Disability and neurodiversity hires are an opportunity for STEM employers

Diversity in tech

Workplace changes due to COVID present a unique opportunity for STEM employers to benefit from hiring neurodiverse and disabled employees.

Employers that hire people living with disability see an average 28% higher revenue than their competitors and 90% lower staff turnover, says atWork Australia Disability Employment Services.

STEM jobs and IT roles in particular are booming, and these industries have the opportunity to build or extend solid workforces on a foundation of diversity that includes neurodiverse people, says Penny Evans, National Diversity Employer Manager, atWork Australia.

“Neurodiversity is a term that recognises neurological differences between people and can include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dyscalculia, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome and other conditions,” she says.

“When it comes to recruitment, neurodiverse individuals are often overlooked. This is a missed opportunity as we’re seeing that these professions are very popular among neurodiverse people looking for work.

“Neurodiverse workers have also proven to be highly beneficial to businesses’ productivity, staff turnover and their bottom line, specifically in STEM and IT roles.”

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Greater diversity = better workplaces

Neurodiverse employees can become a key part of any diverse team, increasing its ability to think from different perspectives to challenge problems from different angles and find unique solutions, says Penny.

“STEM and IT roles often also play to the strengths of neurodiverse employees who commonly excel at creativity and innovation, lateral thinking, strategic thinking and providing different perspectives.

“Additionally, they can often display key strengths such as high levels of concentration, superior focus, high attention to detail and an ability for big picture thinking,” she adds.

RELATED: How STEM employers can be more inclusive to staff with disabilities

Getting diverse employees on board

The talent pool of those living with disability and neurodiversity grew significantly in 2020, with the Disability Employment Services (DES) caseload rising by over 30,000 last year. However, while unemployment rose, atWork Australia placed over 6,000 people living with neurodiversity, disability, injury or health condition into employment or further education, showing that there are still jobs out there, including many in STEM and IT fields, presenting an opportunity to highlight STEM disability employment.

“It’s important that businesses are aware of the free-of-charge support provided to them when hiring someone living with disability,” says Penny.

“Government funded Disability Employment Services offer businesses a range of provisions that go far beyond the main reasons companies engage recruitment services.

“Our employers are provided with post placement support and access to workplace adjustments to ensure all needs are met, which sets the foundation for long term, sustainable employment.”

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Shaping an inclusive society

“Moving into 2021 all businesses that have roles in STEM and IT, have the opportunity to help shape a society and their national workforce, that is inclusive for all people living with neurodiversity, disability, injury or health condition, while tapping into the full talent pool and taking on employees that are proven to benefit businesses.”

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

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