M/SIX flies flag for supporting people with autism in adland

M/SIX: Instagram featured mosaic of videos to mark World Autism Awareness Day
M/SIX: Instagram featured mosaic of videos to mark World Autism Awareness Day

There are about 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, but only 16% are in full-time work, according to the National Autistic Society.

M/SIX is calling on businesses to recognise the contribution people with autism and other forms of neurodivergence can make, warning that while the industry is making progress in improving diversity in gender, ethnicity and social mobility, there has been "little meaningful action" on neurodiversity.

To mark World Autism Awareness Day yesterday (2 April), The & Partnership media agency created a series of assets for social media featuring facts around autism and other conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia.

M/SIX is approaching the end of its bespoke internship scheme aimed at people with autism – an initiative run with input from Ambitious about Autism and now in its third year. This year, the scheme was extended from three months to four, while the interns were provided with additional benefits: access to Group M’s online university and the opportunity to gain IPA accreditations. M/SIX has also created a neurodiversity training module for all of its staff.

There are about 700,000 people in the UK on the autism spectrum, but just 32% of autistic adults are in any kind of paid work, with only half of those in full-time work. 

M/SIX’s scheme was initiated by former chief executive Alistair MacCallum, who left last year to join Kinetic, but became a trustee of Ambitious about Autism at the same time. 

Speaking to Campaign, Kyra Campbell, customer experience content manager and neurodiversity champion at M/SIX, said a neurodiverse workforce offered the same benefits to one balanced in terms of gender, ethnicity and background: if people do not all think the same way, they have much greater scope for creativity and problem-solving. 

When it comes to getting the message out there, "a lot of agencies are still trying to find their way", Campbell said. "It’s about being open-minded – it’s all about what the culture is willing to provide." 

The extension of the internship scheme made it more valuable for the three people taking part, she added: "We found that three months is a good amount of time to get exposure, but if we offer more time they can actually get involved in projects." The additional month means the interns are able to have an active role in things such as client presentations.

A view from an intern

Alina Ali, one of this year’s interns, said: "During my placement at M/SIX, the experience for somebody as neurodivergent as myself has been an interesting yet enlightening one. My manager, Kyra, has provided me with a great sense of knowing what it means to work in a digital customer experience team.

"It changed my perspective on facing a challenging day by making the most of out of it and being confident in your own abilities. I have also worked on a neurodiversity project with a neurodiverse champion, which we plan to introduce to M/SIX on a global scale. The project aims to educate people on the benefits of hiring talent and not relying on stereotypes. 

"If there is one thing which I really enjoyed about the CX team, it's the teamwork. Not only do we get to work together on multiple projects, the work is fun and fast-paced, and I get opportunities to learn something new, such as learning how to do SEO content and data analysis.

"I also get to learn about the changing media landscape from an industry perspective by attending brainstorming meetings and taking part in agency challenges. Working with a neurodiversity champion has also opened my perspective on how to cater to my teamwork style with members who have dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia."

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