Neurodivergence in Women in Tech – Superpowers on the Squad

Jessica McAulay
Consultant, Revenue Operations & Business Intelligence
Automatic Summary

Neurodivergence in Women: A Hidden Superpower in the Tech Industry

Welcome to the arena of neurodivergence and women in tech! In this era of technology, we invite you to enlighten yourself about the power hidden in your quirks. Journey along with us as we explore how neurodivergence is not just an anomaly but a superpower on tech squads.

A Peek into a Neurodivergent Woman's Journey in Tech

Jessica McCaulley is a proud neurodivergent woman who has carved out a successful career in the tech and operations realm. She has been working as a red at Inflect, a company that offers Rev as a service. Over the years, she has enhanced her prowess in making sense of client data and systems, an essential asset in the world of technology.

As she ascended to the role of sense maker, Jessica dealt with her share of struggles. She hand-crafted her coping mechanisms while juggling her ADHD, learning disability, and dyslexia, which defined her as a person with dual exceptionality.

Yes, working in a male-dominated industry was not easy, but she turned her neurodivergence into a strength, not a weakness. She firmly believes that her immeasurable success in the tech sphere is attributed to her neurodivergent traits.

The Reality of Neurodivergent Women in Tech

In the tech industry, the male to female ratio stands strikingly high at 3:1, and this disparity widens to 4:1 when it comes to technical roles. To add to the complexity, one in five women working in tech are neurodivergent, a statistic which may be an understatement, given the low diagnosis rates among women.

Embracing Neurodivergence: A Transition to Power

With determined efforts, Jessica transitioned from a protective shell to getting diagnosed with ADHD and taking appropriate medication in her early 30s. The diagnosis was more of an investment in understanding herself and how her mind works, weaving a success story in her tech career. Her ADHD became her superpower, influencing her pattern finding, focusing abilities, and outside the box thinking abilities, all crucial skills in the tech industry.

A Glimpse into the Gender-Specific Traits of ADHD

Neurodivergence and particularly ADHD presents very differently in men and women. The past 20 years have witnessed a rapid increase in ADHD among women, thanks to emerging research accommodating gender-specific manifestation methods. With the right diagnosis and medication, women can harness their neurodivergent abilities to propel their roles in the tech industry.

How Neurodivergence Translates into Superpowers in Tech

A large number of successful tech founders have been diagnosed with ADHD, proving that the skills that come with neurodivergence are incredibly well suited to tech. Apart from being able to quickly visualize high-level connections, neurodivergent individuals possess essential traits such as hyper-focus, innovative thinking, risk-taking, and problem-solving abilities. Each of these superpowers contributes significantly to the dynamism of the tech industry.

The Industry Perception: From Glorification to Reality

While neurodivergence empowers individuals with a set of superpowers, it's essential to be aware of the potential limitations or kryptonite. For instance, shifts in priorities or ambiguities could be paralyzing for a neurodivergent person who thrives on focusing and staying on track. Furthermore, it's imperative for tech managers to create an inclusive work culture that nourishes the capabilities of these neurodivergent superheroes.

Bridging the Gap: Advocacy and Accommodation

Effective self-advocacy goes a long way in creating an optimized work environment. Similarly, proactive management, such as setting clear priorities and providing support, significantly enhances the productivity of a neurodivergent team member. By creating a squad-based approach, businesses can cultivate cognitive diversity and foster innovation.

Embrace your uniqueness, your quirks, your neurodivergence. Establish your place in the tech industry and know that your superpowers have more reach than you may realize. Together, let's redefine the face of tech!

Video Transcription

Hi, everybody and welcome to my Bear all talk. We're talking about neuro divergence and women in tech and how it's the superpower on the squad. My name is Jessica mccaulley. I've been working uh as a red at a company which does rev as a service called Inflect.My title sense maker uh reflects my role of really making sense of our clients, data and systems. I've worked in tech and operations roles. My entire career from startups to enterprise level business with a focus really on revenue operations. Neuro divergence is a huge topic and my experience is just a tiny portion of that. So please take it into it all with a grain of salt. Uh We don't have a ton of time to talk today. So if you want to keep the conversation going, you really want to talk with me, please reach out. Uh And uh my email will be at the end of the presentation and I'm, I'm more than happy to chat. So with that, we're gonna dive right in. All right. So being a woman in a male dominated the dominated industry hasn't been easy. Uh And it's not easy for any of us, our uh the ratio of men to women in tech is 3 to 1 in the grand scheme and 4 to 1 in technical roles on top layer.

In on top of that, that one in five women working in tech are neurodivergent and we get the perfect storm of uh of things, right? Uh That number could also be even higher. Really, there are far fewer women that are diagnosed, but we'll talk about that in a little bit. But also of those one in five women that are working in tech, only two out of five of them will actually voc uh vocalize, tell people that they are dealing or have a DH D or a type of neuro divergent uh part to them. Uh Most women keep that to themselves. They hope their coping strategies are enough to really get them through. And you might imagine that really does cause its own problems, right? We're all uh just trying to get by. So my story, uh it definitely has not been easy and it's not over. Despite the success that I found in tech, it's really gonna be something I'm working with for the rest of my life. I have a DH D a learning disability and dyslexia as well as it's called a dual exceptionality. So from a young age I knew I was different, but I didn't talk to anybody about it. I uh faked my way through school.

I, no one realized that I had a problem uh because that I couldn't read write or spell till I was about 80. So grade three, because I was so skilled with my masking. One of those things that we've all learned to do with our neuro divergence or especially with a DH D um I was also a part of the gifted program, so I was really good at problem solving, visual spatial reasoning, math, all of that. Um But no one really knew what to do to do with me because I, I didn't fit into any of the the normal categories. I was in both special ed and in gifted. So school was a struggle. I never fit in anywhere. Uh That changed a little bit. When I went to high school, it was a bunch of creative people together. So we had a little bit more but still wasn't easy. I was always really bored, right? I the like I just, it never really got interesting and you were always focused on one thing at a time and it lasted my entire way through university. That was not my learning style. And I learned that's the hard way. But I was really lucky. I had my mom, she advocated for me and eventually got me diagnosed with my learning disability uh which helped a lot, but it also stigmatized me. It made my imposter syndrome even worse.

So it, it really, the diagnosis isn't a cure, but it definitely helps make the pieces, make more sense. So for me, I wasn't diagnosed until a DH D until I was in my early thirties. Uh It was really helpful when I finally got that, that diagnosis and the right medication, it all started to make sense. All the pieces start to fit together. And you'll see, I have a love of puzzles which again, I attribute to my love of a DH D and my love of connections. So those patterns and puzzles started to apply to business for me, especially technology focused businesses because I understood the models that were being built by them. They, they all follow a similar pattern and I could optimize for those patterns. I've made a successful tech career by just falling into a role that I was good at I I instead of forcing myself to work at a 9 to 5 or being a, a teller at a bank when I first got out of university, it really didn't work for me. I landed in revenue operations and I've, I've never looked back because it's allowed me to grow and really use my A DH D as a skill, seeing those patterns being able to focus in being able to really think outside the box.

And we cover a lot of this in, in a little bit. Um But it also allowed me to jump into fields like be like business intelligence and analytics, which I've actually discovered I absolutely love, which was a surprise as much to everyone else as it was. To me, it was really scary to do too. My, I didn't think I was good enough. I didn't think I could run the bit, let alone build one, but it was the best investment I've ever made myself and really learning about how to work with my A DH D and make it work for me has been the, be the best investment in time. I can, I can give a piece of advice I can give to anyone take the time, invest in yourself. So let's talk a little bit about um A DH D and gender. So men and women present very differently, right? Women are the fastest rising category for a DH D in the past 20 years because the research is now finally taking into account the different way they present in genders. I was misdiagnosed as a kid. I was told I had depression and this my I I had emotions going on. I felt a lot of the above symptoms or the sorry, the symptoms on this page.

Uh But I was just told that it was your hormones or it was it you're depressed or you're just acting out when it was really all of these things combined on this page that I was not being seen. I did, they didn't see it. My doctor didn't understand it, but getting that proper diagnosis was huge and getting on the proper medication. Now medication isn't for everyone. I am not a doctor but it has definitely made a huge positive impact on my life. I just also want to call out here that given the higher percentage of neurodivergent people in tech, in both men and women. Look at the personality mix we're dealing with here. Right. Good luck to the managers to working together. They're just, they're not compatible, uh, symptoms to, uh, or things that we need to cope with. So why am I talking about this right now? Well, I want to bring more awareness to it. I wanna use this moment to share my story and to empower other women to really embrace it instead of trying to hide it. Um I found that COVID and tiktok really helped with advanced education. It created this perfect storm for us to talk about it online. And for me knowing I wasn't alone meant the world to me and it really made a difference in my ability to analyze and see what was happening in my life. So what happened in 2020? Right? Like I just said, COVID helped normalize neuro divergence.

So COVID locked us with ourselves, disrupted our coping strategies we had at work. It made us wonder if our weirdness or our eccentric, how eccentric we were uh were really that or was it something else? Some of us thrived being at home and that was so fantastic. And then on add in tiktok, on top of that for one, a platform that is highly appealing to neurodivergent people because of the dopamine rush and the scrolling constant stimulation. Um But it contributed to the perfect storm for a DH D that hashtag hosts over 2 million views and 42 oh sorry, 2 million videos and 42 mil billion views growing worldwide. Right? That's, that's ongoing. That, that hasn't stopped, it just keeps going. Um And like I said, learning, I wasn't alone meant a lot to me. I used tiktok to find a sense of belonging to understand some of my mannerisms. I didn't understand that. The fact I watched TV, all the time when I did anything was actually a coping mechanism for me with boring tasks. I don't wanna do the dishes. Ok. Well, let's have the TV, on while I do the dishes. It was really realizing that wasn't just an oddity and was a part of my A DH D was really big for me. Now, what do I mean, when I say superpowers, our differences happen to be like very well suited to the tech industry.

There are many tech founders that have been diagnosed with a DH D and because of, of, of the world of tech is well suited for the A DH D mind. And what I mean by that is that it's databases, it's networks, it's software, it's all connections, they all, they all work on those connections that our brains pick up on. Really easily, right? We see connections at a high level quickly, it gives us a huge, huge advantage in the tech world. So let's talk about some of those superpowers. So it's like so neuro divergence, I'll let you read this. I'm not gonna talk through them all here, but it brings essential skills for business, right? Our brains can contribute to some really our coping mechanisms contribute to some really great things, our ability to hyper focus and get in there, see details, get it done quickly.

We're really good under pressure, right? We're willing to experiment to try to fail to take those risks and we push the boundaries of what is supposed to be the norm. I always love to say that problem solving and thinking outside the box is where I thrive because just because it was built that way and we've always done it that way, doesn't mean that's the way we should keep doing it. So really being able to do that is great. So like I said, finding patterns and connections is part of this too, right? Using those, they all make sense to us, things make sense to us quicker. I can tell you that there are times I can't even count on my, on any number of numerical system that I can tell you what the answer is and what we need to do. But I don't know how I got from A to Z and don't ask me because it's, it's not a straight line, it's all over the place. Um But it's, it's really cool in that sense and I think it's something that we all need to start to embrace a little bit more. Here is our obligatory uh tech presentation slide because you can't have one without the logos.

Uh But I really wanted to talk about how big tech is finally starting to learn that being neurodivergent is at an advantage for businesses throughout like history. We've relied on our ability as a society to think differently in order to survive. We've got to grow, we've got to keep evolving, right? And the fact that with the differences in how neurodivergent people think we get alternate perspectives, you really get to explore things you haven't before. And it's critical for businesses to prioritize this type of diversity, the cognitive diversity in their work flows for us to really grow and get those different uh groundbreaking type of ideas and innovation in technology. So these are just some of the larger firms that are have neurodivergent hiring programs. So Microsoft has whole pages about it. Take a Google, it's actually really cool. Um And it's really nice to see that it takes some of the stress out of it for us. Now, let's not over glorify everything here, right? It is not easy to deal with neuro divergence or a DH D in a neurotypical society or a neurotypical business, right? My superpowers allow me to keep up with them, but it's really a bit more of a turtle and hair scenario. I'm the hair. I often get there and I'm fast and I win the race. But my path is indirect.

It's filled with rabbit holes to explore with my, my hyperfocus or my rabbit or the doom scrolling. Right. Um It'll, and I often need to stop and rest because I get tired, my energy fluctuates. I can accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but then I'm really burnt out. So these types of things really are um play into how I function and how I started to realize my differences. But you definitely need to be aware of these types of things, ambiguity, shifting priorities. They may be easier for other people to deal with because we're focused and we're on a track, right? Um If you're a manager in tech, please be aware of the kryptonite for your superheroes.

We really, really want to remove it from the office culture and make it more inclusive and we'll talk about this as we keep going here. Um So I was diagnosed with a DH D. Um I would find I would go before I was diagnosed. I find I would go through cycles of low energy and low motivation. I couldn't really get there. I, I would struggle with really putting in a 9 to 5 and not understanding why I couldn't be as gun ho as everyone else. Now, I'm going to keep going quickly because we're running out of time here. But my manager noticed for me that I would get sick after I really went hard on a specific project. I'd be up late or I got a big thing done, but I'd be burned out and get sick. And she's just, and she was very aware and really helped me realize that this was a cycle that I was seeing or that I was doing and I wasn't aware of yet. So bringing that really to the forefront for me. So what this really focuses on is embracing your neuro divergence. And that's what I've done in the past seven years of my life is really, it's taken me a long time to realize that it's not a weakness.

It's a strength, uh my ability to jump around on different tasks, make connections across things and really hyper focus it, it, it's, it's, it's a skill and it's something that we can tap into and enjoy uh knowing and talking about what um I'm good and not good at was something that my imposter syndrome and fear really uh held me back from.

But it has been the best thing for me. You'd be surprised how receptive and how supportive people are when you start talking about. Hey, I'm not as great at that. Can you help me with this? Um Why I'm showing you this slide is this is actually a slide for revenue operations that we use. But these are the three things we like to focus on. And I find that it really, really describes neurodiversity as well. Platforms, find the tools that work for you. I love because it's a spreadsheet grammar leak because I have, I have concerns about my grammar and it helps me feel like I'm not gonna make a mistake and get feared of getting said, oh, you're wrong or you spelled this wrong or something on overcoming my impostor syndrome and my rejection sensitive dysphoria really is, is something um the process having a routine and optimizing my own way to work.

I may not be the same as everybody else is, but it definitely is a process uh of my own and building my own and finding my own makes a huge difference on how quickly I can operate. And lastly, the people that you surround yourself with, be it, your colleagues, your friends, your uh your manager, being able to communicate with them and know when you want to, to interact with humans. And not because that energy level have plays a huge role in this. But having the right people around you will make it a lot easier to embrace what you, how you operate so quickly. Some tips for the workplace for those of us that are neurodivergent, ask questions, clarify, clarify, clarify, no matter how simple or how complex the question is, it will help you overcome the ambiguity, am ambiguity that is paralyzing you setting artificial deadlines or timers to help with procrastination.

It's huge for me. I struggle with the fact that your deadlines don't register. It's not now. So I don't, it, I don't need to do it right now. So it's sometime in the future and that means I might miss it because I forget it's coming up and I'm focused on other tasks. OK. Solve for your ability to focus or noise and other distractions, right? I wear noise, canceling headphones. I always do. It helps me being in a pathway that doesn't have a lot of people walking by. It can be huge. We finding a quiet room where you can add your own distractions if you need them like the TV, in the background or music, but not having to take them away. It's a lot easier that way body doubling is huge. Even just having somebody around while I do the work or sitting beside someone in the office or a friend. It's great. It, it sometimes just helps you get in the right headspace, paying attention to your energy levels. This is a big one and I could talk about this in length. But what I like to do is prioritize my tasks on how much effort they will take. Because some days I have a low bucket of energy and these are the tasks I'm gonna work on.

Then sometimes I got a lot of energy and then we tackle the bigger tasks. So really paying attention to that ebb and flow and how it goes. Um, putting your, uh, pen to paper or my case, a stylist to a pad, I find transforming information really helpful and it allows me to remember better and be able to actually, uh, come back and trigger myself with what's going on in, in a specific project or something along those lines.

Uh, a task parent gamifying your life for lack of better words. I talked about it before doing the dishes, watch TV. If I want to do something like hearing someone that's very boring or am task something that you enjoy or is interesting. And last, but certainly not least learn how to make candor part of your charm. We can be very direct and, uh, blunt in some ways as a DH D people and that can be very, uh, off putting or it's finding the right way to say things in the business environment. All right, advocate for yourself. No one is gonna be able to do it better than you. It can be terrifying but you, and coming out and talking to people about it, you'll be amazed at the support and how much it will help you. How I managed to do that is usually problem by problem. It's easier. We use this again in our business which is investigate, initiate ignite. Um, I, before again, before I had my A DH D diagnosis, I was working with one of my call leagues. And I started a new job. Actually, I was working with my manager. I started a new job and then I was frustrated all the time. I couldn't get my work. I was a Mac user. I was working on a PC that was from the dark ages.

And what, what was causing the problem is what I wanted to investigate. Was it me? Was it the actual tool? Was it just that I didn't know it? So my impostor syndrome flared up. But I came to the conclusion that it was the fact that the PC couldn't open my, my Excel files half the time or it crashed all the time. Initiate what I did. Who do I talk to? How do I get help? What do I do about this? I went to my manager and managed that, which is great. Um I luckily sat beside her and she was phenomenal with me. We had built up rapport that I was like, look, this is limiting my ability to do things and she had my back. She, she went and fought with finance for me to get me the fastest computer that finance would allow me to have just reserved for uh developers, not sales ops, which is where I was at that time. And last but not least ignite speaks for itself. Once you have the tools and the things you need, your results will show, it will speak for themselves. Um It may not be all the ca always the case, you may try something and it doesn't work, then you just start the process over again. And last but not least, uh our slide is uh this slide is a little bit for uh the managers out there or the groups in accommodating your team members.

So make room for genius is what I like to say, enable to work from home or the ability to have flexible times, step back, communicate, but don't micromanage your teams, give them the problem and let them try and solve it, right? Do regular check ins with them. Recognize the concept that A for us with a DH D time is not always our strong suit and having regular check ins helps us stay on top and stay prioritized. We appreciate it. Just don't get too overbearing and be aware of environmental factors too, right? Like I said before, sometimes if you have them in a busy place, it's not gonna work. Or if there isn't enough stimulation, if they're off in a corner isolated by themselves, it's not gonna work. It's those types of things to be aware of setting clear priorities is huge. Again, ambi ambiguity can cause us all sorts of problems and try not to change problems on the midstream. Uh It can be a little tough if we're hyper fixated on something and it all just shifts over here. Um I like to think in sprints that works for me short term deliverables. Uh after proactive help to them, meaning set calendar invites, gentle reminders about things, share bullet points for meetings, be patient with them, be open minded with them. Um You need to work together to make this work. But once you get it, it is so good, it flies. Uh and it might be a little messy to start with.

So it's it's a trial and error type of situation, situation and last but not least there help them get started. Sometimes I get task paralysis and I can't get started because there's just too many things helping them get the ball rolling allows it to get to, to start and make it easier. And last, but certainly not least creating squads. We like the squad approach because it allows people um, to ask questions, have conversations, right? It allows the body doubling we were talking about. You can either contribute as a unique provider or in a group. So it's really cool that way. Well, and I'm coming to the end here and I know I flew through the last of it like I said before. If you have any questions or you want to talk about this more in detail, please reach out and uh hopefully, uh you've enjoyed this and it sparked some thoughts or ideas for you and uh we'll uh talk to you soon. Have a great day.