“Many organizations worldwide are grappling with the opportunities and challenges of working with diversity. Diversity is a complex concept. ” ~ Working with Diversity: A Framework for Action
Inclusion in the workplace looks very different than diversity initiatives. A trap organizations fall into is in thinking they are one in the same. This has been especially evident with the recent surge of autism hiring initiatives. With the pronounced promotions of ‘Autism in the Workplace,’ there are remarkable gaps in inclusion education. And these gaps are resulting in injustices for the autistic population.
It’s a well documented fact that most diversity and inclusion initiatives fail without proper planning and forethought. Despite this fact, many organizations don’t dedicate time and energy to inclusion plans. This practice is not only dangerous for a company’s bottom line–disengaged/absent employees, risk of litigation–but dangerous for a marginalized minority of autistic citizens.
Before putting time and attention into hiring autistics, it’s vital to have a plan for what happens after the neurodivergent job seeker is through the door.
It is arduous to comprehend why pages and pages of ways to source and hire an untapped talent pool of autistic job seekers is regarded as more essential to promote than actual equity and inclusion practices for neurodivergent employees.
I’ve observed dozens and dozens of big business representatives (who are non-autistic) preaching proudly about what great initiatives they have incorporated for ‘individuals with autism’ and patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Sadly, beyond high-fiving their neurotypical leadership teams’ objectives and using non-inclusive autistic cultural language (and generalized statements), these leaders offer very few practical inclusion tools for listeners to bring back to the workplace.
There is no use providing an employment door for autistic individuals to potentially slip through, if there is no true inclusion waiting on the other side.
To many an autistic viewer, like myself, some of these highly-publicized webinars come across as a means to utilize a marginalized, unrepresented minority for company branding. Especially absent are the autistic stories (beyond the token autistic on an ‘expert’ panel), the autistic voices, and ample real-life examples of autistic employees in HR and higher-level management positions. Instead, the key takeaway is many times the wonderful support provided to young, caucasian males in entry-level tech roles. Beyond the perpetuation of autistic stereotypes, an inferior/superior construct remains; in addition to a non–inclusive vacuum which sucks up the concept of gender- and age- and racial-equity.
When universal design inclusion is truly an organization’s priority, business leaders can readily cite how the company fosters a sense of belonging and how inclusivity measures touch down on each and every department level and each and every individual business stakeholder—from the job candidates to the outlying community members. With true inclusion, there is:
- An inclusion mission and vision;
- Time dedicated to consider what needs to be done for universal inclusion;
- A workplace inclusion plan with short- and long-term goals and benchmarks;
- Internal resources without a reliance on outside resources or quick fixes;
- Opportunity for employees to contribute ongoing feedback about the workplace culture;
- Inclusion measures embedded in all departments, policies, processes, and procedures for all employees;
- A workforce educated on the pitfalls and dangers of diversity initiatives;
- A plan to address resistance to diversity and inclusion measures among employees and key leaders;
- And ongoing (quality) diversity and inclusion education and training.
An agency dedicated to real inclusion has a plan and takes time to adhere to the plan and instigate change. Thought leaders and minority members are brought in, employees’ input is solicited, time is carved out for progress and examination. Metrics are set. Taskforce leaders are assigned. Money is budgeted. A true place of inclusion dedicates time, energy, and space for frank and mature discussions about what’s working and what’s not, opens the door to diverse voices, instills a sense of trust and safety.
When inclusion is done right, the benefits encompass a wide range of psychological, communicative, societal, and economical aspects, such as increased employee well-being, lower levels of workplace prejudice and conflict, attentive listening, increased engagement, and elevated levels of work productivity and business revenue. When it’s not done right, or set as an initiative for another day, the scale tips.
Without proper attention to inclusion measures, we are not making ripples of transformation. We are creating a tsunami, where only the strongest members of a marginalized, bullied, ostracized, overlooked, isolated minority survive; while the remaining, less fortunate, less resilient, drown. It’s not enough to invite everyone to the dance, when you forget the music.
Everyday Aspergers is an unusual and powerful exploration of one woman’s marvelously lived life. Reminiscent of the best of Anne Lamott, Everyday Aspergers jumps back and forth in time through a series of interlocking vignettes that give insight and context to her lived experience as an autistic woman. The humor and light touch is disarming, because underneath light observations and quirky moments are buried deep truths about the human experience and about her own work as an autistic woman discerning how to live her best life. From learning how to make eye contact to finding ways to communicate her needs to being a dyslexic cheerleader and a fraught mother of also-autistic son, Samantha Craft gives us a marvelous spectrum of experiences. Highly recommended for everyone to read — especially those who love people who are just a little different.”~ Ned Hayes, bestselling author of The Eagle Tree
These are the author’s personal opinions based on over 2,000 hours of research into the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and autism. Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samantha Craft) is a respected advocate, author, professional educator, speaker, and friend to many autistic individuals around the world. For more information go to myspectrumsuite.com