Posted 17 May 2023
Rivera’s Workplace Neurodiversity Rising: Trend For 2023
The Neurodiversity at Work mission has achieved great things in twenty-first century, from its auspicious and authentic start as a self-advocacy movement. We have many of the world’s leading companies advocating affirmative-action on hiring and many companies providing neurodiversity awareness training as a standard package in their equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programs. It is a sign of progress from exclusion, to a basic compliance with the law, to a deliberate attempt to change the structures at work that replicate bias and privilege.
Lyric Rivera, also known on social media as “Neurodivergent Rebel” works as a consultant to many businesses wanting to create space for neurodivergent thinkers. They think we have made progress in the past few years:
“When I first started working with organisations several years ago, pre-pandemic, many corporations were not ready to jump into making things more inclusive. Back then most of the people I worked with were in the public sector, or were charities and non-profits. Since the pandemic, which seems to have resulted in many neurodivergent people discovering themselves and “coming out”, more businesses and corporations are starting to take note.
I have definitely seen an increase in corporate training, and the attitudes of those coming to request the training. I feel people are more willing to let others bring their whole selves to work, now that many of us have literally worked from home and had our home overflow into our work, since before people wanted you to “leave your personal life at the door” which is not practical, kind, or realistic.”
Awareness Training Is Only The First Step
The ”bring your whole self to work” narrative has gained ground in recent years. However, evidence from other diversity and inclusion movements, such as race and gender, have found limited impact from training courses as interventions to increase participation. They tend to create positive attitudes, but are less successful in changing behaviour. However, they open the door to changing the attitudes of those with the power to change behaviour. It is a step on the pathway, but not the destination. When we create space for thinking about inclusion, we can start planning the changes that will facilitate improvement in hiring, onboarding, managing performance and talent – the whole employee life cycle. Rivera has written a follow-up book for those who might attend neurodiversity training, aimed at developing the thinking and practical action for change agents in corporations. It is called Workplace Neurodiversity Rising and plays to the trend that more people are seeking positive change in neuroinclusion.
“This book was written, specifically for organisations who want to be more inclusive of neurodivergent people, but I’ve tried to write this guide in a way so that it will be universally applicable to many scenarios. Workplace NeuroDiversity Rising is intended to be a tool that can help ANYONE who wants to make the world, or the spaces around them more inclusive for neurodivergent (and all) people, in organisations, communities, schools, and beyond.
I have been working with organisations for years, but I am only one person, and there is a LOT of work that needs to be done to fix the world, and our workplaces. I hope this easy to read, affordable, guide will be a valuable tool that can help those who read it start making immediate changes to the spaces around them.”
Rivera’s work offers very clear guidance on where the typical barriers are for neurodivergent employees and helps guide practical steps to reduce these. It is an excellent ‘how to manual’ based on lived experience and professional competence. This is the work that will increase participation, and lead to a more systemically inclusive workplace. Training opens the door, but internal activists and gatekeepers will usher through a more representative workforce.
Intersectionality Equals Maturity
With the movement from legal compliance to systemic change underway, there is a second trend at work in the neurodiversity space – intersectionality. Rivera honours their intersectional experience of marginalisation in the book, of neurodivergence and being a non-binary gender. They share personal stories and signpost allies / change agents towards considering EDI more broadly, as part of their mission to develop neuroinclusivity.
“Human sexuality, human attraction, is a spectrum; just like autism, neurodiversity, and gender are spectrums. These are each separate spectrums that may overlap, on their own continuum. Being neurodivergent and LGBTQIA+ is a common intersection. If it were a venn-diagram it would be two huge circles, with very large overlap in the middle.
Intersectionality is defined by Dictionary.com as: “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
Creating true inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels safe and supported, and is able to show up as their best and most authentic self, because of the support and understanding they receive (or can reasonably expect to receive) from the people around them. Every person in the world has weights that they have to carry with them that can slow us down in life, making it more difficult for us to overcome obstacles and reach our life goals.
Because of this common intersection, it is impossible to be truly inclusive without taking this, and other ways people can be marginalised, into consideration.”
Kimberlé Crenshaw’s ground-breaking work highlighted the invisibility of identities within identities, when these are treated as separate issues. We are previously seen the neurodiversity space critiqued for being unduly white, male, cis-gendered and heterosexually dominated, and even limited to one or two key industries – notably technology and defence. We have also previously seen race, gender, sexuality, disability dealt with separately by corporates, in individual projects and pushes. But as we approach 2023 no reasonable neurodiversity-affirming program remains blinkered to the inequities within, and no reasonable EDI department is failing to understand the need for blended, person-centred approaches to compound adverse impact. An intersectional approach to Neurodiversity is a sign of maturity within the field, an indication that the movement has developed reflexivity – the ability to ponder its own failings and respond positively. Rivera is a forerunner here, showing the trend that we expect to see growing, of dynamic, widely inclusive HR, which transforms increased awareness into action and practical steps.
It is either all of us, or it is not inclusion, is it?