Intersectionality & Neurodiversity

Written by Jennie Baptiste, University of Westminster

We will discuss neurodiversity and intersectionality within enterprise and the education and business landscape.

Exploring how we can create safe spaces so that dialogue is a constant transition of change.

This article will explore the complexities of Neurodiversity & Intersectionality from voices of Neurodiverse founders within business and with some feedback from those within higher education in supporting roles for students within academia and support services at the University of Westminster.

How role models within the neurodivergent entrepreneurial community can help to shift the perspective of what a business founders should look and behave like. Giving the opportunity for neurodivergent entrepreneurship students see and more importantly get to engage with those like them and gain an understanding of the intersectionality that exits within this framework.

Neurodiversity is a term that encompasses neurological and diversity and includes those who identify or diagnosed as autistic, ADHD, dyslexic and dyspraxia.

Intersectionality describes the way structures of inequality are characterised based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability, class and how they interconnect to build undercurrents and effects that contribute to other forms of discrimination.

Interview with Harry Spear; CoFounder for Caribbean Elective 

This a full circle moment for us Harry, as we met at the EEUK Conference a couple of years ago and here we are today for the EEUK blog interview, to reflect and gain an insight into your world.

Harry Spear is Neurodivergent and a Co-Founder of Caribbean Elective. Harry will talk to us about being an entrepreneur and his insights on intersectionality and neurodiversity.

Harry, would you be gracious enough to tell us a little bit about your background and how you started?

“My journey starts at school, which is a, a place that I found difficult at times.

 I stood out and from the very beginning compared to many of my colleagues at school, i.e. struggled academically from day one and in comparison, to other students at school.”

“I just could not seem to keep up and that was mostly in part to my dyslexia, I think.

Instead, I would start to focus on the things that I had noticed that I could do.”

I could think more creatively, I could problem solve, and I realized as well that I had this ability to connect people with people. This has defined my entire life and career since, and the ability to connect people to a cause and support me in that cause. I had a natural ability to empathize.

So, Harry focused instead on building friendships and connections with people.

Harry then got the wonderful opportunity to go and play cricket in the Caribbean.

“It is the one thing I had always been good at, at school and was something that I adored.

Despite the adversity that some young people in the Caribbean encounter, they get up with the most extraordinary determination to live every second of their life to the fullest playing sport.”

He says, “I adopted that approach to life from them, it gave me real confidence.

It gave me a different view on the world and a bit of a mission as well.”

When Harry came back and to the UK, he wanted to create an organization and that would do two things.

It would give young people like him from disadvantaged backgrounds or neurologically diverse or disabilities, whatever challenges these young people face an opportunity to have the same life changing experience that he had.

Secondly, he wanted to use those young people’s amazing skills, passion, determination to make real and lasting change in the developing communities across the Caribbean.

So, in love with that, Caribbean Elective was born with £120.00 Grant from the Prince’s Trust.

Caribbean Elective today run some of the best programs in the world and across several subjects doing amazing things, over various Caribbean countries.


How did you manage to turn your life around?

“The first thing is realizing that you. are the only person, who can define what you can achieve,” exclaims Harry.

It was spending time with local young people in the Caribbean who just lived and loved life, which showed me that I do not have to listen to that and that I am a different person.

So do not let anybody tell you of what you are capable.

I then had this for the first time in my life, fearless mission to come back and create this organization.

I had no idea how to start a business, but I did not care.

I went to the Prince’s Trust, and I got the mentor, and I met this most incredible lady who became my mentor. I still speak to incredibly regularly nine years later.


What challenges would you say that you have had to come across as a neurodivergent entrepreneur?

I could not have despised the fact that I struggled more, but once I got over that and realized that there are so many incredible things that this helps me do, that others just cannot do. I realized that I could connect with people better.

Sometimes I must write 10,000 words to try even get as little message down because I just cannot conjugate it, in my brain properly. I must have a, a working atmosphere and environment that suits me.
There must be absolute silence and I need to be able to concentrate, I really struggle when people are watching me work as well.

So yes, there has been challenges, but in a modern world, there is lots of technology that can support you. That has helped me with the literacy side of things and allows me to just appreciate, that the bonuses that come with having a neurodiverse background.


At the University of Westminster, we have an entrepreneurship program, which are extra curriculum activities that students can sign up too via WeNetwork. If you were a student now and you saw an advert for entrepreneurship, learning extra curriculum activity, what would attract you as a neurodivergent?

I think something that would immediately grab my attention, is something that has an emotive course. Neurodivergent people are attracted by different things.

For example, in job adverts I think many companies are desperate to diversify their workforce, but then they continue to write their job adverts in a very linear way to appeal to those applicants.

If companies put a little bit of emotion in there and illustrate what they are, this is where they will attract diverse people because that is what, will engage neurodivergent people.

So, first, I am looking for that and secondly, I am looking for something where there is a problem to solve where the solution might not be immediately obvious, where there might be creative thinking required.

I particularly enjoy working in groups and that is an environment where I think many neurodivergent people feel at home where they can really express themselves and bring some value to a team environment.

So yes, I something that is not static and still, something that has a reason from A to B and a cause behind it.

Interview with David Rana; Cofounder of Metro Coffee

Metro Coffee is based in Gants Hill, London the Cofounder David Rana is going to give us a brief overview of how Metro Coffee started back in 2017. When Metro Coffee first opened, there was no social purpose within the business, gradually over time Metro Coffee decided to support job applicants who were solely neurodivergent. The conversation picks up with David telling us how the change within the business came about through a new member of staff, David himself is neurodivergent.

“A whole new world opened for us, with Metro Coffee when we hired a new member of staff when she disclosed that she was neurodivergent,” says David.

David shares, “I stammer when I am really nervous or when I’m really anxious, or when I am really stressed, so I could see in her face that she was really struggling to even come and approach me about it.”


How does Metro Coffee support employees with neurodivergent traits and accommodate communication preferences?

We support their needs on a one-to-one basis, this helps me to understand them more.

Giving them one to one training, helps them to make feel comfortable with that person and it really helps them to flourish, we have found they are able to come out more and speak more.


How do you address workplace sensory overload for, any of the employees?

Sensory overload can be quite overwhelming, so what we do at the start of the training, we do not overload staff with too many tasks.

We focus them with one aspect of training first, for example, we put them on the front on the till. Rather than making them focus on too many things, the barista or other food production packing sites.

Once they get an understanding of the customer service operations, we then let them focus on other things like training them at the barista and how to make coffees or drinks. We slowly try to expose them to other tasks like prepping food if it is of interest for them.


Lastly are they any success stories you would like to share of your staff?

A member of staff was in an office position, and you know, a whole new energy came out of her, she was talking a lot more. Really taking on initiatives, she has Roussy- Levy syndrome, which effects mobility and the muscles.

“So yes, that for me is a success, as she is progressing very well, ready to move up within the business. My staff have really helped me as well, personally to find my purpose and the business purpose as well. “ 

Liam Hart; WERE Coordinator – Work Experience & Placements – University of Westminster   

Liam Hart supports neurodiverse students who are going to do industry placements at the University of Westminster. Liam works with Employ Autism a business partner of the University of Westminster to help secure graduate roles, including C.v writing and introducing them to the world of work and gives neurodiverse students advice in terms of how to find opportunities.

Statistics show that many people with autism struggle to get their first role after leaving higher education. Liam has taken on the same training that employers do, so that the support aligns neurodivergent students in terms of communication, content, and language including the use of digital accessibility. Liam’s role is to educate the employers and prepare them for taking on a student with autism for an internship.

They have sessions that they attend, and it prepares them for all stages of the internship, including the interview stage.

Liam advises employers on making reasonable adjustments during the internship and making them aware of the traits and the kind of things to be mindful of. Sharing what the characteristics might look like and the wide range of those characteristics and how they can, show up in the workplace, so that they are understanding of that. 

Irene Brew – Riverson; Senior Lecturer Organisations Economy & Society – Course Leader BA (Hons) Business Management Entrepreneurship at University of Westminster


I am keen to explore the correlation of marginalised communities within the neurodiversity and entrepreneurship and how higher education, can support that within the wider educational framework, to create a more inclusive and diverse approach to widen participation. How does business management and entrepreneurship support this and facilitate neurodivergent business student founders on their journey at the University of Westminster?

“Neurodiversity, entrepreneurship, and business management, I guess when I think about the topic area in its entirety. I think about two things, who we are and then I think about what we do,” says Irene.

Irene goes on to say, “What I mean by that, is really the values we bring to the way we conduct ourselves in the classroom and how we run our courses and what our thought processes are and what our mindsets are with regards to what it is we’re teaching and trying to explore.”

These are the actions that we take, and it is important to start from who we are and what we believe, because that really drives our behaviours.

“So, for me, in my area of work of business management and entrepreneurship, what I think is important is doing our best to challenge the assumption, that everyone learns in a linear way and step by step logical manner,” says Irene.

We really must look at how we can meet those learning outcomes in a way that embraces flexibility, which allows our students who are neurodivergent to still do well.

Having cognizance in the learning environment to meet the unique needs of our students, who are neurodivergent and to think about things like elements of interactivity that will help students who are not able to sit through. For example, an hour’s lecture without moving, without doing anything, and for us to assume that you know this is the way to learn.

So, I think that the minute we can challenge those assumptions, we can take steps towards making changes that do not drop standards. Some people say things like, well, if we do not give a lecture, I mean if we do not have activities in this way, if we do not have students listening, they are not going to learn.

But that is where we have not really explored the possibilities, I think students can learn very effectively even if we totally do away with the lecture and have an interactive discussion with materials that they can go back to and refer too.

“To give an example, students were talking about a module evaluation, and they said to me that one module was their favourite module because of the interactivity, and this is where some students were neurodivergent, and others were not,” says Irene.

What the students were saying was very often when they go into a lecture, it might feel as if the lecturer is just reading the slides and for them nothing is happening.

We need to challenge the stigma that exists around neurodiversity and intersectionality move forward and help students who are neurodivergent learn more effectively.

How important is it that neurodivergent students get the opportunity to engage with business founders who are neurodivergent so that they see role models thriving in their business and have access to this awareness?

I think for them to see people who have still made progress really helps.
It is just a deal breaker for many students.

That they see a person like them can do this, that there is the possibility that they can also, what is really, important in all of this is recognizing the niche that they have.

How well they are going to do and how they will be different and that is okay.

So, to explore that fact and understand that there is space for all of us in this world, some of us will do it in a mainstream way. Others will do it in a unique way which is something to celebrate.

That is the sort of thing, I really want us to put to one side so that we have the full expression of neurodiversity in the unique ideas and businesses and services that can be produced, and we promote them as well.

Thank you so much and the sharing your thoughts with us today and as this interview ends, is there anything in terms of knowledge or development or training that you would like to share.

I think the approach of trying to have a group of personal duties or a group of students working with particular academics where there’s a relationship is a really good strategy, because then a student doesn’t feel as if they’re a number, they feel emboldened to talk to you about the challenges they face. Until we have conversations with our students, we do not really understand where they are coming from.

We get to know them, and we take the time to get to know them, we have a chance to profoundly influence them. I have found that in my practice within about six weeks of starting with a group of students often, of course, if alchemy establishes a relationship with them, they have the confidence to talk to me about things that they may not otherwise want to open up about. This gives us an opportunity to give advice and to help them.

So, I really want us, and many academics to do this to build relationships with our students and let them know that they are valued individuals who form the learning community that we have.

But we do not want to take away from the fact that they are unique, important enough to be listened too and important enough to be worked with.

So, they do not have to fit into a mould, so we can work together, you know, to really advance their progress. 


Identities are formulated by a sense of belonging; for example, seeing similar people from the same social, racial, gender, backgrounds, role models that you can identify with due to common traits.

A nuanced approach is essential to reflect on intersectionality and neurodiversity. The social constructs that are a contributing factor, this cannot be explored without defining the significant impact this has on an individuals in terms of discrimination when understanding intersectionality & neurodiversity.

Stories can be shared to get an understanding of experiences and representation, but for that to happen it needs to be a safe space where individuals are free to express themselves without the fear of judgement. With an audience willing to listen and understand from their perspective.

Some individuals may not wish to disclose their neurodiversity. There is still an opposition in some places for those who think differently to the systematic structures and policy’s that have been cultivated to define a practice as fitting into the norm or a culture of a perceived group, all of which are a social construct that can be broken down to be more inclusive in practice.

This brings about change and an inclusive approach to inclusion that will benefit society.

Those who are privileged in the position to advocate change have the power to do so through research, learning, storytelling, implementing processes, strategies, and deliverables so that we move towards a more inclusive authentic approach.

One where neurodiversity and intersectionality is heard thorough celebratory realms, an evolving conversation of continuum. As one is not without the other.

Jennie Baptiste, is a recent appointed Director of EEUK, based at University of Westminster within WeNetwork. Views expressed are my own and not of my university.