As we know from the previous blog on International Women’s Day, some women still face unnecessary challenges in the workplace, especially when striving for a position of leadership or ownership.

But how does the added pressure of neurodiversity effect women in business and the perception of their capabilities?

In recent years, more neurodiverse women have been diagnosed later in life, rather than in their school years. This undoubtedly has a significant impact on women in business, as they have missed out on specific support at an earlier stage. Neurodiverse women with a recent diagnosis often say it explains why they work and feel the way they do, rather than helps it.

Conditions like ADHD and Autism also present differently in women to men. Often more subtly, and often masked by the woman. However, women who do not mask their neurodiverse traits are more likely to be considered as suffering emotional or mental health conditions, rather than a neurodivergent one.

Erin, a Development Manager and Business Analyst at Rio IT is one such woman. Her school reports often said, ‘Erin is bright, but needs to apply herself’, or highlighted her as a daydreamer, talkative, forgetful or introverted. Sadly, she grew up believing these were hard-wired character flaws that she could do nothing about, and her self-criticism followed her into her adult life and work. The Brain Charity

However, with diagnosis, Erin and many women like her feel empowered to share their differences, and demand reasonable adjustments in the business world.

UK equality law and protected characteristics

Neurodiversity is a protected characteristic which means by law an employer must make reasonable changes to work environments, access to work and flexible working models, for example. However, we’re focusing on women in business ownership and in leadership roles…

As part of a thriving business community, I believe we all have an obligation to learn and understand more about the challenges faced by neurodiverse women in business, and how they respond to them.

Neurodiversity challenges

Women like Erin can be viewed as scatty, stupid, lazy or over sensitive, when in fact they may well be facing overwhelm. They may have a tendency to overshare, or communicate bluntly, but by providing a safe and understanding environment which provides opportunity to pull back and be open about their condition, neurodivergent women can thrive in the very same way as anyone who is neurotypical.

In fact, neurodiversity presents opportunity to businesses

Neurodiverse people are ‘wired’ differently to neurotypical people. This is the case regardless of whether you are male or female. The benefits of this can be highly beneficial to a business and/or team in many ways:

  • New perspectives
  • Highly focused
  • Creative thinking
  • Lateral thinking
  • Intense expertise
  • Clarity of vision

I recently found some really useful resources from the Neurodiversity Charity, Neurodiversity in Business, for employers, the neurodivergent and the neurotypical. While this is not my area of expertise, I would encourage you to take a look, and perhaps give me a call if you’d like an introduction to experts such as Mel Francis, who spoke at our recent IWD celebration event in Oxfordshire.

In the meantime, I hope this blog has gone some way to supporting women and neurodiversity in the business arena.

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