Why I’m finally proud to be dyslexic

Vanella Jackson
Why im finally proud to be dyslexic hero

I am dyslexic. I was diagnosed when I was ten years old. It took me a long time – well into my working life and only when I became more successful – to have the confidence to say this, openly and out loud.

That’s the thing about being different. It can sometimes make you feel you don’t quite fit in and, in my case, deeply ashamed.

The other day I was lucky enough to be invited by Kate Griggs to a breakfast at Soho House, with some remarkable dyslexics. Kate is the founder of Made By Dyslexia, a charity that champions a positive attitude and approach to dyslexia. Take a look – what she’s doing is amazing.

It was wonderful to hear from Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, and others talk about how dyslexia has been the secret to their success. It felt like a celebration of this special talent. I was genuinely moved.

When you look up what it means to be dyslexic on the NHS website it says it’s a ‘lifelong problem’. In fact, the word ‘problem’ is used 18 times, so it’s little wonder that it’s been a hard thing to admit to. And yet, the irony is that it’s this very ‘problem’ that lies behind some of my greatest strengths.

Being dyslexic helps me see things differently to others. It’s given me a mind that likes to invent, connect and imagine. Indeed, I believe it’s played a vital role in my becoming a CEO and running a successful business.

Being dyslexic isn’t as uncommon as you might think – it's estimated that up to one in every ten of us in the UK has some form of dyslexia, and as many as a third of those in creative industries. It’s an unseen difference that lies beneath the surface, one which many people are reluctant to talk about, in fear it will impede their chance of getting a job or furthering their career. This is certainly how I saw it.

The truth, of course, is that we’re all different in some way – it’s what makes us human. We all have different strengths, the things that mark us out as special.

This is why it’s really important to me that at Hall & Partners we celebrate difference and believe that everyone has unique strengths to contribute. And, in a business that understands people, I think it’s particularly important that we have a diverse range of talent and people with a wide array of different experiences. It helps us represent the society that we live in.

Everyone is different and it’s these differences that enrich us all

The research sector is, in many ways, a leader in its approach to diversity. We think of ourselves as pretty good at diversity compared to other industries. However, recent research from Lightspeed has shown us what we know in our hearts – we can do more to truly embrace diversity. Whether in relation to neurodiversity, disability, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic status, there is absolutely more we can do. We cannot be complacent.

So, the MRS and a group of leading CEOs have set out on a journey to actively encourage greater diversity within our industry. Together we’re encouraging everyone to join in, engaging in more open and honest conversations, helping create a safe environment for people to express their concerns, aspirations and dreams.

I want to urge everyone to examine and adjust their mindset around difference – whether it be in plain sight or hidden. Be brave in celebrating your own differences and the strengths they impart. And apply that same courageous spirit to support others. We must be generous in embracing the different people around us and celebrate their unique experiences and world view – we all have so much to learn from each other.

It took me a long time to be brave and speak out, but I’m glad I did. My difference has fuelled a passion for creativity along with an ability to have new and imaginative ideas. Being less confident in reading and writing has helped me speak and communicate spontaneously, fluidly and with authenticity.

These strengths have been invaluable in my work. I would love for others to share their stories about people who’ve succeeded at work – what makes them different and how have they’ve played to their strengths?

Everyone is different and it’s these differences that enrich us all.