Do you know what it means to be truly understood?
Research says that feeling like those around you have a basic understanding of your personality leads to an overall higher sense of self, productivity and more social engagement. But how do we get there?
Yvonne Cowser Yancy says it’s more simple than we think.
“We have to first acknowledge that our differences are what makes life interesting,” Cowser Yancy said.
As the Chief Administrative Officer at the social impact organization Understood, she’s responsible for helping create a harmonious work environment through leading diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in support of the organization’s mission to help people with visible and unseen disabilities live fuller lives.
The organization particularly focuses on providing community support for those with ADHD and dyslexia, conditions that can easily go overlooked despite their damaging effects over time. This is particularly true for Black girls and women diagnosed with ADHD because, according to experts, the signs and symptoms are interpreted differently from other groups’.
Paul Morgan, director of the Center for Educational Disparities Research at Penn State, pointed out that by kindergarten, Black children in the U.S. are 70% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than otherwise similar white children. Usually, doctors are trained to attribute rambunctiousness and inattention to ADHD, but it’s been found that Black girls are usually cast off as just being defiant and lazy. This early misdiagnosis leads to Black women going years without a solution for a disorder they didn’t know they had that affects their life, particularly at work
“I think often when people are struggling or having difficulty completing assignments or having difficulty with follow through, ADHD can be a possible reason for why that’s happening,” Cowser Yancy explained. “Even if they have been diagnosed in the past with a child or a teenager, they might not recognize what that challenge looks like at work.” She added Understood’s research showed that young adults don’t have a full understanding of how their diagnosis shows up in everyday life, particularly as a Black woman. “Through the years Black women have been labeled with a certain set of behaviors, so its easy o think that irritability from ADHD is just an attitude, but its so much more than that.”
She says that she’s dedicated to offering spaces that are supportive. As the CAO, she provides training and uses blended learning tools to teach workplace leaders how to be better at leading with empathy and effectiveness.
This inclusive and supportive environment is something Cowser Yancy said she’s always strived for as she climbed the corporate ladder throughout her career in human resources.
“Every corporate structure I’ve been a part of has had some difficulty finding people of color,” she said. “As a black woman, I’m not going to pretend I can’t find me. I’m available. Other people like me are available. People that are differently abled are available as well.” She just said that the push for inclusivity took effort, something she was willing to put in, but others weren’t. That didn’t stop her though.
“I had some pushback but I didn’t care—it needed to be done.”
Fortunately, Understood’s overall mission is all about leaning into people’s differences and learning from them.
“I’m really excited about helping to further the work to help people discover and unlock their potential, and truly reinforce our desire to help them feel understood. That’s incredibly important.”
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