Policies around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are becoming more widespread in private markets; 60 percent of firms say they have one, according to a survey by LGT Capital Partners.
But one topic that has been slow to enter the dialogue is neurodiversity, which describes the range of differences in people’s cognitive abilities. Examples of neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome.
Progress on neuroinclusion has been slower than other parts of the diversity agenda, in large part due to a lack of understanding, according to a panel of GPs speaking at the BVCA Summit 2022 in London last week. “One of the key challenges is measuring neurodiversity, because people display characteristics across a spectrum,” said Maria Wagner, partner at venture capital firm Beringea, “At the same time, it’s quite a sensitive topic…defining what classifies someone as neurodiverse”.
In a bid to move the needle, consultant and investor Hamilton Lane has been working with Novata, a technology platform that helps GPs gather data on ESG, to develop a method to track neurodiversity in the workplace in the UK.
“This is something we are actively discussing with them… it’s very early days but it’s underway,” Nina Kraus, principal at Hamilton Lane, told New Private Markets. “At Hamilton Lane, we believe that it’s important for all aspects of diversity to be considered and neurodiversity has begun to play a bigger part in that conversation for us as investors.”
While the process has started, Kraus noted that the topic is “challenging” and “diving into some of these elements of neurodiversity will take time to understand before GPs can systemically start integrating them into their processes”.
The level of engagement managers have with neurodiversity also varies across regions; according to Kraus, the topic is discussed “more openly in the UK ecosystem than elsewhere”.
Many in the industry have begun to acknowledge that neurodiversity has an important role to play in driving more diverse thinking in the workplace. Some have gone a step further and are already implementing it into their HR processes. Aviva Investors published a report last year, outlining how it integrates “neurodiverse workstreams” for the benefit of its employees that identify as such. These include “flexible work hours”, “revamping face-to-face meetings” and “office set-up”, according to the report.
With LPs paying more attention to neurodiversity, GPs may soon be expected to do the same.