Maintain eye contact
Keep your body still and directed towards the person you are listening to
These are three basic tenets of active listening. And for a neurotypical person, they might seem pretty simple. But for some neurodivergent people, this is not the case. Maintaining these three things in a conversation can take a lot of effort and often comes at the sacrifice of actually hearing what the person is saying.
For those who fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity, the path to career success is often marked by unique obstacles like this.
For women in particular, the very process of identifying their neurodivergence can be a huge hurdle. Many women struggle to receive accurate diagnoses for neurodivergent conditions, (such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia) because of gender bias in the diagnostic criteria or because gendered norms and expectations have led to women creating coping mechanisms to fit in. This is known as masking or camouflaging.
Beyond diagnosis, it can continue to be difficult to adapt and excel in a world that may not always fully appreciate or accommodate neurodiverse perspectives.
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
Four of our Endorsed Employers who have taken proactive steps to ease the burdens faced by neurodivergent women, share the solutions that they offer to champion the talents of their neurodivergent employees and foster a more inclusive work environment for everyone.
Science & biotechnology | 1,001-5,000 employees
“Neurodiversity” is a catch-all term that takes in a lot of ground. It can include autistic people as well as those who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or other conditions.
Learning how to be inclusive and supportive to all might seem like a daunting task, but you can begin by understanding that people view and interpret the world in very different ways. That was a key takeaway from educational sessions CSL recently offered employees during Global Diversity Month.
Employees were encouraged to reflect on their own preconceived notions and to learn practical approaches to being more inclusive. They shared personal experiences, talked about loved ones and, in some cases, themselves.
“I think if you view this as something like throwing a pebble in a pond, the ripple effects of many such conversations can really be powerful in creating a world and communities and workplaces where empathy and compassion coexist with business results,” said CSL’s Head of Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Nidhi Chaudhary.
In day-to-day interactions, colleagues also can examine biases they might have about someone who doesn’t maintain eye contact or needs a quiet, calm space to complete a task.
Recognizing that the concept of neurodiversity is likely new to a lot of people, Alasdair James Scott, a Business Psychologist with PDT Global of London, who led one of the educational sessions, suggested the ACES method, which doesn’t call people out for being insensitive. Instead, it’s a way of “calling someone in” with a curious, nonjudgmental approach.
Acknowledge the situation with statements like: “I appreciate that.” “Can you tell me more?”
Clarify with inquiries such as: “It sounds like you are telling me…”
Explore with questions like: “What is the potential impact?” “What are the implications?”
Solve by responding with: “What would a better solution look like to you?” “How do you see this being different?”
The goal should be a productive conversation that leads to improved interactions, not bad feelings, “seek to understand rather than be understood,” he said.
Real estate & property | 501-1,000 employees
Knight Frank is constantly working to create an increasingly diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects the communities around them. As part of this commitment, their Australian team has partnered with an organization called Jobsupport, a specialist in finding secure, local jobs for people with intellectual disabilities.
Jobsupport helps candidates to understand and prepare for a role, while working with the potential employer to make sure the role and the working environment are both suitable.
Partnerships such as these reinforce their commitment to be an equal opportunity employer and to support a diverse group of people regardless of any impairment, disability or health condition.
James Patterson, CEO of Australia, was passionate about introducing the scheme at Knight Frank, and the initiative launched across three of their offices at the start of 2023 with one new neurodivergent woman employed in each office. Partnering with Jobsupport has successfully engaged everyone involved by building on people’s passions. Changing how they work and adapting to ensure all get the most out of the organization helps them achieve their vision.
“I like it here very much, and I’m really happy. The best part of my role is working in the kitchen because there’s always lots to do, and I like talking to everyone. The people are great here – they are always happy and friendly. I feel like I’m part of the team and I belong. And Kerrie is the best boss that I’ve had. I really like coming to work here!”
– Prue Lelean, Office Support
IT, digital & online media services | 10,001+ employees
After being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Cecilia Fang was determined to keep bringing her whole self to work. She shares how Microsoft Australia supports her to do this:
“There are general accommodations such as flexible working, quiet spaces in the office, access to counseling services and resources, and accessibility education. I have benefitted from these at Microsoft and have loved the hybrid work model and how accommodating my managers have been to how I want to structure my day.
“Microsoft has promoted open conversations about neurodiversity and we have active Accessibility and Women at Microsoft ERGs that run quarterly events. We had our biannual Inclusive event a few months ago – this was a dedicated day where we brought in external and internal speakers to discuss accessibility in the workplace. Events like this foster open dialogue and connection at workplaces, which is important to reduce stigma so more employees can show up authentically.
“Finally, I want to highlight the importance of technology and design. Being a tech company, we champion the use of many tools that benefit both neurotypical and neurodivergent users. I love using Viva Insights to organize my work schedule more productively and booking focus time. I also must do a cheeky plug for Copilot for Teams, which automatically transcribes and takes meeting notes for me, so if I miss a meeting or lose focus, it’s easy for me to catch up.
“It’s important that we provide general accommodations for employees who don’t feel comfortable disclosing their neurodivergence, but additionally, neurodiversity is a spectrum – and each person’s experience and challenges are varied, so I think it’s important we make thoughtful adjustments to accommodate these unique needs.”
Consulting & professional services | 5,001-10,000 employees
EY Oceania has demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting neurodivergent women through various initiatives and programs:
- SwitchedOn Program: EY Australia partnered with the Brain & Mind Centre to introduce an autism employment program that offers internships to candidates at various stages of their careers, providing valuable work experience and opportunities for professional growth.
- EY Neurodiversity November Campaign: Each November is dedicated to celebrating neurodiversity and raising awareness internally about the strengths and skills that neurodivergent people bring to the workplace.
- ND Community Connect Group: An employee resource group specifically for neurodivergent individuals, providing a safe and supportive space for neurodivergent people to connect, share experiences and access resources.
- Training: They have hosted various training sessions to build organization-wide neuro-inclusive capability.
- Toolkits: These resources are designed to signpost workplace adjustments and resources for ADHD, dyslexic, and autistic individuals, while also helping to educate leaders on how they can best support team members in the workplace.
- Autism Workplace Champions (AWC) Initiative: Engages volunteers with varied experiences with autism (including some autistic individuals and some who are parents or carers of autistic individuals) to help embed autism acceptance and foster psychological safety for autistic individuals.
- Marking awareness weeks and months: Acknowledging and celebrating various awareness weeks and months, including dyslexia awareness week, ADHD awareness month, and autism acceptance month.
- Neurodiversity Strategy: In consultation with EY Australia’s neurodivergent community, a neurodiversity strategy is being co-designed.