Dyslexia and Neurodiversity in Employment

Jayms Brooks  • 

It’s hard being different or treated differently to others, isn’t it? You feel isolated from the world and sometimes, made to feel abnormal, simply because you don’t exhibit ‘obvious’ traits that people would normally associate with neurological disorders.

Even harder to be told you’re not normal. What is normal? It’s a strange concept, stamped by the masses to create a fake construct of ‘normality’. Then you enter the world of employment, thinking that things will be different in a world full of adults, but it isn’t, it’s hard, unfair and weighted to this construct of ‘normal’ 

It shouldn’t be like this at all, and whilst the world is taking a different stance on things like disability, Neurodiversity, race and gender - it still has a long way to go. 

For the record, we’re not meaning to sideline any industry or sector with this article but we’re a creative digital marketing agency - it’s where our experiences lie and where we’ll be focussing the article, for the most part. We tend to find that Neurodiverse people gravitate towards creative roles, and our industry is the perfect place for people with ADHD, Dyslexia and other Neurodiverse areas and frankly, Digital Fuel strives to be an inclusive agency who welcomes talented individuals regardless of gender, race or Neurodiverse traits.

Are we the first? No but we’re in full support of Neurodiversity in full time employment and certainly with the creative sector.

Digital agencies are starting to value Neurodiversity. Media agency m/SIX launched what it claims is the first internship programme designed to actively champion neurodiversity, and it’s been such a success that it was extended from two months to three. 

So, why are we talking about Neurodiversity?

With the lead up to Go Red For Dyslexia on 15th October we feel it’s appropriate to discuss this. Also our founder and CEO, Toby Oddy is a Neurodiverse individual - who happens to be successful, a creative thinker and an all round decent bloke.

“The fact that neurodiversity is being celebrated, makes me so grateful. Go Red for Dyslexia is significant for me as I have Dyslexia and the gift of ADHD which I had diagnosed in the last couple of years. It was not a shock but was difficult to accept initially, finding out made so many things fall into place. What followed was an acceptance of who I really am and how I fit into the world. I am fortunate as through this I have been supported by my wonderful wife and family who have been a constant strength to me.

I have so many memories of being made to feel ashamed and told I was stupid when I was just a kid. I was told that I would never be a success or even have a job.  Nobody at that time knew how diverse neurodiversity is and what it meant. It just was not talked about; I was simply labelled a troublemaker.

Instead, I have worked since I was 14, when I was sent home from school and told not to bother coming back. I started with manual jobs. My parents worked hard and instilled that work ethic in me, I was so lucky that they loved and supported me no matter what.  

I have always seen the world differently and brought to the table alternative ways to think about a problem or a situation. Being neurodiverse gives us a skill which allows us to keep going and face any problem. But more importantly, it gives us an empathy for others and an interest in them as individuals.

I went from manual work to founding a Digital Marketing Agency where  creativity and thinking differently is a requirement of the job.

I spend my time helping and working with people no matter what their backgrounds are or what badges they have.  Anyone can be anything, diversity and inclusion are what drives creativity and change, it is what makes the world a better place to live.” 

Toby Oddy, CEO - Digital Fuel

Some facts for you!

Talented Neurodiverse applicants will not be hard to find. You don’t even have to look that far back in history to find Neurodiverse individuals making key contributions to science, business and life in general;

Alan Turing

One of the most innovative thinkers and brilliant mathematicians, responsible for cracking Enigma code, shortening World War 2 and saving millions of lives. His Turing test, a test to determine whether computers can exhibit human behaviour, is still used today. He was considered ‘antisocial’ at school but turned to the sciences, rather than other subjects considered to be more important, at that time.

Albert Einstein

One of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, whose theory of relativity and achievements in modern physics not only earned him the Nobel Prize but also a place in history for his contributions to science (and the world). Einstein displayed signs of dyslexia at school, famously having issues with spelling and grammar - although this is theorised rather than fact, there is evidence to suggest that he would be considered dyslexic using today’s tests.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, one of the world's most successful and popular car manufacturers still today. He struggled with dyslexia throughout his life, using it to his advantage often repeating actions over and over until they became second nature. 

Richard Branson

Richard Branson has been refreshingly open about his struggles with ADHD and Dyslexia but despite this and dropping out of school at 15 he became one of the world’s most influential businessmen, founding the Virgin brand including Virgin Records, Airlines and Banking. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that his innovative way of thinking and vivid imagination made him and his businesses what they are today.

Bill Gates

Another Neurodiverse individual, thought to be ‘incapable of learning’ in his formative years. However, Bill Gates went on to build Microsoft, one of the largest and most successful technology companies in the world today. 

Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich was given the title ‘Least likely to succeed at school’ having struggled with learning difficulties and Dyslexia. However, she didn’t let this stop her from becoming one of the worlds greatest environmental activists and consumer advocates, commencing litigation procedures against huge corporations with seemingly insurmountable odds against her and the claimants. She also consults with some of America’s top legal firms, a modern day David and Goliath story.

Ann Bancroft

Ann Bancroft struggled in school with spelling, reading and mathematics, she was formally diagnosed with Dyslexia in grade 7. Despite this she went on to be the first woman in history to cross the ice to the North Pole, traveling 1,000 miles by dogsled from Canada’s Northwest Territories. A few years later, she headed an all-woman team to the South Pole, becoming the first female to cross the ice to both the North and South Poles. Bancroft also led the first American women’s team to transit Greenland.

The list above is biased towards men, and this is a problem within the medical industry where around 75% of women are not diagnosed with ADHD until later in life and are three times less likely to receive a diagnosis than men when it comes to Neurodiverse conditions. We’re not trying to be controversial, and definitely not sexist but researching famous Neurodiverse women came up with a list of singers or actresses (notably Emma Watson, Cher and Lily Allan), rather than key women throughout history changing the field of business, medicine, science and activism - who sadly, given the statistic above, were simply not diagnosed. 

The industry needs breakthrough ideas and technologies more than ever in these times of enforced, accelerated change and we need to accept and embrace neurodivergent minds, who think in ways others don’t. Without this we could be further behind in terms of business, science, medicine and activism than ever before.

According to the British Dyslexia Association, organisations looking to attract the best dyslexic talent need to adapt their existing recruitment processes. They will need to make adjustments including:

  • Allowing candidates the option to make a verbal application

  • Providing extra time to answer interview questions

  • Implementing an alternative selection process to the AI-powered applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by many organisations to shortlisted candidates, which can discriminate against neurodiverse individuals

The British Dyslexia Association continues to prioritise its work with employers across all sectors to embrace Neurodiversity and create a workforce that is inclusive, productive and future proof.

Digital Fuel selects it’s candidates based on their talents, skill sets and above all else passion.

To conclude, if you’re a talented individual currently working in, or wanting a career in Digital Marketing - whether you’re Neurodiverse or not, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you.


Interested in working together?

Contact our team to get started.

Get in touch