In the UK, prevalence of ADHD in adults is estimated at 3% to 4%, with a male to female ratio of approximately 3 to 1.
An increasing number of adults are now being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time, having been ‘missed’ when they were younger when the condition was not as well understood as it is now.
We spoke with a fantastic panel who all champion ADHD, to talk about their experiences within the workplace, gaining insights on the positive power of ADHD and neurodiversity in the workplace.
When was the first time you heard the term ‘neurodiversity/neurotypical’ used?
- In our collective experience, ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘neurotypical’ have only really been used in professional environments for the last 5 years or so. If we’ve heard the term before, it’s been through diagnosis, or as in Steph’s case, through her work/research on company scripts for neurodiverse candidates 10-15 years ago, and her listening to podcasts within the Australian Broadcasting Network.
Why championing neurodiversity important in cyber security?
- Having people who think differently in the world of information and cyber security means foreseeing threats, vulnerabilities, and gap analysis that others may miss. Steph gave an example of two neurodiverse hackers at an expo in Australia who solved a 30 minute penetration test in 140 seconds!
- In turn, that means that you have a huge amount of untapped potential when you don’t have a wider hiring process that is inclusive of the neurodiverse community (especially as you can’t see neurodiversity at first glance). This means that a company’s security posture may be less robust as a result
- Alice points out that finding that balance of playing on each others strengths from both an individual and company perspective is where we need to get to, not just in the cyber security world, but in the wider world of business. Making life easier for neurodiverse candidates sets the standard for everyone else across the wider world of work
Why flexibility important for ADHD and neurodiverse candidates?
- Lee made a really good point that in the ADHD community, particularly, we need kind people and patience around us, and it’s also down to us to express our values and needs in a safe environment. When we receive our diagnoses, we are given the language and power to articulate our needs in our professions (e.g. having flexible working hours, noise cancelling headphones, having an office space that gives you the best chance to hyperfocus/work).
What adjustments can we make as workplaces to retain our neurodiverse talent?
- Making a conscious effort to remove any negative connotations in our language used when speaking to neurodiverse candidates, ESPECIALLY because our brains are wired to search for dopamine constantly, and it can have an impact on our behaviour as a consequence. It’s important to recognise that we’re NOT being a nuisance, and we often (because of things like rejection sensitivity, for example) can worry or feel embarrassed about ‘stimming’ and masking at work. We don’t need to hide how we behave, and workplaces are beginning to understand that flexible working has evolved to a better place (in part due to Covid-19).
- Being allowed to work from home, work around core hours (some of us work better at night, for example), being able to take regular breaks, and allowing colleagues to work with disclaimers that say ‘we don’t expect you to respond to this email outside of your own working hours,’; essentially, finding overlaps between how we work, and our workplaces allowing us that autonomy, is incredibly empowering.
- Understanding that, ultimately, part of making businesses more accessible and inclusive means evaluating business processes regularly that don’t add value in the hiring process (not just in cyber security, but in the wider working world). For example, as Chris points out, cashiers in the US are expected to stand up for their whole shift, which automatically eliminates a huge talent pool of people who aren’t able to stand for long periods of time, if at all. If things have always been done a certain way, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s working
ADHD can co-occur with the other neurodiverse conditions (anxiety, depression, or autism, for example). How important is it for workplaces to recognise/educate themselves around this, to retain their ADHD/neurodiverse colleagues?
- In short, yes! Alice made a great point that the sign of a good company and manager is to understand all of your employees, because there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all approach.’ You need to be able to build an organisation that’s supportive, is collaborative, and has mutual trust.
- From a cyber security perspective, there are definitely things that the industry can make easier (e.g. setting up regular check ins and enabling that two way communication in a way that works for the individual).
- Steph pointed out that a company she once worked with had interview scripts for neurodiverse candidates, which they eventually altered, because they realised that a one size fits all didn’t work in their hiring process. It was more beneficial to let that person coming in present themselves how they worked best
- Lee also explained that, when we think about the experiences that people particularly with ADHD go through throughout their lives, statistically, people with ADHD will receive 200 times more negative messaging in their lifetime, than someone neurotypical.
- If we can make that person in the interview chair aware of the way ADHD and more widely, neurodiverse candidates, have been treated throughout their lives, and boost their self esteem by understanding (not judging) how they behave is different, we will be one step closer to a more inclusive, and truly diverse, environment.
Becca is a Delivery Recruitment Consultant at InfoSec People. She’s placed candidates across Information security Consultancy, Security Architecture, Compliance, and Information Security Manager opportunities. She’s recently been going through her own ADHD diagnosis journey, and wants to champion neurodiverse candidates on their journey through their hiring process.
Lee is a Marketing Manager for a tech company in London. Lee was diagnosed with ADHD within the last year, and is a passionate advocate for the community, and in particular, championing positive language around ADHD in the wider world.
Steph is the founder of NeuroCyber, and works with neurodiverse candidates to support them through the hiring process in the world of tech (and previously cyber security). Steph was listed as SC Magazines Top 50 women influencers in cyber UK for 2018 and 2019, and her passion for diversity and inclusion is what keeps her in the industry!
Alice is Associate Director of a top cyber security firm, based in the UK. She was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7, and uses her platform to talk about her personal and professional experience of living with ADHD in a positive and inclusive way.
Chris manages a team of Pen-testers in the US, and has over 15 years of experience working in the world of cyber security, specifically within people management. He believes in the power of empathy and not just listening, but hearing, the people he manages, is key to inclusive workplaces.
Books, Podcast, and Resources Recommendations:
Many neurodiverse people are naturally suited to careers that make use of mathematics, pattern recognition and memory. Therefore neurodiverse candidates tend to excel in careers in technology, IT and cybersecurity. Threat analysis, penetration testing and SOC analysis, are three roles that neurodiverse people typically excel in.
InfoSec People are striving to bring Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Neurodiversity to the forefront of everything we do. We have committed to the principles of EDI in both our workplace and throughout our recruitment processes.
We are committed to working alongside our clients in advancing the neurodiversity agenda and actively promoting neurodiverse talent. We encourage employers to make their workplaces as neurodiverse-friendly as possible, as we do in our own hiring.
InfoSec People is a boutique cyber security and IT recruitment consultancy, built by genuine experts. We were founded with one goal in mind: to inspire people to find the careers that inspire them. With the success of companies fundamentally driven by the quality of their people, acquiring and retaining talent has never been more important. We believe that recruitment, executed effectively, elevates and enables your business to prosper.
We also understand that cyber and information security recruitment can genuinely change people’s lives, that’s why we take the duty of care to those we represent very seriously. All our actions are underpinned by our core values:
- Always do the right thing
- Be the best we can be
- Add value
We work with businesses in the cyber/tech arena, from start-ups and scale-ups to FTSE100 and central Government, many of whom are always looking for great people.
Call us directly on 01242 507100 to discuss opportunities or email email@example.com.