Liberty and Justice for All? Workplace Neurodiversity Hiring Initiatives

Discrimination isn’t always obvious. Sometimes discrimination is cloaked in good deeds and good intentions. Candy-coated with awards and recognition. Sometimes discrimination is a result of purposeful initiatives.
A means of branding.

There are clues: subtle segregation. No representation of the minority group who is being spoken about, in image, words, or panel, or limited representation: the token commodity. (dehumanization)

Sometimes given limited opportunity to speak; other times,
only smiling and saying, “Thank you! Thank you!” I am so grateful you took . . . (pity on me?) Never the leader or the organizer. A lesser group formed, so they appear to have some type of voice.

Distinct words of division: “They”

“They try so hard.”
“They behave better when . . . “
“They are just like us.”

The comments of the minority in attendance belittled or ignored or challenged. And they are still talking. Outdated language and stereotypical representation. Speaking, as if an expert, about a culture they don’t belong to.

As Judy Singer stated at the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit, we are all commodities. Indeed, as a Neurodiversity Trainer, myself, in a round about way, I use the concept of neurodiversity as a commodity.

But when inclusion is primarily focused on buffering the bottomline ($), on how the talents of one kind can bring profit, the talk of potential economic gain erodes and devalues the inclusion initiative, and the inherent value of the minority member: that of being a human being.

There will always be benefits to heterogenous groupings, safe space which allows for a vast spectrum of age, ability, color, and gender in the workplace. But the primary focus of inclusion, ought be inclusion of the minority group members, not the financial and intellectual benefits gained by the dominant group. If there is an increase in productivity and profits, congratulate all.

Congratulate all the talent. Eliminate the inferior/superior construct. True inclusion doesn’t enforce division.

Within the equity and inclusion lens, we must remember to address inequities in power and privilege. Be aware and assess the dominate group; their voice is in the organization. And implement tactics to assess the current state of workplace culture. Work to embed inclusion throughout processes, procedures, policies, and guidelines. Work to create space for Employee Resource Groups (ERG/affinity groups), for their voices to be heard at the table.

Liberty is partially defined as being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of behavior.

We must question the autism-hiring initiatives/Autism at Work:

Who are the employees who are offering inclusion?

Is it a process for assimilation or a process for belonging, as is? Without assuming need for fixing?

Does there exist an intentional and ongoing analysis of workplace inequities in power and privilege?

Are the KPIs aligned with the neurodiversity-hiring initiatives, only about the numbers (diversity)? Or are they also about the people (inclusion)? Are they more about the people and less about the numbers? If not, why not?

Is most of the data shared, and solicited, to confirm that the diversity-hiring practice itself is successful? Is the data shared primarily to congratulate a system and process? Or, is the data shared reflecting the sense of welcoming and belonging of the employees?

When business leaders weigh heavy on the diversity-initiative and benchmarks, and light on the analysis and continual development of true inclusivity, this is not a quality role model for equity and inclusion.

True inclusion means neurodivergent minority members are embedded throughout departments in companies with autism-hiring initiatives: aka found in HR roles.

True thought leaders don’t ask for respect, they earn it.

They are well-versed in conflict fluency, competent in working through and deescalating conflict, in leading those uncomfortable conversations in mature ways. They understand their own bias, how privilege creates ableism and the limitation of their lived-experience. They recognize they will never be culturally competent in a a culture they do not belong to. They ask for advice, opinions, feedback, and then digest it and act upon it.

They address systemic issues and areas requiring change–continually.

True leaders of liberty and justice for the autistic people emulate and articulate concepts of inclusion. They are practiced at effective perspective taking and apologizing. They provide coaching services for mediation and advocacy, a voice for the minority, not just means and way to ‘help’ and ‘assist.’

Like this article. Check out more on this blog. Connect with Marcelle Ciampi on Linkedin or Samantha Craft on Twitter or myspectrumsuite.com.

Samantha Craft’s Autistics Traits List

Bio:  Marcelle Ciampi, M.Ed. (aka Samantha Craft)

Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samatha Craft) is a respected autistic author and community advocate, is best known for her writings found in the well-received book Everyday Aspergers. A professional educator, she has been featured in various literature, including peer-reviewed journals, Autism Parenting Magazine, The Mighty, Project Aspie, Art of Autism, and Different Brains. Marcelle works as the Recruitment Manager and Outreach Specialist at Ultranauts Inc., an engineering firm with a neurodiversity-hiring initiative, and is a consultant for Uptimize and Spectrum Fusion. A contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, Marcelle speaks globally on the topic of neurodiversity. She also serves as the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC, the co-founder of the Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, co-executive of LifeGuides for Autistics (neuroguides.org), and a contributor and advisor to autism organizations and conferences internationally. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages and been shared in counseling offices around the world. She resides in the Pacific Northwest U.S.A. with her sons and life partner.

“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

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