In work, how much focus is there on input as opposed to output? Jobs and projects are often defined by the number of hours that must be worked, where and when they must be worked, the personal qualities and experiences that are required to be inputted and so on. By defining such matters at the outset, there is a sense that this will inexorably lead to the desired result.
Time and Motion
A prominent human time-motion study was carried out by Frederick Taylor. An employee’s work in a factory would be timed with a stopwatch and from that the output would be calculated. Human beings were treated as automatons and indeed much of the manufacturing work done in Taylor’s era would be done by machines today. There was an emphasis on control within strictly defined limits with no flexibility for a person to manage their own input in the way that suited them and their lives in order to reach the same output destination.
Start at the destination
Output is crucial as it is how we define and measure attainment and how we tackle the bottom line of making money.
Begin with the end in mind.
Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
This method requires having a clear, overriding vision of what the outcome should be and then crystallising that into a useable set of statements. If you have an output mission statement, the question arises as to what extent you need to control input.
For example, “outgoing” may be used as recruiting requirement for new employees. But if a person is working from home on invoicing with little direct human contact, is “outgoing” really an absolutely necessary quality? The output is that a certain number of invoices need to be processed in timely manner. If that is fulfilled, the intended outcome has been reached. The employee concerned may indeed be an introvert or someone who is neurodiverse but who thrives on procedure and steadily gets the job done well.
Getting the most out of employees and hitting targets is an art form, with styles ranging from micro-management to complete laissez-faire. By focusing on the output, however, a worker has more freedom about how to reach the point of success.
Clearly some sectors are, of their nature, regimented. NHS nurses and those operating customer service helplines must be present at certain times and follow defined procedures. But a more nuanced approach can be used to effect where there is scope for autonomy.
For example, if you need a project to be completed in a month, is it necessary to dictate exactly how it is done? A person can work flexibly to suit their needs, doing the work later on in the evening, at home, or whenever is convenient. Obviously, the worker would need to be available to participate in relevant team meetings and would need some supervision along the way. But checking in on whether the work is being doing correctly is not the same as checking up how the employee is doing it in terms of personal time management and working strategy.
When it comes to machines, we have chemistry and physics equations to help us determine precisely what goes in, when, in what proportions and what should come out. Humans are rather more complicated, approaching matters according to their personal characteristics, commitments and lifestyles. When it comes to people, different inputs can create the same output. With that in mind, it’s now time to take the “output challenge” and review how we recruit and manage people
As part of National Autism Awareness Week 2021, Find Your Flex is here to help raise awareness. To assist to cultivate much needed change within the workplace in regards to autistic people.
COVID-19 has given pause for much thought over the last year. In many ways the pandemic has given the opportunity to make a fresh start. It is impossible to deny that some societal practices continued until they were forced to stop. Now that we are in position to move forward, certain mindsets must be left behind. Especially the inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace.
Autism Awareness: Employer Inclusivity
When it comes to neurodiverse people, employers in the UK are not accommodating or inclusive enough. That seems like a harsh blanket statement. Sadly, there is concrete evidence to back this up. Only 22% of autistic adults are employed in the UK as of 2020. In a modern society claiming to be forward-thinking, diversified and inclusive, these statistics are unacceptable.
Employers need to be making stronger commitments to inclusive cultures. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, talented people are able to enter the workforce, utilise their skills and grow. Secondly employers and organisations reap the benefits of a more creative and innovative team. It is baffling that there are not more neurodiverse people in the workplace. They are a massive pool of exceptional talent and missed opportunities.
Be Aware of what Autistic People bring to the table
Employers need to be aware of what they are potentially missing out on. There are some exceptionally talented people looking for work. Being neurodiverse shouldn’t be a factor in them not finding employment. Autistic people may need to work in a different way than what employers are used to. All it requires is an understanding employer and an open conversation about how they work best.
The National Autistic Society, interviewed Jamie Knight; Senior Research Engineer at the BBC. Jamie has a number of important roles, including developing software, conduct tech maintenance and ensuring their apps and services are running properly. This is just one example of how much neurodiverse people can bring to the table at a senior level. This is for one of the most globally recognised organisations; the BBC. This is definitely an indicator for more organisations to follow this example and really take an internal look at their recruitment process.
Autism Awareness: Perceiving the World around us
The first aspect of autism awareness employers need to recognise is that they need to rid themselves of existing mindsets. Neurodiverse people perceive the world differently than people who are not neurodiverse. This is the mindset employers and society in general must adopt if they haven’t already. For example; a faulty lightbulb in a lit room can be slightly annoying but easy to ignore for some people. Yet for an autistic person this can be something potentially debilitating.
In NAS’s interview with Jamie Knight, he sums up perfectly how employers and society in general should view neurodiverse people:
“Look, its not that I’m defective, it’s that the environment is disabling me. So if I start modifying the environment, it will stop disabling me. I’ll still remain impaired … But I can stop it from having a negative impact on my life.”
And this is key when employing neurodiverse people. Make small changes to the workplace environment, interactions and overall processes. This will accommodate someone who can prove to be an invaluable asset. Making this less of an inconvenience and more of investment. General acceptance and adapting to people is an easy part of creating a more inclusive environment. Jaimie has Lion with him at all times as he says he helps to keep him happy. And Lion even acts as an indicator for how Jaimie is feeling. When neurodiverse people are comfortable in their environment they can thrive as well as anyone else. Any employer can see this as a positive thing which they can prosper from.
Recruitment Process: Inclusivity & Accommodation
Accommodating neurodiverse people does not start once they are in the job. It needs to start at the beginning of the recruitment process. Job descriptions can sometimes ask for too much. Listing a number unnecessary requirements as “essential” to the job, when in practice they are not. This isn’t just an issue that concerns neurodiverse people, but it does present a greater barrier for them more so than others.
Employers casually include “essential requirements” in job descriptions without thinking much of it. Such as: ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘must work well in a team’. These skills can often be included in job descriptions where the employee would be mostly working independently or would not need to interact much with others to do the job well. If this is the case, why are these skills part of the essential criteria? An autistic person will see this and automatically move on as they may not have these skills, yet they could have been exceptional in that role. However, sometimes their exceptional abilities can get falsely interpreted. This is where the myth surrounding splinter skills autism should be noted. Splinter skill is a term used for people on the spectrum who do well in certain domains or areas. That is, they could be good at art or playing piano, which might seem amazing. However, it is very rare and they still face challenges in their social life. So, recruiters should keep in mind that instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, they should be searching for the right candidate. Consider what really is essential and what is not.
The same is true for the interview process. Candidate assessments in interviews can include asking vague, open ended questions and reading body language. An autistic person should not be assessed in this way as it is unfair; they perceive things differently and may not perform well under this kind of assessment. A better assessment of their performance would be to give them a trial in the appropriate role and asses their performance this way. Employers need to adopt these changes in practice if they are aiming to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.
Why Flexible Working for Neurodiverse People is Key
Flexible working should be available for everyone, yet it is a key element of working life for neurodiverse people. For an autistic person, aspects in and out of the workplace can derail them for the rest of the day. And as previously stated; neurodiverse people perceive things differently and therefore have to cope with this in a different way. Therefore it is completely unfair, inappropriate and ignorant to expect neurodiverse people to operate on fixed shifts all the time with no room for compromise.
This not only shows a total lack of autism awareness but is a totally regressive way of working. If companies maintain this approach they are making no effort to facilitate a diverse and inclusive working environment. Now it is true that some neurodiverse people require structure and benefit from having fixed shifts. That is fine, flexible working does not effect that. It simply means the company can work around neurodiverse employees if their environment has left them incapable of operating under their normal hours for whatever reason. This is why flexible working is an essential requirement for neurodiverse people which all organisations should adopt. They outcome can only be positive.
Autism Awareness: Improve Lives
Like anyone else, neurodiverse people may want a certain level of independence, sense of achievement and purpose. For most adults, these aspects of life are defined by their careers. We achieve independence through the money we make from our job to become self reliant. We often strive for achievements within our job and measure our success with these. Often our career is literally the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, giving our lives structure and purpose. Neurodiverse people deserve to have the opportunity for these basic fundamental parts of life that everyone is entitled to.
Employers are the ones with the ability to make this happen. This can be done simply by creating a more inclusive and diverse environment. It can not be understated the impact this can have on the life of a neurodiverse person. All too often the base need they have is structure and nothing provides this more than a career which will also grant them a certain level of independence. This is the way forward in a post-COVID world, employers and society need to embrace this sooner rather than later.
“The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a non-profit organisation leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusion and diversity in a practical and uniquely measurable way. The TTC’s ultimate goal is that the UK tech sector becomes truly inclusive and a reflection of the society which it represents. There are now over 500 UK employers of tech involved with the TTC and working together to drive change.
Signatories of the TTC make a number of pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. Although it is very much an employer-led initiative, the TTC is supported by the UK Government’s Digital Strategy.”
Their goal: that the UK tech sector becomes truly inclusive, reflecting the society which it represents. They focus on the how, not just the why of inclusion.
Why We’ve Joined TTC
We want to see the innovators innovate, the entrepreneurs create and organisations step up with corporate social responsibility. Our belief is that diversity and inclusion is the key to better futures for both employees and for business. We know we can play our part by driving access to flexible working and raising the profile of those employers who share our beliefs.
We might only be a micro business but by joining forces with The TTC we are saying that everyone can make a difference. Consider that
only 19% of the workforce in the tech industry are women. Yet over 50% of women surveyed by the TTC would retrain in tech given the support and opportunity.
research commissioned by the Fawcett Society revealed that 1 in 3 working mothers lost work or hours due to childcare needs, that women were more likely than men to lose work or be burdened with childcare during the crisis, and that ethnic minority women were more likely to have concerns about losing their jobs.
the latest McKinsey Report on diversity reveals that businesses who embrace D&I are not only more innovative and profitable but are also attracting and retaining quality talent.
and you can see there is work to be done.
Our mission as a flexible working jobs board is to bring true flexible working roles to everyone. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, parental status etc. We work closely with employers who already value flexible working. We hope to bring the issue of automation and re-skilling to the forefront of their strategies.
We believe that with the TTC and their signatories we can drive a movement for change. One that benefits all members of society regardless of which gender you were born, what your socio economic background is or which ethnic group you belong to.
”The importance of greater inclusion and diversity in tech is, thankfully, no longer up for debate. Sectors and organisations now need to work together to shift the dial – and this will happen a lot quicker if we pool our successes, failures, ideas and learn from them to bring about real structural change.
In our inaugural report we stressed the importance of collaboration. One single company can’t do it alone, which is why we’re asking organisations to sign up to the Tech Talent Charter and join the movement (now approximately 500 Signatories). Companies can also access our TTC Toolkit, a set of free resources designed to help organisations improve their inclusion and diversity”.
There has been something of a women’s revolution going on in society. Inspirational women are stepping forward and speaking out on a united front. To abolish stigmas, gender pay gaps and recognise how strong, smart, and savvy women are.
In honour and recognition of International Women’s Day 2021, we will be looking at some powerful and inspirational women; historical figures and current trail blazers. The Find Your Flex team have put forward their candidates for women who deserve recognition.
1: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
(Image Credit: The Telegraph/Holly Godfrey)
A woman who punched the glass ceiling until it shattered. No matter how many times the institutions and government of her time tried to reinforce it. In the early 19th century there were few roles for women to fill in life. In the 1800’s, a woman’s the best lot in life was to make an agreeable marriage. Living life as a wife, mother and lady of leisure. For Elizabeth Garrett Anderson this was nowhere near enough. Believing that if her education was as good as any man’s, she should could enter the same profession.
Anderson’s dream was to become a doctor, something unheard of in Britain during those days. This didn’t stop her from going down every avenue to get there. After exploiting to legal technicalities, the institution amended rules so no woman could do the same. Setting her own rules, Anderson opened her own hospital. As an added gesture of defiance had it staffed solely by women. Anderson became the first practicing female doctor in British history.
Thanks to her tenacity, the rules were changed to allow women in Britain to become doctors. Anderson would achieve another first, after retirement she became mayor of Aldeburgh. The first woman in British history to become a mayor. Anderson was a staunch supporter of the suffragette movement. Her own daughter (no doubt in part due to having such an inspiring mother) was a prominent figure. Anderson’s refusal to back down helped to break the mould of what women could achieve.
If you call Dolly Parton a legend of country music, you’d be right, but that would be such a small tip of the iceberg. She travelled to Nashville ‘the home of country music’, at the young age of 18. She used irony, stereotypes and her looks to get her foot in the door. But once inside, she used her personality to slam it behind her.
In looks Parton fit the mould of what it meant to be a female country singer. In personality she broke it into pieces. Dolly used irony to her advantage. While portraying a stylish, busty blonde, her music was attacking stereotypes. Her first chart record was “Dumb Blonde” took clear shots at misogynistic views on women. Many of Dolly’s songs had subliminal messages about the strength of women. Though in 1966, the was nothing subtle about a song she released called “Just Because I’m a Woman”. The song she challenged double-standards, calling out how poorly men can treat women and get away with it.
Despite clear implications of her music, Parton remained ambiguous about her views on feminism. Parton became one of the most globally recognised music stars of all time and in many ways does not get the credit she deserves. She was challenging female stereotypes and gender double standards during risky periods. Dolly Parton is not just an inspirational woman in music. But an inspirational woman period.
3: Anita Roddick
(Image Credit: Twitter @TheBodyShop)
Anita Roddick is an inspiring business woman and entrepreneur who founded The Body Shop. She was humble, claiming that certain things happened by accident and led to success. Yet those inspired by her can see that she had the business savvy to capitalise on these “accidents”. She was an understated figure of female empowerment. Recognised for this, she was awarded the 1991 World Vision Award for Development Initiative.
Roddick had the vision to look at the long term implications of her business decisions. When she sold Body Shop to L’Oréal, she faced some harsh criticism. At the time reports suggested they used animal testing. Something Roddick claimed to be against. Her response was that she likened them move to being like ‘Trojan Horse’. She would have an input on the company’s decisions, as would the suppliers of Body Shop. This proved to be true. L’Oréal currently claim to be world leaders in abolishing animal testing. Something Roddick may be directly or indirectly responsible for.
Roddick was also a notable activist and philanthropist, involved in many charities. She founded Children on the Edge (COTE). Aiding overcrowded conditions in orphanages dealing with catastrophic issues. Roddick became an advocate for people suffering with Hepatitis C, as she too suffered from this disease. Upon her death she reportedly donated the entirety of her fortune to charity. Anita Roddick was pinnacle of what it mean to be a great business woman. One who gives back, any young aspiring entrepreneur should take inspiration from her.
4: Serena Williams
(Image Credit: The New York Times/David Gray/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, breaking and setting records. Williams has broken down race and gender barriers through her passion and outspoken persona. From a young age she faced racism, her father was protective over her and her sister Venus on this matter. Racial discrimination continued throughout her adult career. Her gender was also a point of contention as the world of tennis was a white male dominated world.
Serena was criticized for her cultural hair style and faced many other derogatory comments early on. Serena along with her father and sister, boycotted the Indian Wells when her family received racial abuse. She openly challenges officials for sexist discrimination and is often outspoken. She has done a lot to empower women. Inspiring them to push themselves in athletic professions and shedding light on the significant gender pay gap in most sports. Serena is a trail blazer in shattering the idea of a what a woman is “supposed to look like”. Abolishing the image of what conventional beauty is.
She has done much to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Vocalising personal concerns and what needs to change. Williams has stood up for the LGBT community. When other members of her profession have made disparaging remarks. She used her personal successes to abolish gender pay gaps and to push for more equality across the board. This included becoming one of the highest paid athletes in the world two years in a row through sponsorships. Owing to her immense popularity as a female role model, in any list of inspirational women, Serena Williams stands out.
5: Tanni Grey-Thompson
(Image Credit: The Telegraph)
Its one thing to make such a long lasting mark in sports. But to go on to a career in politics and make your mark defines inspirational women. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson is one such woman, born with spina bifida and requiring a wheelchair. Grey-Thompson would go on to become one of the most accomplished disabled athletes in the UK. Grey-Thompson achieved a BA (Hons) Degree in Politics and Social Administration. She would return to the subject of her degree later on in life, after making an impact in athletics.
Tanni would start her Paralympic career at the Junior National Games for Wales in 1984. Grey-Thompson became an inspiration to women and people suffering with disabilities. She won 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which were gold. She held 30 track world records during her time competing in both 100m and 400m. Grey-Thompson’s last Paralympic Games were in Athens in 2004.
She has won many awards including being voted UK Sporting Hero by UK sports. Grey-Thompson returned to her academic routes, becoming an Independent Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. Aside from her role in sport and in politics, Grey-Thompson is involved with many charities. Being an advocate for disabled people in sports, using her own success to inspire others. She made an impact in the world of sports. And to transition from that into the daunting world of politics is beyond admirable.
6: Malala Yousafzai
(Image Credit: The New York Post/Getty Images)
There are still countries where women are confined to only having children and being wives. Malala Yousafzai was only a child when she began speaking out for women’s rights in Pakistan. Malala’s unyielding bravery brought her a lot of media attention. She gave interviews to both the BBC and the New York Times. She became so notable she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize.
At the age of 15, on her way home from school on the bus a gunman for the Taliban boarded the vehicle. Malala was shot in the head and left in a critical condition. She was sent to the Quean Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and would go on to make a full recovery. The attack resulted in the United Nations denouncing and condemning the Taliban. The attempt to silence her only strengthened Yousafzai’s resolve. She continued to speak out and raise awareness. After her recovery, she studied at Oxford University. Earning a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economy.
In 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She brought awareness to the fact that in some parts of the world girls and women are no were near able fight for equal pay and recognition. Because they are still in the midst of fighting for basic human rights that we all take for granted. There are many inspirational women throughout history who deserve recognition. Malala Yousafzai will go down as one of the greatest activists in history.
In the world of figures that cultivated change, a name than cannot go unmentioned is Rosa Parks. Children today are taught about the brave, young woman who faced extreme racial discrimination. And refused to vacate her seat on the bus for a white person. Parks would become one of the most prominent figures in history. She was part of the civil rights movement, along with Martin Luther King Jr..
Her actions led to the Montgomery bus boycott. Where people of colour refused to use bus services in Montgomery for over a year. Rosa’s arrest would lead to the abolishment of bus segregation laws. This would have greater implications moving forward. Segregation was prominent in Alabama in the 1950’s. Furthermore, Rosa’s defiance was even more frowned upon due the fact that she was a woman. Its hard to believe that this event only happened 7 decades ago. As the years go on Rosa’s actions receive more recognition for the chain of events they led to. Rosa remained a part of the “Black Power” movement and continued to speak out for equal rights.
However, Rosa’s life after the event only became more difficult. She lost her job as a result of her arrest and began receiving death threats because of it. The long term implications of Park’s actions would come to fruition in later years. Despite this, Rosa remained outspoken about the need for further justice and change. Sadly, Rosa was correct in this regard, as the fight against racial discrimination goes on. Though, Rosa’s legacy gives strength and resolve to those continuing the fight. Without her actions the fight would be that much harder. Without a doubt, someone who stands up for themselves and others in the face of extreme adversity is an inspirational woman indeed.
8: Ronda Rousey
(Image Credit: Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)
There is an argument that the woman responsible for changing the gender imbalance in combat sports is Ronda Rousey. Ronda began a judo career and proved successful. Rousey became the first American to win a medal in judo since its inception at the Olympics. She began training in Mixed Martial Arts. The powers that be declared that no one wanted to watch two women legitimately trying to hurt each other in MMA. But with women in other sports becoming more polarizing. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) realised they needed to make a change.
The first female signee was Ronda Rousey. She became the inaugural UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Rousey participated in the first UFC female fight in history. She would remain undefeated for years, gaining global popularity. During this time, Rousey was voted the best female athlete of all-time in a 2015 ESPN fan poll. After Rousey lost for the first time and again in her returning rematch, she retired. She was the first female inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018.
In 2015, WWE began evolving its women’s division to focus more on wrestling rather than looks. Many believed that Rousey’s success in UFC was a large part of inciting this change in wrestling. Rousey began competing in WWE in 2018. She would feature in the first ever women’s main event in Wrestlemania history. Ronda has broken down many barriers for women in sports, earning many “firsts” for women. She has spoken about how she suffered with body image as a child. Bullied for looking too masculine due to her athletic physique and interest in video games. Many have credited Ronda as being one of the driving forces for change in women receiving equal recognition to men. Proving herself a force to be reckoned with and can be proud to know she is one of societies most inspirational women.
9: Bethenny Frankel
(Image Credit: businessinsider.com/Richard Feloni and Sarah Wyman)
Most people reading this may recognise the name Bethenny Frankel as one of The Real Housewives of New York City. Bethenny had a mentally abusive mother who had a physically abusive relationship with her step-father. Bethenny would leave home and moved to Los Angeles with one goal: to become a success. She worked as a nanny for Paris Hilton before becoming the personal assistant of Jerry and Linda Bruckheimer. After this she started her own baked goods business. When the Bravo network contacted her to be part of RHONYC, she saw an opportunity to promote her business.
Bethenny became a fan favourite for her blunt, snarky, charismatic attitude. She was unafraid to laugh at herself, while equally unafraid to call people out. During this time Frankel created the ‘Skinnygirl Margarita’. A move that would have major implications for her. Frankel published several books and was offered her own spin-off and talk shows. Bethenny launched the first ever low-calorie cocktail line branded Skinnygirl Cocktails. Through partnerships, she grew the line to include other alcoholic beverages, foods and apparels.
Suffering mental and emotional abuse throughout her divorce. Her experiences would lead her to found Bstrong. A charity providing financial support for women that feel trapped in abusive situations. When Frankel saw the devastation caused by natural disasters, she raised millions. Travelling to destinations such as Houston, Mexico City and Puerto Rico. Bethenny Frankel ticks all the boxes of what it means to be strong in the list of inspirational women. Someone who has suffered abuse, became a successful business woman and given back to people less fortunate than herself.
10: Rose McGowan
(Image Credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
One of the biggest movements began when women stepped forward revealing the corruption and abuse of Hollywood. The most notable case involved then movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Rose McGowan was one of the “Silence Breakers” to step forward and accuse Weinstein of rape. McGowan’s first notable appearance was in the horror film Scream. She starred in some other notable films. In 1997, she was recommended to Weinstein and an encounter took place in which she was sexually assaulted.
In 2017, a story broke in the New York times. Many well-known figures in the film industry, accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. The number would grow to over 100 people and McGowan’s voice was one of the loudest. These events would lead to the MeToo movement. A massive global movement that encouraged victims of sexual abuse to step forward and call out the perpetrators. Rose would continue to bring awareness to the corruption of Hollywood. Calling out other industry figures for being complacent and looking the other way.
McGowan became an outspoken activist for LGBT and women’s rights. She shaved her long hair. Stating the image of conventual beauty depicted by Hollywood needed abolishing. That women should perpetuate their individual beauty. She has published her auto-biography Brave detailing her experiences. One thing is without dispute, Rose McGowan is the pinnacle of what brave, inspirational women are. One who refuses to fall in line and be silenced. By those who think they will always get away with it because of their gender and position.
Inspirational Women, Honourable Mentions:
Audrey Hepburn – Hepburn was a notable actress in the 1950s onwards. As a child she survived Nazi occupied Holland. She became a globally recognised actress. She did a lot for charity. Hepburn travelled to third world countries to meet underprivileged people and raise awareness
Kelly Hoppen – Hoppen is a notable business woman how began a career as an interior designer at the young age of 16. She built her empire and would go on to design home, yachts and private jets for celebrities and high-end clients. She would be a ‘Dragon’ on the show Dragons Den. Helping to support small businesses through investing and mentoring.
Amelia Sordell – “I am a boss. Not a girl boss. I am an entrepreneur. Not a female entrepreneur. I am a business owner. Not a woman in business. The sooner we drop gender from these phrases the better. Maybe we should start calling people ‘Male Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Boy Bosses’ to see how stupid it sounds.”.
There are many more inspirational women, past and present. These inspirational women have made a difference either by actively seeking change or achieving it through their personal success. We honour all women on International Women’s Day 2021. Which strong, brave, clever, tenacious woman do you take inspiration from?
When is epilepsy considered a disability? Epilepsy comes in many forms. Some more severe than others. According to The Equality Act 2010: “You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” The Equality Act 2010 aims to ensure all people are treated fairly and not discriminated against. This applies to employment, school and learning, and accessing services.
We are sharing a personal account from a member of our own team. Barbara’s working life began before The Equality Act was passed. Barbara suffers from epilepsy and wanted to share her story about how it has affected her working life.
Diversity and Inclusion. These two words mean a lot to me and I wish that 47 years ago it had meant something to employers. Sadly in my experience it meant nothing. I suffer from Epilepsy, an invisible disability yet it certainly becomes incredibly visible when you have a seizure.
I was diagnosed with epilepsy (petit mal with grand mal fits) at the age of 17. Albeit I’d been having fits since I was 11. This coincided with the removal of my appendix. Things were very different back in the 60’s. So there I am, a 17 year old wanting to be one of the crowd. However I didn’t feel I could be. I wanted a Saturday job, to drive a car, to go out with my friends without my (fabulous) parents keeping a beady eye on me constantly. These things, which may seem normal to a lot of people, were out of reach for me.
Telling The Truth About My Epilepsy To Potential Employers
The job was the most important issue. The need to earn my own money was strong. I wanted my independence to buy those Levis or the new Cat Stevens album. I walked around my hometown going into every shop and everyone asked, was I healthy? Being honest, I felt I had no option but to tell the truth. When I told potential employers I suffered from epilepsy, the response was a resounding no. They couldn’t risk me having a fit (as they were known then) in front of people. I felt so deflated. I felt like the odd one out and I was.
Lying About My Epilepsy Got Me A Job
Not to be deterred I changed tactics. When looking for a role, I lied. I said I had no health issues. What a difference, 4 offers of jobs. I was so excited. And so I started working on a Saturday at a well-known shoe shop and then the worst happened. I had a seizure whilst working. Subsequently, I was hauled off to hospital (and had no memory of it) to be popped in a corner as there was nothing they could do. My parents collected me. They then had to break the news to me that I had been sacked from my role. I was sacked for not being honest and also as their customers did not want to see a member of staff having a seizure.
From a confident and outgoing teenager, I became angry and hurt. I had no understanding why my disability should prevent me from working. I wanted to be a children’s nurse. Sadly however due to my epilepsy I was not allowed. Nothing else at the time was good enough. It was really hard.
Finally An Employer Who Understood
It took me until I was 21 to find a permanent job with a company that had faith in me, despite my epilepsy. The company was ‘Clinique’ part of the Estee Lauder Group. I remember like it was yesterday them saying it was about me, not my epilepsy. Luckily I generally knew when I was going to have a seizure. I would just tell my manager, no more ambulances and hospitals.
I did not stay there forever but they gave me my confidence back. A determination to fight the discrimination against disabilities. Most of all, be proud of who I was, epilepsy and all.
Sadly as a country we had to wait until 2010 for the Equality Act. I was 54, already having battled most of my working life through discrimination. Life wasn’t all bad though, I have three fantastic children despite being told not to have any.
A Message About Inclusion To Employers
My message to employers is this. Remember, there are so many invisible disabilities and people have a right to be included in the workplace without judgment. These are strong and talented people who want a chance to have a successful career, a job they love and to be part of the team. They don’t want sympathy, they want your understanding.
Hence why flexible working is the way forward, it is the future of work. If an employee needs a different way or place to work, this should be discussed without judgment or prejudice. By embracing inclusion every employer has a lot to gain. Every disabled person has something to offer, they don’t let their disability get in their way, especially when it’s so easy these days to find disability insurance from a website like this, so don’t let employment discrimination stop them either.
Be kind, you never know what people are going through.
Thank you Barbara for sharing your story. I’m sure many can relate when it comes to being honest about health issues with potential employers.
Diversity and Inclusion are two key components of our values here at The Find Your Flex Group. We firmly believe that flexible working and an inclusive work culture not only encourages but drives diversity. The benefits of diversity are numerous. For example higher retention rates, a bigger talent pool to recruit from, increased innovation not to mention the benefits for the individuals.
For further advice about living with epilepsy and employment:
A Bid To Make Positive Changes From Within Parliament
Mother Pukka lobbied the welsh assembly & parliament for more flex appeal. Joeli Brealey is taking government to court over it. Cheney Hamilton, CEO & Founder of the The Find Your Flex Group of companies is taking a different root to change and has taken the first step to become an MP by joining the 50:50 Parliamentary Group supporting women with a passion for politics and change, supported by the Labour Party female MP’s…. To make change from within parliament for everyone in the UK.
Follow her journey as she takes her first steps into the world of politics, meets her ‘buddy’, learns the ropes in her constituency and shadows female MPs at Westminster. All whilst continuing to advocate for workers rights, flexible working and Diversity & Inclusion in her ‘day job’.