Diversity Is All About Ethnicity and Gender...Right?
A certain male news anchor once said: "What the hell is diversity?" Little did he know that the woman who entered the room in the next six seconds would be the best news anchor he ever met. A lot has happened since the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties and we as a society are better for it.
Since I was very young, my parents always told me not to judge a book by its cover. Diversity has many creeds and colours. We are all diverse. We all have something that sets us apart from the person sitting next to us in the office, on the bus or in the playground.
Ethnic and gender diversity within organisations is essential for allowing equal opportunities for all. Globally, executive leadership, HR and management teams have diversity at the top of their agendas. They raise awareness, foster diverse talent and promote individuals where merited.
Competitions that celebrate diversity are good. But, corporates use diversity and these awards to virtue signal. Try and spot a cis white man on any of the big four US banks’ social media feeds other than CX-level executives. Here are the links if you want proof - JPMorgan Chase, Bank Of America, Citi and Wells Fargo.
The fact is that women make up the majority of most marketing teams. Corporate marketing agendas are filled with mostly female views and opinions - a difficult pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, we are not super-heroes. We are all struggling, earning, learning and for many in the new COVID era, making bank so we can survive another month.
Appearance Isn’t Everything
As a cis, white, slightly ginger 28-year-old, you might think I hit the jackpot. I am, on the face of it, the least diverse person you could probably ever meet. (That said, we gingers are becoming extinct!)
Leaving school, you would think I was ready to join the corporate ladder and utilise my white male privilege to its full potential. All white men are created equal, right? WRONG!
Well, the diversity I am going to talk about is invisible to the eye.
If you asked me about my education or my early career, I would probably go quiet and try to deflect the conversation. I failed most of my exams. I had the knowledge, I could talk about topics for hours, but I couldn’t write it down. At work, I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I could come up with great ideas, strategies and plans, but I couldn’t seem to execute on them. Work, at the end of the day, is all about delivery and hitting goals.
My failures in education had major implications further down the line. I didn’t go to university, Accenture rejected me in the fourth round of interviews (because I didn’t go to university), and most importantly, I let down the people I love.
I never understood what the problem was until I struck up a conversation with a chap in a coffee shop. I was having a bad day and I shared my story. He reached into his bag and said, ‘Try this.’ He gave me a pill.
Suddenly, I discovered FOCUS. I could write 800 words in about an hour - unheard of in my work or school life!
Being BAME, LGBTQ+ or a woman doesn’t make you less able. But, there is a group which actually suffers on a massive scale. This group has the lowest school attainment rate, the least likely to attend university and the highest incarceration rate.
I am talking about neuro-disabilities! In corporate safe space talk, they call it neurodiversity. Within this category, you’ve got autism, bipolar, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD and around 100 other conditions. Impacting over 1.5 million people in the UK, these conditions affect people’s working and personal lives to various degrees.
Last year, after about six months of waiting, I got diagnosed with ADD.
It was a wake-up call. It meant that 20 years of struggle at school and work was essentially wasted in terms of attainment, career progression and earning potential. Learning how to fail is an important lesson.
I now take hardcore Class A psychoactive medication every morning, so I can compete and perform at the same level as the rest of the workforce. With some pretty awful side affects and they probably aren’t doing my liver any good.
Through years of bad experiences, I came to accept my failures. However, I couldn’t accept failing my peers - I always hated letting the side down. This is probably why I went on to start my own businesses. At the end of the day, I am accountable for my actions, deliverables and success.
Discovering & Fostering Neurodiverse Talent
Having a left brain has its values. You can be highly creative, with a think-outside-the-box approach to business challenges. A large proportion of successful entrepreneurs have these conditions - and they find it helps them find their own way, come up with new propositions, or find alternative, more efficient solutions to critical problems.
For people in HR, recruitment, senior leadership and management roles, finding appropriate roles in your organisation for these individuals can bring significant value to your teams. We don’t fit the mould, but damn, if placed correctly we can add significant value.
The truth is, it’s what is inside the book that counts - no matter if it is poetry, prose or a gritty novel.