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Autism an Emerging Asset in Silicon Valley Hiring

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Generally speaking, most neurodiverse individuals have far fewer career opportunities than individuals who are neurotypical. However, this is not to say that this demographic doesn’t want to find work. While the national unemployment rate sits at 3.6%, roughly 90% of autistic adults are seeking work but cannot find any positions. In the face of such a large employment disparity, Silicon Valley has responded with the explosion of programs that target the recruitment of unemployed adults with autism. While the hiring of neurodiverse employees demands a slight change in workplace expectations regarding communication skills and social norms, the different skillset they provide holds clear competitive advantages. Among males, Asperger’s Syndrome is partly characterized as having intense attention to detail, above average mathematical skills, and remarkable creativity. In addition, people in this demographic often have exceptional memory in their respective interests. This should come as no surprise, however, as autistic people on average have normal or higher-than-normal IQs.

In 2017, six big-name corporations, including Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and SAP, created the Autism at Work committee to improve the perception of hiring autistic employees. One notable example of Silicon Valley’s autism hiring initiatives is SAP’s 2019 expansion of their Autism at Work program. For context, SAP is an international corporation that produces a variety of enterprise software solutions to aid with corporate workflow efficiency and data management. Through the Autism at Work program, SAP actively searches for neurodiversity and offers work to qualified software testers and computer programmers. The goal of SAP’s recently expanded project is to gain a variety of cognitive perspectives to discover, in their words, “out-of-the-box solutions.” While the neurotypical employees within a given firm might fail to solve a problem efficiently, or perhaps at all, it may take a neurodiverse employee to figure out the solution.

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