Nancy Doyle Nancy DoyleContributor
This week as part of my #ShareTheMic series I have invited the brilliant Tumi Sotire, known on Twitter and Instagram as The Black Dyspraxic, to talk about his experiences and thoughts on the intersection of race and disability. Tumi is a Research Assistant at The Newcastle University as well as a Neurodiversity advocate. His research interests are the economic consequences of health disparities and he is engaged in some diligent and well-conceived reviews currently. He has a brilliant scientific mind and has had to overcome many barriers in his education and career. I asked him to talk to us about these challenges and their impact.
“Neurodivergent individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD have been educated in a system that was ill designed for them to thrive. Therefore, people with these learning differences will display admirable qualities such as problem-solving skills and determination. Determination to reach the same academic standard and skillset required by businesses whilst displaying valued characteristics and transferable skills for neurodivergents. The set backs are clear but with the right support, individuals who are neurodivergent can be valuable assets to an organization. Growing evidence suggests neurodivergent individuals make successful entrepreneurs and benefit businesses. It is time for business leaders to ask serious questions on how to attract, keep and harness this talent.”
As Tumi has said, people who grow up in an environment that is less than ideal for them have no choice but to become highly resilient and creative with overcoming problems. These are highly valuable skills in the workplace and yet are often not picked up on during the recruitment process. As employers we need to be looking at processes that can assess for a wider variety of talents instead of our constant focus on literacy, numeracy and neurotypically framed people skills. Inherent bias is rife within the working world, Tumi tells us more about the real world impact of this.Recommended For You
“Living with the intersectionality of being a black man with dyspraxia presents the challenge of disentangling whether social barriers presented are due to race or neurodivergence. Companies that are inclusive on the grounds of ethnic diversity are not necessarily organizations with neurodivergent staff.
Business leaders and human resource specialists need an understanding that if black male graduates must strive to work twice as hard to climb the career ladder, neurodivergent individuals must work three times as hard. Striving to be 23 times better than the average graduate is an ever present reality. I cannot begin to depict the typical experience for a black neurodivergent woman. Whilst the truth can be motivating and often inspires me to persevere, for most this is extremely overwhelming. I would appreciate it if business leaders could be more aware of this.
PROMOTEDCivic Nation BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramHow “Black Girls Vote” Empowered Baltimore Residents To Get To The PollsDeloitte BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramWorkforce Strategies For Post-COVID RecoveryJapan BRANDVOICE | Paid ProgramJapan Is Developing The Smart Platforms To Take The Complexity Out Of Logistics
Whilst undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate study, I pursued an array of extracurricular positions such as the presidency of the Afro Caribbean Society. Despite a well-rounded CV and a keen interest in the financial sector, I sought safety in academia. The graduate recruitment process of top commercial institutions, subtly hinted to me, that I was far from a suitable candidate. This should not have been the case.
I have a significant lack of confidence that those institutions would be willing to give me the support I need to perform at my highest potential and therefore be a valued asset. Dyspraxic individuals are often creative visionaries who are full of innovation but face hurdles in graduate recruitment.”
How Can We Improve?
When talented and qualified individuals like Tumi feel that they are not welcome in the top commercial institutions it is clear that we have a problem. The corporate world is chasing talent away and it needs to stop. We are squandering human potential and losing out on assets to our businesses, it’s a lose, lose situation. Tumi offers some food for thought for companies wanting to be more inclusive.“An important factor to consider is the application process. A standard form requiring people to answer a series of questions in 250 words may not be neurodivergent friendly. Those who excel in brainstorming and drafting but may need assistance in the finishing touches, may find the process more difficult. Some neurodivergent individuals may struggle to sell their talents on paper despite having the same intellectual ability.
In light of technological advances and changes in client communication methods, it is time to place further emphasis on video interviews and audio and video recordings instead of the sole written application.
Measures such as recruitment of neurodivergent individuals to growth and strategy teams and think tanks would make the most of these key strengths. In an office setting, the use of writing software such as Grammarly, Dragon, and utilising a supervisor for additional support can make a positive impact on inclusivity and business strategy.”
We Cannot Pick And Choose With Inclusion
Finally, Tumi addressed the need for inclusion policies to stop approaching people as a box ticking exercise.“Businesses still have a way to go to successfully deal with institutional racism and disability bias. In the last five years, many organizations have made steps in the recruitment of graduates from ethnically diverse backgrounds (there is still a lot more to be done), however the same efforts cannot be seen in attracting those who are neurodivergent.
Companies need to do more to be more inclusive to all despite an individual’s race and disabilities. It’s not enough to provide visible diversity schemes, differences amongst staff must be actively reflected in company statistics. Businesses need to have opportunities for those who look like me and have brains wired like mine. Employers must ensure that people who live in this intersectionality are welcomed to work in the company but also given the opportunity to progress within the organization as well. Please remember that people who live within this intersection should not be considered simply to tick two diversity boxes, but can actually be great assets to your business.”
As business leaders we must reflect on this invaluable insight, and bring change from the top down in our industries. Being inclusive is a constant process of actions, a willingness to change and adapt. We are living in a moment where much emotional labour and teaching is being offered to us, failing to listen carries a great cost.