Please note: this article is written using identity-first language (i.e. Autistic person) instead of person-first language (i.e. person with Autism). We understand this to be the favoured language within the Autistic community, however, we appreciate that everyone has different preferences and always strive to create inclusive and respectful content.
Did you know that the unemployment rate of Autistic Australians is 34%, which is more than three times the unemployment rate of those with a disability and eight times more than those without a disability? Did you also know that Autistic people have been proven to be 92% more productive and 48% faster than employees without Autism?
Given these statistics, it seems strange that one of the greatest threats for business leaders in the tech industry is a significant talent shortage, which has been exacerbated by the digital transformation influenced by COVID-19. So, the glaringly obvious question is, if employers seek a competitive edge by hiring talented people, why are many capable Autistic workers who obtain valuable attributes such as sustained concentration, superior memory, and high integrity, being overlooked?
Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer but rather a myriad of systemic issues that stem from historic ableism.
However, steps can be made by the Australian tech industry and the community at large to help dismantle these issues. The first step is to recognise and understand the various barriers Autistic people face followed by putting in place measures that can be used to overcome them.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day which is an opportunity to take this step by recognising, embracing and celebrating Autistic people. To mark this important day, we spoke with some incredible members of our community who are paving the way for a world inclusive of Autistic people, here is what they had to say…
“As somebody who prefers to use identity-first language for me and for quite a lot of Autistic people, autism is part of our identity so a big part of today is raising awareness about us as a population of a unique identity, highlighting some of our strengths and the challenges that still occur across society. For example, prejudice, stigma, and also within school, work, different areas of life where we may not have support services.”
Rachel continued to explain,
“Being your authentic self at work is what I am all about…Since being able to claim that I am Autistic and being proud about that just makes me feel more fulfilled and able to deliver my best work. By being open about who I am and not hiding I think it helps with encouraging others to do the same thing. To not be afraid.”
Michael Tozer, Founder and CEO, Xceptional, explained,
“We consistently hear that shortage of talent is one of the most pressing challenges facing businesses everywhere. My one message would be to tell everyone that perhaps the answer is right in your community. Autistic people are an untapped talent pool that you may not have considered who can add huge value to your team.”
Michael also said,
“We have seen a fundamental shift over the last 4 years since we launched Xceptional. We have seen autism awareness grow, with more and more businesses using our services and hiring from our talent pool. We are also seeing the focus on diversity move from the fringes to the board room… In terms of the gaps, people are much more aware of autism; yet there is still a need for increased confidence to work with and to manage autistic people. Xceptional is pushing this systemic change through offering our training program to hiring managers.
“One of the bigger challenges I see to inclusion is the tendency to drown good intentions in misguided bureaucracy. What I mean by that is when we approach people with textbook expectations of functioning we are likely to miss their unique strengths and weaknesses and as a result, “include” them in activities that are actually unsuitable. For example, I have a diagnosis of autism but do not enjoy mathematical or analytical tasks as is often expected.’
“While there is a growing awareness of the broad spectrum of ability that is associated with autism, there remains a lot of stigma, misinformation, and misrepresentation. I think events like Autism Awareness Day are important because they provide a platform for a large and incredibly diverse community to connect, celebrate, and share the good and challenging aspects of neurodiversity. In their collective voice, I think there is the potential for real change.”
You can learn more about the work that these remarkable changemakers (among other incredible individuals) are doing to advocate for the Autistic community by checking out these additional resources:
- ‘Can we Talk About Autistic Burnout as a Mental Health Risk?’ by Rachel Worsley, CEO and Founder of Neurodiversity Media.
- ‘WHO OUR TRAINING IS FOR – AND IT MIGHT NOT BE WHO YOU THINK’ by Mike Tozer, Founder and CEO of Xceptional.
- ‘Diagnosed at 30 – what I did and didn’t expect’ by Summer Petrosius, CEO and Founder of Kindship.
- ‘My child has just been diagnosed and I don’t know what to do’ by Erika Gleeson, CEO & Founder of Autism Swim.
In summary, World Autism Awareness Day is an invitation for the world, which includes the Remarkable team who are constantly striving to do better, to learn about the incredible skills that the Autistic community offer and to commit to redesigning a truly equitable society.