I have had many successes in my career, which have included some senior level appointments. To get to a senior level was not an easy task. I have now come to realise that I was hiding my Dyslexia. I did not do this intentionally as I hadn't realised that I was Dyslexic until I was fully established as a professional individual.
I recently wrote an article where I confessed my dyslexia and went about researching how to get formal confirmation. I was introduced to Elizabeth Kwarteng-Amanging CEO of Aspire2Inspire Dyslexia. The organisation supports both adults and children with dyslexia to fulfil the dreams and aspirations. I was asked by Elizabeth to be a speaker at an event for entrepreneurs with dyslexia, which I duly accepted. At the time she was aware that I had not had a formal assessment and offered to engage to make this happen.
Making the decision to accept the assessment made me ask some questions. If I was formally diagnosed as being dyslexic, what will it mean for my future? Would I give companies another reason not to use my services? I am fully aware being a Black Women entrepreneur has its challenges, to add Dyslexia to this could give companies even more reason not to use my services. I decided to undertake the assessment regardless and I received positive confirmation that I am indeed Dyslexic.
My journey has made me wonder how many other people out there have suffered in silence or just accepted that they are Dyslexic so they can be treated equally. I fell in to the camp that just accepted their Dyslexia. I wonder, is this the same for those with Mental Health issues? Do people stay silent because they feel it’s best to suffer in silence rather than get support from their employers or is it fear of losing their jobs? A charity campaigner, Rosa Mokton wrote a piece for the Spectator suggesting that it should be possible to pay people with learning disabilities less than the minimum wage to make it an incentive for employers to hire people with learning disabilities. I personally do not agree with this, it opens the flood gates to make it acceptable to pay people less because they do not mirror the person who is hiring them.
It’s difficult to advise companies on what to look for when it comes to Dyslexia as the spectrum is broad and there are severity levels. My Dyslexia is a mild form but those with extreme forms would have more visible signs that may be easier for companies to detect. It is usually the employee, however, that informs the employer and reasonable adjustments are made to support them. I cannot help but draw comparisons again with those with Mental Health. Employees with Mental Health are not always visible to companies and there are levels of severity. Unlike Dyslexics, those with Mental Health issues are less likely to inform their employer probably because of the stigma it carries.
There is a new initiative that has been supported by members of the Royal family, Heads Together that encourage those with Mental Health challenges to speak up. I know there are people in the public eye with Dyslexia, such as Muhammed Ali, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg to name a few, but I do not know of a high level initiative to help support those with the challenges of Dyslexia.
The Equality Act 2010 highlights the need to prevent discrimination. Mental Health and Dyslexia fall under the umbrella of 'protected characteristics' so should we feel comforted that we will not be discriminated against when applying for jobs, offering services or seeking promotion because the Equality Act 2010 protects us? Well it should. The importance here is you must challenge any situation that leads you to believe that you are being discriminated against because of disability, sex or racial make up.
The theme for International Women's Day was Be Bold. Boldness takes many forms, speaking out against inequality is one, talking about your situation is another. Both are of equal importance in helping you reach your goals. Boldness is an important piece of armour in this day and age as we need to speak out when injustices are visible and seek to change mindsets of those who do not support equality in the workplace or in society.
I hope to report that, in the future, my discovery of being confirmed Dyslexic has not hindered my ability to win business, moreover I hope it shows that I have enhanced my opportunities. If you feel that you are being discriminated against, do something about it. Equality must me the future for business and we should fight discrimination of any kind. Fairness makes employees feel valued and appreciated. Those organisations that do not have fair practices can be guaranteed low employee engagement and lower financial returns.
About the Author
Dianne Greyson is well known HR specialist with significant organisational experience having worked for the public and private sector for over 20 years. She has been a speaker at a women's conference supporting entrepreneurs with dyslexia and made a contribution to Demystifying Diversity, a book written to help organisations to understand Diversity. Dianne is also a Board Member for Certitude, a charity that supports mental health and learning disabilities.
Dianne regards herself as an Equality and Diversity Champion that seeks to improve the capabilities of organisations and make them into 'People Champions'. She believes more effort should be made to reflect society and eradicate divisions and negative behaviours in organisation.
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