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Speech Factor

About Us


Our mission is to raise awareness of and combat unconscious bias in hiring processes and increase job placement rates for those with speech and language disorders. We aim to achieve total integration of individuals with speech-language disorders in our workplace and society as a whole.

Why we Exist

Being witness to qualified job candidates with speech and language disorders who were being denied employment, we founded The Speech Factor.

Employees with speech and language disorders are and can be effective, productive members of the workforce. At the same time, unconscious bias leads to negative assumptions and judgements that cause some to miss out on opportunities.

We are here to educate the public about speech and language disorders, particularly people who might make hiring decisions or influence company culture in regard to working with people who have communication disorders.

We are committed to changing misconceptions!

Our Philosophy

Many are interested in what we do because a family member or friend knows someone with a communication disorder or has a speech or language disorder in the family. The Speech Factor provides a medium for sharing stories. We give information and facilitate action to make a difference.

The Speech Factor disseminates information about speech and language disorders, unconscious bias, and how to participate in this cause. We give the opportunity for anyone to take action. We encourage self-awareness, the sharing of our mission with others, and donation.

Core Values

  • Integrity
    • Pursue honorable initiatives
    • Conduct all business in a transparent and ethical way
  • Empowerment
    • Provide more than a “quick fix”
    • Identify and work on larger systemic problems
    • Enable individuals to live a better life
  • Community
    • Collaborate with agencies and individuals to accomplish more
    • Complement existing resources, rather than duplicate them



After witnessing what happens during the hiring process for those with speech and language disorders, Jill Willcox wanted to make a change.

She strove to instill an optimistic outlook in her son after he was diagnosed with a speech language disorder at the age of two. He graduated with a master’s degree in statistics. When looking for employment, she witnessed her son being passed up again and again for positions for which he was highly qualified.

The vast majority of hiring managers said he would be a better candidate if he “practiced” his soft skills and learned how to “speak more efficiently.” Some said they were unsure he was right for the job even though he earned a professional certification, passed the phone interview, and intake exam. Jill and her son were led to believe the rejections were due to his language disorder.

Jill says, “I came up with the idea for The Speech Factor while watching my son look for work. I have witnessed the kindness people have given, those who took the time to get to know him and those who are quick to dismiss him just because he speaks differently than you.”

Since then, The Speech Factor has joined Clinton Global Initiative.

The Speech Factor suggests extra assistance for candidates managing the job market and guidance on how to best present themselves in an interview. SF also advocates structured interviews, where candidates know the topics in advance, so they can practice finding the words they need to be successful in the interview.

Jill says, “What I hope to teach hiring managers and companies at-large is that differences do not hinder someone from being a good employee. People who have differences have worked hard to get where they are in life. They know hard work pays off. They know how to achieve their goals. These are qualities any employer should look for in a candidate. The Speech Factor can help companies learn they are missing out by allowing unconscious bias to exclude qualified candidates.”

Eventually her son gained employment as a Statistical Programmer in Biostatistics.

Read more about Jill and her son in Is a Lie Ever Right?

Meet the Board


Jill Willcox

HR Manager, Executive Director
Jill Willcox has worked in various human resources positions including as a Recruiter, HR Manager and as a Benefit Determination Review Consultant for Hewitt Associates LLC over the last 16 years. Before that,she worked at Hartford Insurance as a Health Service Representative, working with people who had suffered catastrophic work injuries with the goal to enable them to live the most independent and productive life possible. She is the mother of two children who are talented and contribute to society in a very meaningful way.

Kelly McHugh

Speech Language Pathologist, Board Member, Northwestern University
Kelly McHugh is a speech-language pathology clinical fellow at Lyons High School and a recent graduate of Northwestern University (MS, August 2016). She received her undergraduate degree in Communication and Media Studies at St. Norbert College (BA, 2009), after which she worked for five years as a client and project manager at Millward Brown, an international marketing research firm. There she became involved in a neuromarketing project that prompted her to explore other ways in which communication sciences were being applied. Kelly started volunteering with the pediatric outpatient speech-language pathology team at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) and leading children through language interventions as a clinician at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. Seeing the impact that language interventions had on individuals and their families, she sought to apply her research skills and clinical interest to the field of speech-language pathology. Kelly sees human connection as an innate, deep-rooted human need and finds great purpose in helping individuals work towards their communication goals.

Allison Potocki

Special Education Teacher, Board Member, Northwestern University
Allison earned a BA in Psychology from Colgate University a Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities at Northwestern University.  She spent 6 years as a special education teacher in urban and suburban school settings.  Allison currently manages staff development and curriculum for a small non-profit organization in Omaha, NE that serves the needs of low-income families through after-school classes and family programs.

Amelia Willcox

Speech Language Pathologist, Board Member, Northwestern University
Amelia Willcox is a recent graduate of the Northwestern University Speech, Language, and Learning (SLP) program. Through her studies at Northwestern University, she found a passion for working with children and young adults, making gains towards communicating effectively with others, expressing themselves fully, telling stories, and having the communication skills they need to live the successful lives they want. Additionally, she studied psychology at Clark University for her undergraduate degree and became immersed in the idea of how to think about a person as a whole. This concept entails taking into account their personality, goals, desires, and attitude towards life and therapy. Working with The Speech Factor to help young adults succeed in college and obtaining meaningful work and supporting employers who hire individuals with speech and language disorders is something she is passionate about. “I have seen firsthand how helping a candidate gain the skills they need to have a successful interview with an open-minded employer can change the candidate for the better, in addition to the company itself.”

Thank you for taking the time to get to know The Speech Factor.

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