Morna Cook has told Music Week that the response to Universal Music UK’s neurodiversity handbook has been “overwhelming”.
The major published the book in January, collating research on neurodiversity (ND) and its different forms, which include ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and Tourette Syndrome.
Universal won the Company Award for Diversity In The Workplace at the Music Week Women In Music Awards 2019, and Cook spoke about the #CreativeDifferences project in Music Week’s recent wellbeing special issue. She said that working from home during the coronavirus pandemic highlights the debate around neurodiversity.
Read Cook’s piece in full below to find out what ND means for the music business and why Universal UK is only at the beginning of its journey with the subject…
Morna Cook: “Diversity and inclusion have been at the top of our agenda at Universal Music for many years. It is essential for a company like ours to reflect the incredible diversity of the artists we are here to support.
“But the truth is neurodiversity was one area we felt had not been given anywhere near enough focus. When looking for guidance, we found little that was easy to interpret or practical and this is where our journey began.
“As part of the wider diversity and inclusion programme, our chairman and CEO David Joseph brought a group of us together to commission #CreativeDifferences, the first comprehensive piece of research on neurodiverse (ND) experiences within the creative industries. Our work had two key focuses: to provide insight on the perception of neurodiversity in the sector; and to provide practical steps that organisations can take to attract, support and retain talent.
“The first step was to understand the basics. We started by increasing our understanding of what neurodiversity actually was, and over time we learned more and more about the different forms of ND including ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and Tourette Syndrome.
Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been impacted by the coronavirus
“Our overall findings, which were guided by people with lived experiences as well as organisations working in the field, were revealing but hardly surprising. We found that while nearly all creative companies recognise the value of neurodiversity in the workplace, only around a quarter had ND-friendly policies and practices in place.
“We collated all of the research into a handbook, which we published in January. Everything about it was designed with ND audiences in mind, from fonts right through to the cream coloured paper, which makes reading easier for many people with dyslexia.
“We also commissioned Megan Rhiannon, an incredibly talented autistic artist, to bring the handbook to life with her illustrations. The team also produced a series of animations to accompany the handbook, which can be found on our website.
“The things we have found to work well at Universal Music include sessions to help managers support ND employees and also increasing the flexibility of our job application process. Things like CVs, online application forms and traditional interviews can all be off-putting to people with ND.
“Almost three months down the line, the response to the handbook’s publication has been overwhelming. The project has struck a chord with individuals and organisations from as far afield as Australia and India, and interestingly not just those working in the creative industries. Local councils, government departments, physicists, parents with young children, universities, libraries, engineers, motor companies and even Russia’s largest private traffic camera operator are just some examples of those who have been in touch.
“The world today is a very different place to when we first launched #CreativeDifferences and our thoughts go out to everyone who has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis. With most of us now working from home, it’s important to acknowledge that there will be some things which go alongside working from home – such as video calls – that may be difficult for somebody with ND – and some things which might be a welcome change. It’s something we are looking at, but my advice right now would be to check in with colleagues who are ND and ask what works best for them.
“It’s important to say that we’re by no means experts on all this and we’re still at the start of this journey. But our hope at Universal Music is that everything we are putting in place to be more ND-friendly will benefit everyone who works here, and contribute to not just a more inclusive workplace but a more accessible industry as a whole.
* Read Dr Rock’s Top 10 tips for good mental health during lockdown here, and learn about Ferocious Management founder Kwame Kwaten’s battle with coronavirus here. Look out for more wellbeing content on musicweek.com across this week. To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.