Talking Point

12 Diverse Days of Christmas #3

Sarah Wait is an amazing woman who I have had the privilege to know for more than 15 years. I even woke her up at 07:45 on Christmas Eve, this year, to help me, help a client. She’s simply brilliant.

Sarah is Director of Forward Planning Services at Kantar Media and works with a diverse range of national and international clients across marketing, communications, business research and editorial content generation.

Sarah is Master of the City of London Company of Communicators (formerly the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners). And I am a proud Freeman of the Company

Celebrating Diversity

I was born with a learning disability called dyslexia. I of course, like my parents, were unaware of this. I didn’t know I was different because this is who I am, who I have always been and will be. I didn’t know I was different until I went to school and slowly and painfully I understood that the way I think and learn was not in the same way as most of my classmates.

One of the issues with disability that you are born with is that society can be unbending and regimented and if you don’t fit in then you get labelled. I believe most of us with any kind of disability want desperately to fit in, especially as children. We do not want to be different, we don’t want to be “special”, we don’t want to know that our parents are struggling because we are not like their other children or friends and family’s children.

I was finally diagnosed at 14, because I was asked to help a recently diagnosed 7-year-old boy called Benjamin with his spelling homework and I was worse than him. To be able to understand what caused my differences was empowering but the view was then that I would be very limited in what I might do or achieve as an adult. All expectations for me to be able to have a career or further education were shut down.

I was lucky – I was born with a stubborn, determined and ridiculously optimistic personality and I was really determined not to be written off. However, it took until my thirties before I began to realise that to be different can be a major advantage too. So, I don’t process information the same way as much of the world, I have spent my life problem solving, and I have become expert at working out how to do things that seem unsurmountable – these are useful attributes. It taught me empathy for those who like me struggled with being different but also started to drive me to challenge the way we were all treated. I cannot handwrite this Blog because it would take twice or three times as long and “normal” people would struggle to read and make sense of it.

At 16 when I took my exams I had a reading and writing age of 8. Nearly 40 years on, I have been directors of various companies since the age of 24, I have started a business from scratch with my partner and an amazing team which we successfully sold and I still work with. I am in a company who actively seeks for their staff to bring their whole selves to work. I am Master of the Company of Communicators within the City of London livery movement, a movement who when I first started didn’t have many female livery women in their ranks.

At 16 my labels were not empowering, but now I am proud to say I am a successful neurodiverse woman. I have seen incredible changes of attitude in society. The Pride movement in particular has on many occasions driven the agenda for the whole diversity movement. The Equality Act of 2010 is transforming our society, for all of those who have championed and worked across it and I am profoundly grateful. So, did being dyslexic ever hold me back? No more than being a woman of my generation in the workforce. It just drove me to take different opportunities. I will work hard to keep the positive changes and attitudes towards our diverse community going forward to carry forward with thousands of others the ambition to celebrate our diversity within an inclusive society.

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