Tracie Gildea is chief marketing officer of STANLEY Security and is a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the first grade. As a mother, it took an ecosystem of support from schools, counselors and family members to ensure that we understood his needs and provided support for his learning and personal development.
Through our own journey, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges that people with neurological variations like autism face on a daily basis, but perhaps one of the biggest hurdles is overcoming society’s underestimation of this incredibly gifted population.
In my experience, people with neurodiversity are consistently underestimated for their knowledge and skills — but if my son is any indication of the value they can bring to the tech industry, then business leaders are missing out until they prioritize cognitive diversity.
Why is neurodiversity important in the technology industry?
One of the key factors in making each of us different is our neurological makeup. This difference can result in people interpreting, understanding and reacting differently in certain situations within personal and working life. And it often creates different skills and talents within people, such as heightened levels of analytical and creative processing.
The technology industry spans various roles and functions, from data scientists to developers, analysts and many more – not to mention the jobs that have yet to be created as we approach the Fifth Industrial Revolution and our world undergoes a significant digital transformation.
As an industry, we need to work harder to educate how talent can be leveraged in different ways to fulfill these roles, because employees are often a company’s greatest asset.
Throughout history, we’ve relied on our ability as a society to think differently in order to survive and thrive. With differences in thinking, neurodiverse people can bring alternative perspectives that may not have been explored before. It’s critical that businesses continue to prioritize cognitive diversity in their workforce, as every individual brings unique knowledge, experiences, and skills to the table and can help drive progress in technological innovation.
How can the tech sector recognize and recruit neurodiverse talent?
One of the first barriers to entry for someone who is neurodiverse is the interview process. Traditional interviews take into consideration things like body language and awareness of social cues that can put a neurodiverse person at a disadvantage.
Neurodiversity might affect the way that someone communicates; for example, the inability to read non-verbal social cues, resulting in limited eye contact and limited language softening. This behavior could lead to the removal of neurodiverse people from candidacy based on “cultural fit.” In reality, this is a much larger miscommunication that’s likely to screen out neurodiverse talent from positions in which they could excel.
Chemistry and character-based stages of the hiring process tend to take place first, before digging into the more technical elements of a role, where neurodiverse people can display their advanced skills. This leads us to ask: Are businesses doing enough to support diversity, equity and inclusion if they aren’t giving equal opportunity to neurodiverse people?
One way businesses can address this challenge is by partnering with community organizations to gain expert guidance, education, and best practices around talent acquisition and talent nurturing.
For example, across Stanley Black & Decker, we’re …….