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Almost all neurodiverse founders face discrimination, survey finds

Neurodiverse founders
Image credit: Veja / Shutterstock

Just 4% of neurodiverse founders say they never experience discrimination in business because of their neurodiversity, new research has found.

A survey of 500 neurodiverse founders from across the UK found that 31% of respondents ‘regularly’ experienced discrimination.

Meanwhile, 33% said they ‘sometimes’ face discrimination, 17% said ‘always’, and 15% said ‘rarely’.

Neurodiversity is a term to describe the differences in the way people’s brains work. It includes conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD. An estimated 15% of people have a form of neurodiversity, according to a 2020 study.

The survey, conducted by think tank The Entrepreneurs Network, showed that while discrimination remains rife for neurodiverse founders, there have been improvements over time.

More than three-fifths of those surveyed believe it has become easier for people with neurodiversity to succeed in business compared to when they first became founders.

Representation of neurodiversity in the business world has helped raise awareness and address misconceptions and stereotypes.

Several high-profile entrepreneurs, including Richard Branson and Jo Malone, have spoken publicly about how their neurodiversity has helped them in business.

Two-thirds of founders said they felt their neurodiversity helped them think more creatively.

Andy Clayton, founder of Oxford-based biotech company Fermtech, said his autism is “one of the main reasons I am an entrepreneur”.

Despite this, nearly eight in 10 neurodiverse founders said they hide their neurodiversity to some degree.

This could stem from a continued lack of understanding about neurodiversity, including the misconception that neurodiverse conditions are a form of disability.

Sarah Kingston, co-founder of In Good Company, a startup connecting people with ethical businesses, was diagnosed with ADHD at age 37. She said that “there should be more openness and encouragement for neurodiverse people to explain that they are neurodiverse and how they need to work”.