Neurodiversity in the workplace

Written by: Mica on March 22, 2022

Breaking biases and embracing neurodiverse talent.

According to socialist Judy Singer, neurodiversity refers to variation in the human brain in a non-pathological sense. This means that unlike variations of the physical human body, neurodiversity cannot be physically seen. Because of this, conditions such as ADHD, Autism, and Dyslexia can often go ignored. Unfortunately, this makes neurodiversity in the workplace something that is yet to be recognised and embraced.

We use the word embraced very deliberately. This is because at InnovateHer, we do not view neurodiversity in the workplace as a burden. We see it as something to celebrate.

In recognising Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2022, we had an open dialogue with our UX Researcher and Designer, Nyasha.

Nyasha is hugely talented, widely intelligent and simply wonderful. She is also an autistic woman of colour. Her rich experiences hold hidden lessons to anyone who doubts the need to value neurodiversity in the workplace.

‘I’m primarily on the ADHD spectrum’ Nyasha said, ‘which interacts with disability, depression, and OCD among other things in my case. There is also another dimension of intersectionality in terms of my specific lived experiences as a Black woman.’

Facing workplace biases.

The tech industry is still male dominated. Women continue to face biases, biases that we strive to break. However, being black and putting neurodiverse into the equation has added further challenges for Nyasha.

We asked her about her experience with these challenges. ‘There are things that stand out most in my memory for this context.’ Nyasha said. ‘Instances where my thinking differently as well as perceiving things in other ways was actively disparaged, in spite of the value of alternative contributions that would have helped meet goals. More generally, a pervasive lack of accessibility in how “standard” structures are set up that don’t inclusively work for as many people as possible.’

It detracted from being able to bring my whole self to work. It is an obligation to self-monitor more frequently as a form of protecting myself or surviving even.

Nyasha, UX Researcher and Designer at InnovateHer.

Calling to action.

  1. Research and reflection

Nyasha believes that simply making an effort to learn about your employees and co-workers can be a great starting point. ‘Research coupled with reflection is always a good starting point as there is always more to learn so that we understand one another better. I ask myself how I can support those who face similar and different challenges, then I act accordingly.’

innovateHer Hint: Interactive workshops can be a great way to bond. Ask us about our learning series for work.

2. Communication.

Being open to new ways of communication can make work processes more accessible for neurodiverse people. `We can also come together and communicate in varied ways that more people will understand’, Nyasha said. ‘Not limited to shared frames of reference like that idiom about a square peg forced to try and fit into a round hole. There are many ways to short-circuit our biases, and make room for more empathy.’

3. Being open to change.

‘There doesn’t have to be just one or a few accepted ways of looking at things, and it’s okay for someone to offer a different perspective or approach even if that’s not how things have usually been done. Other ways of working can be considered to adapt to the unique nature of each of our brains. Focusing on outcomes, pragmatism, and equity can also provide a great foundation to empower more people who otherwise might not have felt like they “fit in” like everyone else / are typical, to deliver the best of themselves.’

Get started.

In June, we are collaborating with Differing Minds to host an educational workshop on the subject. This event will be exclusive to our partners, as part of our bi-monthly community learning series. Click here to find out how to partner with us.

Learn more about embracing diversity in the workplace.

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