Communications Lead, WISE
As science accelerates and we reach new depths of understanding, the world has begun to open its eyes to the true strengths and capabilities of the neurodivergent mind — and the advantages it can bring to the workforce.
Rewind to the 1990s when the term ‘neurodivergent’ was coined and the association was that of negative abnormality. A condition in the mind which was to be treated. This somewhat unpalatable reputation seems to have persisted through the decades and was even noted in the Equality Act of 2010 as something that could qualify as a disability. Fast-forward to 2023, and things appear to have taken an unexpected turn.
Employers recognise neurodivergent minds
From ADHD to dyslexia, employers are now realising that the workplace can be greatly enhanced by minds that think differently. So much so that some major UK companies began actively recruiting neurodivergent employees for specific roles that suit certain untypical characteristics.
Take GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), for example. The British security agency directly appealed to women on the autism spectrum and with dyslexia for roles in cybersecurity.
Things are changing when it comes to how neurodiversity is perceived and understood —
by employers and the public in general.
Weapons manufacturer BAE (British Aerospace) Systems did the same, openly stating that they were looking for neurodivergent employees for roles requiring ‘fast pattern recognition’ and greater attention to detail. AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) has also spoken openly about the benefits of hiring more neurodivergent people.
All of these organisations are members of Women Into Science and Engineering (WISE), a women-centred community interest company focused on getting more women into STEM. Oftentimes, these company aspirations for improved gender diversity are coupled with an active bid for neurodiversity — both in the name of inclusion and improved business outcomes.
Supporting neurodivergent women in STEM
WISE CEO Kay Hussain believes that hiring neurodivergent employees can offer a competitive advantage. She says: “Things are changing when it comes to how neurodiversity is perceived and understood — by employers and the public in general.
“What may have been considered a disability is arguably an asset for many STEM roles. Research indicates data analytics, coding and mathematical-based jobs are just a few examples of where a neurodivergent mind may be a major business benefit.
“We must embrace this, from both a business perspective and as socially responsible, inclusive employers,” she concludes.