Two neurodivergent WISE employees speak out about their conditions, and how important it is for employers to have an inclusive workforce in 2023…
More than 15% of people in the UK are neurodivergent, and any organisation of a fair size is likely to have neurodiversity within their workforce. While inclusivity is an ongoing task for any employer, a large (and increasing) part of this is awareness, education and support with one of the UK’s fastest growing neuro-conditions.
What is neurodiversity?
The term itself refers to an umbrella condition in which people interact, think and perceive the world around them in a different way to others. The term literally refers to ‘diversity in the brain’.
Some of the conditions which are common among those who describe themselves as neurodivergent include Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, or Acquired Neurodiversity, which may develop as a result of another health condition.
Though it’s generally considered a disability, people with a neurodivergent brain have been known to possess higher-than-average skills in terms of memory, creativity and lateral thinking.
Neurodiversity & an Inclusive Workforce
While it’s important for your organisation to be inclusive, it’s also worth pointing out ‘neurodiverse employees have many skills and tendencies that are less common among neurotypicals.
They may, for example, possess a sustained attention to detail, stronger than average strategic analysis, and have an advantage when it comes to things like remembering numbers and facts.
Regardless, neurodiversity still carries with it something of a stigma, not to mention a clear gender disparity when it comes to getting a diagnosis.
WISE Head of Marketing Hannah Worrall was diagnosed with ADHD in 2022, and became one of the thousands of UK women to get a late diagnosis following years of uncertainty.
Hannah said: “There is still a lot of stigma/ misunderstanding out there surrounding Neurodivergence. But I work for an employer which prides itself on inclusivity, and I have been fortunate in that I’ve been able to talk openly about it.
Being open about being neurodivergent means you get to be yourself, and helps to support/enable a safe working environment.”
She added: “I think it’s important for organisations to have a simple and accessible policy in place for employees – to communicate their needs and any special requirements. A one-size-doesn’t-fit-all approach really, in which employers work with the individual to support them in a way that works for them.
“Accommodations aren’t always big things; they can be simple and quite minor but make a huge difference to the individual’s day to day.”
“It’s who I am”
Another WISE employee, Hannah Hawksworth, described how she “used to hide” her Dyslexia, but now feels comfortable in an inclusive and supportive working environment.
She said: “I’m actually good at writing but not spelling. I think that’s a real misconception of dyslexia. People see your mistakes and assume you’re not smart, or not capable, but it’s just not the case, and it can be stigmatised.
She added: “I used to hide it but now I’m open about it because it’s just who I am, and I feel supported and able to be myself at WISE. This hadn’t always been the case at other companies. It just goes to show what a difference an inclusive employer can make.”
Top Tips on supporting your neurodivergent employees
- Educate yourself on the stats. While it may be that 15% of the population is neurodivergent, it doesn’t mean 15% of your workforce is. But it’s reasonable to expect a similar percentage.
- Learn about the different types of neurodivergent conditions, and use that knowledge to adjust your workplace accordingly.
- Be willing to make changes. Be it flexible working hours, altered working environments, or longer deadlines.
- Encourage open discussion within your workplace – ask your employees how you might be able to help on a day-to-day basis.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023
Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2023 takes place between Monday 13 March until Sunday 19 March.
Siena Castellon, the founder of the campaign, said: “I founded Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2018 because I wanted to change the way learning differences are perceived.
“As a teenager who is autistic and has ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, my experience has been that people often focus on the challenges of neurological diversity.
“I wanted to change the narrative and create a balanced view which focuses equally on our talents and strengths.”
The WISE Way
Major STEM organisations from all over the UK are using WISE to improve their gender balance, and become a more inclusive workplace.
Find out more about how you can get involved here.
See existing WISE members here.