Network for neurodivergent workers embraced by Canada’s public service

Interdepartmental professionals' network offers resources to support managers, colleagues with neurodivergent employees

Network for neurodivergent workers embraced by Canada’s public service

A network for neurodivergent workers is helping those on the spectrum as they weave their way through Canada’s federal public service employment.

Infinity is promoting respect for neurodiversity in the workplace.

“As the nation’s largest employer, Canada’s federal government has the potential to set the stage for diversity and inclusion practices at work – but the first step is awareness,” said Sancho Angulo, in a Carleton University report.

Angulo has autism. He is an acting engagement advisor with the Office of Public Service Accessibility at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

He is also an instructor at Carleton, having graduated from university’s Master of Public Policy and Administration program in 2022.

A previous report “encouraged” employers to talk about neurodiversity as neurodivergent employees are getting "overlooked" in the workplace.

Workplace discrimination against neurodiverse workers

Angulo’s own experiences with workplace discrimination is what pushed him to start the Infinity network, according to the Carleton University report.

“I’ve had people in past organizations I have worked with tell me that I did not have the temperament for leadership, I’ve been passed over for leadership positions on the account of being autistic,” he said.

“I want to make sure that situation – where someone is condescended [to] and excluded based on prejudice – doesn’t happen to other neurodivergent people.”

And since its inception in 2023, Infinity has grown to have over 1,000 members across 90 federal institutions, becoming the G7’s largest government-wide neurodiversity network, according to the Carleton University report.

Google, Microsoft and Wells Fargo are among companies focusing on neurodiversity, according to a previous report.

How do you support neurodivergent individuals?

Infinity is an interdepartmental professionals’ network for neurodivergent federal public servants, encompassing those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Finding employment, poor treatment from managers and colleagues, lack of support and accommodations, overstimulating environments and inadequate work arrangements are some of the key challenges for neurodiverse workers, according to the network.

To address this, the network develops resources that can be used to support managers and colleagues with neurodivergent employees. It also regularly hosts regular learning events and panel discussions to raise awareness and promote understanding, reported Carleton.

It looks to connect, empower, and drive personal and professional growth among current and aspiring neurodivergent public servants through:

  • virtual and in-person networking events
  • professional development activities
  • mentorship
  • GCxchange, GCcollab, and Discord groups

“We are slowly but surely developing strategies and competence when it comes to hiring, retaining and advancing those with cognitive disabilities – but there is still work to do,” says Angulo.

Previously, Tom Lakin, a neurodiverse global practice leader at Robert Walters Group, talked to HRD about how to help neurodiverse workers rise to the top of organizations.

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