Associate Director of Accessibility and Inclusion, Oath |
Creator, Kaleidoscope Society
Margaux Joffe is the Associate Director of Accessibility and Inclusion at Oath, a global network of media and technology brands including Yahoo, AOL, Huffington Post, Techcrunch and Makers. Margaux works with the team responsible for making the company and its products more accessible to people with disabilities. Her role specifically deals with making the company at large a more inclusive place to work. Margaux is also the creator of a website called Kaleidoscope Society, which showcases empowering stories of women with ADHD, and provides curated resources. Joffe says the website was inspired by her personal experience after being diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 29 and not being able to find relevant resources geared towards adult women. She says, “the day came when I realized maybe I need to create something.” That something became Kaleidoscope Society, which aims to “dispel stigma and reframe the conversation on ADHD.” The project has been featured in Teen Vogue, Fast Company, Broadly, and Bustle.
Growing up, Joffe says she was not aware she had ADHD. She had a structured upbringing and was a student athlete, both of which she believes helped minimize some of her ADHD symptoms. However, she remembers being kicked out of class numerous times through the years for talking or being disruptive. In second grade on a report card her teacher wrote, “Margaux needs to learn how to control her enthusiasm.” Joffe says those words stuck with her, and that, “the journey for me in my life has been about learning how to effectively channel my enthusiasm. My unique energy is a gift and something that has made me successful in my career.” The transition to college was tough for Joffe, as she had “no sensory breaks” living in the dorms; and poor diet and lack of sleep and exercise exacerbated the ADHD symptoms. Undiagnosed ADHD caused “periods of depression and anxiety” through her twenties, but she says “finding my passion and a creative outlet really saved me at the time.”
Before being diagnosed with ADHD, Joffe was naturally drawn to things that brought her peace – she found that yoga, being in nature, and art all helped her. What really helped, though, was being diagnosed with ADHD. She says, “the opportunity to learn about ADHD and gain a deeper understanding of how my brain works has been invaluable,” because now she can focus on what she needs, and design her life accordingly. This self-awareness has enabled her to improve many aspects of her life. She has learned certain strategies for organization and accounting for short-term memory problems that have made her more successful. She also keeps in mind that “sometimes your challenges are your opportunities.” She says, “having ADHD has made me stronger and more resilient than the average person…because I had to work harder.”
Joffe believes “there are so many great qualities [in people with ADHD], and really they vary from person to person.” For her there are several advantages to having ADHD. The first is creativity, about which she says “we have the ability to think divergently and connect the dots in ways that other don’t.” The second positive is being observant. She says one of the challenges of having ADHD is not filtering out unnecessary information, but on the flip side, “we might pick up on details that others overlook.” The third is enthusiasm and energy. She says, “when people with ADHD are excited about something, they become unstoppable, and this genuine energy, and excitement, and passion, and exuberance for life is something that really can inspire and move other people.” Finally, the fourth main positive of having ADHD is spontaneity. She says, “I think there’s a beauty in speaking and acting in a way that’s unfiltered, and genuine from your heart. It resonates with other people.” In addition, being spontaneous makes you more comfortable with being uncomfortable and trusting your instincts. The more spontaneous you are, the more likely you may be to make mistakes, and “over time, you build a resistance to fear.” For herself, she says, “it’s made me a more courageous person because I’m not afraid of saying something that might come across as silly, and I’ve let go of what others think of me.”
To younger generations with Learning Differences, Margaux says, “it’s a great moment in time to be a young person with a Learning Difference” because the tides are shifting and “society is starting to embrace neurodiversity and value minds of all kinds.” She says the biggest piece of advice she can give to others with any Learning Difference is to learn how their mind works, and “gain awareness of themselves…and design their lives accordingly and not try to fit themselves into a box that may not be for them.”
“The key is to own your ADHD and to stop trying to please others,” says Joffe. “Those of us with ADHD have a sensitive heart, a creative mind, and incredible energy. We have the power to lead our generation to do things in a better way.”