This tech giant is breaking down barriers for workers with autism

What can C-Suite learn from this awe-inspiring program?

This tech giant is breaking down barriers for workers with autism

IBM Australia is breaking new ground in the push for a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This time, the technology giant is promoting neurodiversity.

The company is hiring 10 new staff members in the autism spectrum, assigning them across a range of specialties, from data analytics to application and software development to cybersecurity, at its Client Innovation Centre in Ballarat.

IBM, Microsoft and SAP are among pioneering organisations that recognise the potential of workers with autism. The recruitment drive is part of a growing movement toward a ‘neurologically divergent’ workforce, to foster different patterns of thinking and problem-solving in the IT industry.

People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are known to have above-average IQ, a sharp attention to detail, a good memory, and the mental stamina for repetitive and focus-intensive tasks. Thus, they offer skills deemed essential to IT development.

“Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are recognized and respected as any other human variation. One of these variations is autism,” wrote Paul Austin and Andrew Williams, who lead IBM’s special program IGNITE ASD.

“In the workplace, high-functioning autistic individuals may view the world a bit differently than their neurotypical teammates. They may notice anomalies that others do not. They may see a different solution to a problem. Their attention to detail and low tolerance for defects may lead to an increase in quality for the entire team. And this improvement can benefit our clients.”

IBM is the first organisation in Australia to pilot a neurodiversity program, but it is also planning to launch IGNITE ASD in Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

The company is hoping to create 300 new jobs worldwide for people with autism. In Australia, for instance, people with ASD face a 31.6% unemployment rate, according to autism advocacy group Amaze.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to welcome some very gifted people as IBM employees,” Austin and Williams added.

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