Autism Speaks CEO Angela Geiger: This productive, overlooked pool of employees can make your business better

Across the United States, companies are starting to reap the benefits of a more inclusive workforce. We’re seeing new faces and hearing new voices in politics, boardrooms and on television screens.

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The call for inclusion has been loud and clear, and our society is shifting to answer the call. Today, historically underrepresented people are seeing more opportunities than ever before, and workplaces have become more intergenerational and ethnically diverse than at any time in history.

While we celebrate our progress, we still need to acknowledge that a significant workforce demographic has been overlooked, along with their productivity: 6.5 million Americans with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and/or developmental differences — people who are reliable, productive and resourceful — people who can make business better. 

While we celebrate our progress, we still need to acknowledge that a significant workforce demographic has been overlooked, along with their productivity: 6.5 million Americans with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and/or developmental differences — people who are reliable, productive and resourceful — people who can make business better.

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that employ people with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences see positive business impacts, including better morale, improved products and services, higher productivity and ultimately increased bottom lines.

Similarly, Accenture, AAPD and Disability:In studied 45 companies that stood out in areas specific to disability employment and inclusion and found that these companies achieved, on average, 28 percent higher revenue, twice the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins compared with other companies in the same sample.

Nevertheless, unemployment of this capable population remains staggeringly high. Per data collected by National Core Indicators, approximately 81 percent of adults with developmental differences do not have a paid job.

Why aren’t more companies accessing this untapped talent pool? They don’t know inclusion delivers.

Many business leaders and human resources departments are uncertain about how to recruit, hire and train an intellectually and developmentally diverse workforce. As has been proven with diversity and inclusion frameworks, employers need resources to match roles with people who have autism, intellectual and developmental differences.

Similarly, this diverse workforce needs support and tools to develop the skills to get hired, successfully hold jobs, find their leadership voices and create a roadmap to advancement.

To close the knowledge gap and eliminate other barriers, Autism Speaks, Best Buddies and Special Olympics are teaming up with the Entertainment Industry Foundation to launch Delivering Jobs, an inclusion campaign dedicated to creating pathways to employment and leadership opportunities for people with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences.

With an initial investment from SunTrust Foundation, the campaign hopes to inspire companies across the country to establish more inclusive hiring practices like those of Bank of America and Microsoft, which are considered gold standard leaders in this space.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
STISUNTRUST BANKS70.10-0.32-0.45%
BACBANK OF AMERICA CORP.32.84+0.15+0.46%
MSFTMICROSOFT CORP.149.48-0.14-0.09%

People with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences are already successfully fulfilling a wide variety of professional roles.

Kayla McKeon is changing laws and attitudes as the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome. As the Manager of Grassroots Advocacy with the National Down Syndrome Society, Kayla brings her personal story to the Nation’s Capital.  (Courtesy of Special Olympics and ESPN)

Kayla McKeon from New York recently became the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome, and is now working for the National Down Syndrome Society. A visual effects and animation studio for young people with autism is a key contributor for blockbuster, Oscar-nominated films like Black Panther. A young woman from Minnesota with cerebral palsy recently graduated from law school and is currently an associate at a global law firm.

Millions more talented people just like these are out there – ready and willing to work.

Research by Deloitte shows that young people entering the workforce believe inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds is directly tied to innovation and business results.

Now is the time for businesses of all sizes to think differently and hire differently.

Angela Geiger is president and CEO of Autism Speaks. Anthony Shriver is founder, chairman and CEO of Best Buddies. Timothy Shriver is chairman of the board at Special Olympics. Mary Davis is CEO of Special Olympics.

Autism Speaks, Best Buddies and Special Olympics are here to help companies of all sizes start delivering jobs. Head to DeliveringJobs.org and take the #DeliveringJobs pledge today.