Amy Walker - She/Her
Inclusion and Diversity Manager and Founder of Neurodiversity Works
Amy Walker is an inclusion and diversity manager at Group M, the world’s largest media investment company. She created and manages the Visible Start programme which helps to get people from underrepresented communities into work. Amy also founded Neurodiversity Works to promote neurodivergent inclusive opportunities on an online jobs board and newsletter, and consults and supports organisations looking to implement solutions to increase inclusion. Her work has seen her speak about her programmes and own personal experience at many receptions and events, in which she encourages others to take inclusion and diversity seriously within their own industries and companies.
Please tell us about your career
I did a 3-month Autism Internship at one of the media agencies that my company Group M worked with. I was offered a role as a media exec, which I still would have enjoyed – the process of creating a media plan, based on insight and analysis, appeals to my systemising nature! But I was very fortunate that I had connected with the People team at Group M, and a job just so happened to be coming up. Right place, right time, right people.
Since then, I have worked to promote the success of the Autism internship programme across my company, running events and producing a podcast, and a series of educational films, interviewing autistic people at different career stages, to dispel myths and share experiences around adjustments and disclosure. This has had fantastic results, with an autism internship programmes launched across the network. The programme hasn’t simply opened the door to many autistic people but has had a tangible effect on the culture of those agencies, training managers in working with those with additional needs and building psychological safety for those with various conditions to disclose and seek adjustments. I was also proud to represent the success of the programme by speaking at Ambitious about Autism’s reception at the House of Lords, at several openings of the Civil Service’s programme with an audience of Permanent Secretaries and Senior Civil Servants, and to discuss my personal experience with Nadhim Zahawi MP in his capacity as Minister for Education.
I wrote the article Why Neurodiversity Works for Creativity to promote these programmes publicly, which won the WPP Atticus Award for Creativity with Purpose. This award led to further neurodiversity and mental health advocacy speaking opportunities. I founded Neurodiversity Works to promote neurodivergent inclusive opportunities on an online jobs board and newsletter, and to consult and support organisations looking to implement solutions to increase inclusion. This is a campaign and voluntary organisation with no funding, which is part of a thriving online network of self-advocates within the neurodiversity and disability rights movement. I developed the campaign with the help of training through the charity Scope’s campaigning training programme, Scope for Change, which included a residential weekend learning programme and opportunity to present the campaigns to MPs at Portcullis House. After the programme finished, I was invited by Scope to speak to Chloe Smith MP who was serving as Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work about my campaign, as well as at Scope’s Annual General Meeting.
I think the most significant moments in my career has been having the opportunity to work on creating the Visible Start programme, which I project manage. I have developed, growing my skills and confidence, and benefited from a huge amount of autonomy and influence. It’s also so fulfilling to be working to get underrepresented groups into work. I feel very grateful for the sponsorship and support I’ve had from incredible leaders, including women, people of colour and disabled people. Having people with power who believe in you and give you opportunity is not a given. I know I’ve been fortunate in landing here and hope we can share our DEI work, so that more leaders like those I’ve worked with can succeed across industries.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
As an autistic person with diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and several physical and mental health conditions, who was ‘off rolled’ from school aged 13 and struggled to get back on the path to a successful career and having spent years in therapy and then on disability benefits, I am passionate about disability and neurodiversity inclusive employment. I have been extremely privileged to get back on the route to education through art, and to find my position at a company run by a Black female leader who puts equity at the heart of everything the company does. When on the Autism internship programme for three months in 2018, I had met with the People Team at my company, who were beginning to explore working neurodiversity inclusion, who gave me the opportunity to influence and advocate for people like me. All three interns on this programme were offered roles, and I have been working as a DEI Professional at the company since then.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
Personally, I feel it’s a good fit for me. I’m sure a lot of people with similar conditions could struggle with the ambiguity, and the necessity of collaborating with lots of people, but for me that’s been an opportunity to pave my own way and develop my social skills. As long as people support my adjustments, accept my differences, and
give me the opportunity to share my ideas, I think any industry could be a good fit. It’s all about the people and culture, and that is probably quite specific to my company rather than the industry more generally.
I work in the media side of the advertising industry. I think the industry is generally overrepresented by neurodivergent people, and in particular media – easily half of the colleagues I work with regularly are ND. My direct manager is disabled. I just don’t know how many other industries I would find that in – it’s massively important for me feeling I belong and that I’ll be supported with my own conditions.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
Get involved in advocacy – make your voice heard. Find your community – it’s not about networking, it’s about that allyship. You need support and to work together.