Neurodiversity is taken very seriously as a topic by our senior leadership team. We recently had an event at our offices to launch the NTT DATA Neurodovdersity Network.
The aim being to:
- Increase our understanding and awareness of Neurodiversity
- Learn first-hand experience from your own colleagues and our guests at Nueropool
- How we can better support your Neurodiverse colleagues, both as a company and as individuals
- Help us to recruit more Neurodiverse talent to the company
The event was hosted by Joulie Gindi. Below she shares her thoughts on the importance of a diverse workforce and her observations from the event.
What a brilliant Neurodiversity Network launch event we had this week! You know an organisation’s commitment from its leadership’s involvement and we were humbled by the strong presence from our Leadership Team.
The event started with a quiz run by Neuropool who shared the results with us at the end of the event. The first speaker was our CEO himself! Fernando Apezteguia shared his positive experience of working with a Neurodivergent workforce in Brazil when they hired employees on the spectrum and how the results were better than anyone anticipated. He also emphasised how the right environment would allow all talents to thrive and that we need variety of thought.
This was followed by Neuropool’s CEO Jack Dyrhauge who discussed their aspirations, where they are in that journey and how other UK organisations are doing. With the shocking figures shown below, he also ended it on a positive note on workplaces investing and proactively taking this journey too (kudos EY, IBM, Universal Music Group and others).
Then Hannah Burrage from Neuropool took us through Design & Accessibility to enable neurodivergent colleagues through a better working environment and better representation of their authentic selves. A better working environment would also be welcomed by neurotypical colleagues or those who do not know nor have a diagnosis -hence, being inclusive for all!
I then took a non-text book definition of what Autism might mean using personal experience and two different analogies. Experiences including gifted children I knew on the spectrum being forced out of the education system or getting in trouble for being too honest/ direct-including Albert Einstein. How thanks to 200-400 gene variations that determine Autism - it is a spectrum; how we think differently, sometimes literally and how all this fits in what others refer to as a spikey profile or spectrum.
While the straight lines represent neurotuypical people, their strengths and their abilities. The oscillations represent someone on the spectrum excelling on certain things but not others, which can cause frustration to them and those around them. The other definition of Autism took us to the simple analogy of the brain consisting of pigeonholes and how that works in a neurotypical person versus a person on the spectrum. We went on to explain how that can be great because it allows us to see things others might not (e.g. pattern recognition or avoiding biases) but also a disaster and cause of sensory overwhelm when we have to use more than one sense.
We went into how some people on the spectrum are not good at understanding or describing how we feel; which many believe to be “lack of empathy” when some of us are very empathetic but do not show our response in a typical/ neurotypical/ expected norm.
We agreed and this was supported by Fernando on his speech that the fact we think or output/ act differently should not mean we are rude or incapable. That we are disabled because we are neurodivergent but because of our rigid surroundings and conforming to rigid societal expectations/ norms.
I then asked the room if anyone struggled with maths at school? Thanks to extra support or teaching methods, we still learnt division and concepts of algebra by the end of an academic year.
We then looked at some disturbing figures including how most Autism funding goes towards finding out why autistic people exist, over 20% into ways to make autistic people less autistic and less than 9% of funding goes into services to assist or enable people with autism.
We explored why masking or moulding people on the spectrum or other neurodivergent people is detrimental for them and does not encourage diversity of thought.
Then we looked at more disturbing UK figures (please do not use the “functioning” label-although it is still used in official diagnoses, the Autism community does not appreciate it):
We all agreed that for our commitment, for our hard work and other benefits we offer or just as humans - we deserve better than that!
Then Thomas Wilkes led us into the diversity of thought and how biodiversity allows a healthier and thriving environment and neurodiversity would allow a diverse cognitive environment. He examined the Medical Vs Social disability model; the medical model puts the full responsibility on the individual by assuming there is one right way to develop physiologically or neurologically & anything else has to be fixed or changed (e.g. a wheelchair user offered a wheelchair). The social model looks at it differently and enables the individual through their environment (e.g. offering a ramp or a lift to enable the wheelchair user); needless to say, this is where we can introduce enablement.
We finalised our team’s presentation reflecting how neurodiverse people are not failed neurotypical people; but are perfectly good neurodivergent people failed by the environment & surroundings designed for neurotypical and rigid norms that would not encourage diversity of thought. Followed by Costanza Termine passing the team's appreciation and success with wins.
The event was concluded with our CTO Tom Winstanley sharing his own experiences with close ones and how a different awareness and supportive environment can make a difference; which led to our Q&A session.
And yes - as with all good events, we enjoyed some inclusive drinks and canapés! =P
Thanks to all who presented, participated and made this event happen; keep on raising awareness and being inclusive!