Which industry do you work in and what do you love and/or loathe about it?
I currently work in the hospitality industry, and I love how many people I get to meet and the relationships you get to build with people from all over the world. It is an incredible entryway to understanding people from literally all walks of life and so if you're really paying attention to the people around you it is an excellent place to improve your inclusivity practice. As someone with dyspraxia I can sometimes struggle with the reactiveness of hospitality, it can be quite brutal for people who are neurodiverse as we often need more time to process changes. We can also be quite sensitive to the chaos, and it's typically not an industry that prioritises well thought out strategies and processes, which can also be quite triggering for those who are not neurotypical.
How did you get into your job/industry?
Being excellent at what I do! I joke about this, but honestly, as a working-class Black woman, not from London who grew up in a dysfunctional family setting, who also is neurodiverse, I have to work 1000% times harder than my counterparts to be considered for roles. I learned quite early on that presenting myself via my CV wasn't good enough, I had to be in the room with people, they had to speak to me, see my work and my impact to be in with a shot of being considered. A massive part of my reputation is built on great work and word of mouth. I 1000% believe that if I didn't take those extra steps I wouldn't be in the position I am now. I have spent the past 10 years doing great work, so my name is mentioned in rooms I'm not even in, and I am immensely proud of myself for it.
Have you always wanted to work in your industry/field? Does it feel like a good 'fit' for you as a neurodivergent woman?
I've always wanted to work in spaces where I could lead on programmes that support people from intersectional backgrounds to thrive in the workplace, so in that sense yes. I never imagined I'd be doing it in hospitality, but I'm learning so much and having a lot of fun.
This isn't specific to my place of work, but I have noticed that the neurotypical style of working is what is preferred and so it is what is championed, amplified and promoted. I also feel impacted by this at times and I see others who have ADHD or are on the spectrum struggle too. The complete answer to your question is I don't know if any workplace is set up to support neurodivergent women to thrive, especially those who are Black, from a lower socioeconomic background and/or any other intersection onto that. But my whole career has been built on creating pathways that don't exist, especially ones that would have benefitted me. And that's what I'll continue to do.
How does being Black, female and Dyspraxic impact you within the workplace?
The question of all questions! Black women are labelled as aggressive, and as a result, I've found my voice to be muted in the workplace. Aggression is the farthest thing away from my personality, however, I am only too experienced in being called aggressive, for clearly articulating my opinion, is something that I am still finding the balance with. Being a woman in the workplace has a different set of challenges if you're a white woman, but imagine not knowing if you're being discriminated against because of being a woman, or if you are Black, or the maddening potential that it could be both. And lastly, my dyspraxia shows up in clumsiness, slow processing, silly mistakes (even after proofreading) and speaking in sentences that can sometimes be back to front. When compounded this can all be very stressful. When the working environment isn't safe it can exacerbate my stress which flares my dyspraxia, and if I'm working in a discriminatory environment, quite frankly it's a shit show.
Do you have any advice for other Neurodivergent women within the workplace?
Communicate your needs to your manager/HR, and pay attention to the efforts they put in place to support you. The response (or non-response) you get will clearly detail their intentions to create a safe work environment for you moving forward. Use this information to dictate your next move, never settle. There are work environments out there that will do what they can to support you as an employee.