The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiencesto inspire us all to change for the better.
I’m Gordon, a Performance Manager. I had a startup that went on to win multiple awards, I’ve hosted a techno radio show, organised TEDx talks and volunteered as a mentor for disabled youth. If you’ve enjoyed a bottle of Margaret River 2017 wine, I probably picked the grapes you drank. This article goes well with a cab sav.
Although the above sounds fantastic on paper, there is an underlying reason why I’m able to manage multiple projects and do things “normal people” may not have: I’m neurodiverse.
I diagnosed myself with Asperger’s in my second year of high school and was officially diagnosed in the following months, including multiple other neurodiversities. Variety is the spice of life!
When I received my diagnosis, my family was told that I most likely wouldn’t go to university or hold down a steady job. Many people find that a diagnosis comes with negative expectations, as if it were a black mark on their record. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, and I certainly did.
But at the same time, my diagnosis was also liberating. It allowed me to understand the parts of society that I had never been able to before.
I tackled my diagnosis by doing what I do best, I turned communication into a science experiment where I studied those around me by writing down their conversations, adding time, keeping track of facial expressions, and assigning a value to each input.
Several years later, I learned this form of communication analysis is called Transactional Analysis and was first popularised by Eric Bernie in the book Games People Play in the 1960s.
Taking the techniques I developed at 14 into my career, especially as a people manager, has afforded me a tenacious curious mindset to know others’ viewpoints as I cannot assume social norms or motives. Knowing my shortfalls and strengths has enabled me to quickly empathise with colleagues and clients.
What can the wider media industry do help to Neurodiverse people?
It’s simple: Ask, don’t assume.
Assuming expectations or understanding in an industry with such a diverse and multicultural population may lead to confusion and frustration. Neurodiverse or not, I know this speaks true for many reading this article.
When I first joined EssenceMediacom I kept my diagnosis quiet. I had experienced people shouting at me as if I were deaf or treating me differently once they knew about my neurodiversity, so I was reluctant to let my colleagues know.
But I shouldn’t have worried. Since I opened up to the wider WPP community, I have found others opening up to me from all levels of the organisation – an experience that has been incredibly humbling and rewarding, helping me and others feel safe and welcomed.
I volunteer with Amaze as a steering community member for those with Autism working in industries. I’ve brought GroupM and Amaze together to build a program that will support neurodiverse individuals and people managers, to get the best out of them and establish an inclusive hiring process so more neurodiverse individuals can feel safe and are put into a position where they can shine.
Stay tuned, great-er things are coming to our industry.
Gordon Geraghty is Performance Manager at EssenceMediacom
To broaden your understanding of DE&I, complete the SBS Core Inclusion course – Australia’s leading online DE&I training course – available for free to MFA member employees. Access ends December 2023.