public awareness initiative that educates about the value and talent people with disabilities bring to America’s workplaces and economy. The campaign produced two television public service announcements (PSAs), “I Can” and “Because,” both of which challenge common myths and misconceptions about the expectations and job skills of people with disabilities.
Prior to being appointed by the President Obama in 2009, I served as executive director of the World Institute on Disability. There I successfully managed a number of initiatives, among them Proyecto Visión, a national technical assistance center to increase employment opportunities for Latinos with disabilities in the U.S. I have also served on the National Council on Disability, the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the State Department’s advisory committee on disability and foreign policy.
What is your educational background?
I have a BA in communications and organizational/industrial psychology.
What is your specialty?
My specialty is designing, developing and implementing strategy, programs and projects, which result in the inclusion of people with disabilities in nonprofits, government and the private sector.