Thriving with Neurodiversity: Women at Work

By Krystal Ratte (CPsych), Dr. Iris Rose and Diksha Dua

Neurodiversity encompasses a range of brain differences, including Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. While these conditions come with their own areas that may require support, they also bring forth exceptional strengths and perspectives that can enrich the individual and the community. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, and today, we focus specifically on the experiences of women navigating this terrain. 

Young girls are often under-diagnosed with ADHD and Autism, in comparison to boys. This may be due to being less hyperactive/impulsive in presentation (in comparison to their counterparts) and masking symptoms due to cultural or societal expectations (e.g., to be well-behaved, calm, and studious in academics). Camouflaging or masking is a common experience with women who have neurodiverse traits. In order to fit into social and professional environments that may not fully accommodate their differences, many neurodiverse women develop coping mechanisms to conceal or adjust aspects of their authentic identities. This can be an exhausting and emotionally draining process, leading to feelings of imposter syndrome, burnout, and mental health struggles. 

While in their younger years, girls may also have had the ability to stay on top of academic and personal demands by compensating (e.g., in high school girls may have the ability to stay up late or pull ‘all nighters’ to study or complete assignments). Whereas, this becomes more difficult as one gets to adulthood, with demands on their time due to competing priorities between families, hormonal changes (i.e., pregnancy, childbirth, menopause), post-secondary education, careers, friends and other commitments. Due to this, women are more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental conditions when challenges may become exasperated and further support is required. 

Neurodevelopmental conditions impact executive functioning. Executive functioning encompasses a range of cognitive skills essential for success in the workplace, including organization, metacognition, self-management, prioritization and time management. These challenges can impact social connections at work, ability to network to support career growth, multi-task or prioritize project details. Managing perfectionism, imposter syndrome and communication between colleagues can become difficult. Here are some strategies to specifically support neurodiverse women in the workplace:

  1. Time Management
    Challenge: Difficulty completing work tasks in the hours required and often taking work home after hours becomes the norm
    Strategies: Time chunking, using online applications to track duration of time per task, estimating and adding buffer time to completing tasks, booking off strategic time or task-specific time in work schedules, setting reminders and alarms to end a work period, leveraging assistive technology to support task completion

  2. Prioritizing tasks between home, work and social commitments
    Challenge: Multiple calendars with various commitments are difficult to integrate, reminders are on different lists and it is hard to identify priorities as responsibilities shift
    Strategies: Developing an integrated calendar with one view of all tasks/responsibilities, Delegating responsibilities (e.g., sharing them in the household, delegating or outsourcing cleaning tasks, school pick-up and drops, organizational assistants etc.), creating meal plans, aligning to a list for the day and bringing awareness to energy levels, strengthening boundaries around event commitments.

  3. Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome
    Challenge: Feeling overwhelmed and then paralyzed with completing tasks or files
    Strategies: Proactively define what “good enough” would be in some situations, create an accompanying activity to help support the core task you are trying to complete so that there is a reward/motivational pull (ie. finish legal files and water plants during a break), reaffirm previous wins and accomplishments

  4. Sensory processing overload
    Challenge: bright-lights, open cubicle spaces add distraction and may not be conducive to focusing or strategic work for some individuals
    Strategies: Noise-canceling headphones, requesting accommodations for quieter work spaces, eliminating sensory triggers, incorporating items that provide support or relief in your environment (ie. plants, fidget toys, soothing music and scents)

  5. Setting healthy boundaries to avoid burnout
    Challenge: Cycles of high-functioning productivity, without rest periods, leads to burn-out and exhaustion. 
    Strategies: Identifying communication tools to clarify needs and decline invitations, practicing self-care and awareness of energy/focus periods. Identifying activities that help rejuvenate or release stress (physical/mental).

Possibilities Clinic, provides assessments and treatments, including neuroaffirmative leadership and career coaching to support women in our community.  If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, you can email us at or call 1-833-482-5558.

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