Following last weeks International Day of People with Disabilities, we are taking a look at a particular area that has often faced exclusion. Everyone is becoming increasingly familiar with the term’s diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Yet people tend to use the terms interchangeably without realising they are very different. Diversity is putting everyone together, hoping for the best, and encouraging a ‘fit in culture’. Inclusion is the opposite! Inclusive organisations treat individuals how they want to be treated and build safety, purpose and belonging. This distinction has a significant impact not just on employee satisfaction but on business performance.

There are many push and pull factors influencing the increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Governments are increasingly implementing sanctions to push companies to meet quotas for diversity. In France, for example, companies with more than twenty employees are now legally required to hire 6% of their workforce with a registered disability or face sanctions. Ireland is currently looking at implementing gender quotas on corporate boards.

Yet perhaps more exciting are the pull factors which show an increasing awareness of the benefits of diversity and inclusion to organisations. Recent research by the ESSEC Business School found that organisations were motivated to prioritise diversity and inclusion because it is a source of performance, innovation and they need a workforce that reflects the diversity of the customer base.

As workforces are becoming increasingly diverse, people with a disability are still very underrepresented in this shift. Ireland was identified by the OECD this year as a country that has one of the lowest rates of representation in Europe and the OECD area. Currently only one out of three people in Ireland with a registered disability has a job.

Moving from disability to neurodiversity

Since the late 20th century there has been a grassroots movement to advocate against discrimination to those diagnosed with a disability. The movement rightly argued that we celebrate biodiversity and cultural diversity but stigmatise those with neurodiversity. It is a strengths-based approach to neurological diversity, recognising there is no ‘normal’ brain. It also highlights the benefits to society, to educational settings and to organisations of embracing neurological diversity.

Tech companies such as Dell, Microsoft, and SAP are only some of the companies leading the way in prioritising hiring neurodiverse candidates. The research coming from these organisations suggests that neurodiverse employees bring additional strengths to their organisation. To name but a few this can include increased ability in pattern recognition, increased attention to detail, and increased productivity. Research also suggests there are organisational benefits including peer integration and talent retention.

Supporting the individual

It is exciting to see the increasing awareness of the benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace. It is important that organisations recognise the unique strengths that neurodiverse people can bring to the workplace. It is also important that organisations put the necessary support in place to help neurodiverse people overcome any challenges they may face to enter the workforce and thrive. Yet my hope for this World Disability Day on the 3rd of December is we also insure we don’t lose sight of the individual in this conversation. Taking the time to insure we get to know the unique strengths and challenges of every person as an individual. It is through this individualised approach we can build truly inclusive workplaces.


About Nessa

Nessa is a Coaching Psychologist and Neurodiversity Consultant who has worked with families, schools, non-profits, and organisations globally to support them to build neurodiverse friendly environments. She has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology with her research focusing on developing inclusive well-being in organisations. Nessa is also the Founder of EudaOrg, the first evidence-based SaaS solution for organisational inclusion. The new EudaOrg website will be launching in January 2022. In the meantime, you can sign up for her monthly newsletter with the most up to date research on diversity and inclusion here: