June 18 is Autistic Pride Day, an opportunity to amplify the voices of tech women on the spectrum and continue to promote acceptance, inclusion, and the understanding that diversity is truly what makes our world richer and more beautiful.
Autistic individuals and their unique strengths provide invaluable contributions to our communities – but the tech industry is still stifling potential with cultures majorly exclusive to neurotypicals. Our 2022 Technical Equity Experience Survey (TechEES) report highlights only 50% of tech women with autism have a sense of belonging at work.
“[We need] a common understanding of class and disability needs and supports to open the gates a bit. So much of getting through grad school and into tech is so hostile to autistic folks (especially networking norms) and assumes a fairly high economic standing already.” -Entry-level White non-binary individual (2022 TechEES)
As we work towards a society that appreciates and accommodates neurodiversity, creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, we uplift individuals and organizations inspiring us, like:
- Jhillika Kumar, GHC 19 Student of Vision Abie Award, witnessed the impact technology made for her non-verbal, autistic brother and channeled that into founding Mentra, a neurodiversity employment network. Kumar’s vision for the future of technology “is to witness its power as an extension of human capability to serve those with disabilities, enabling them to thrive in classrooms, workspaces, policies, and societies, and enriching the quality of their lives overall.”
- Temple Grandin, PhD, academic and animal behaviorist, has made a profound impact on both the field of technology and the lives of people with disabilities. Grandin, an autistic woman, revolutionized the livestock industry through her groundbreaking designs of more humane and efficient animal handling systems. She also championed the use of technology as a tool for communication and empowerment for people with disabilities. Her work in developing sensory-friendly environments and innovative technologies has opened doors for individuals with autism and other disabilities, providing them with greater access to education, employment, and social inclusion.
- 22-year-old Lizbeth Chandler recently won a Women in Tech Award as well as Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Award for her budding start-up The Good Robot Company, which helps businesses become more inclusive by detecting and minimizing bias in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems. Chandler has an autism diagnosis and was diagnosed non-verbal until the age of 6, and is driven by the idea that AI can enable Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Read her full article from We Are Tech Women.
- Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (AWN), a nonprofit with the mission to provide community support, and resources for Autistic women, girls, transfeminine and transmasculine nonbinary people, trans people of all genders, Two Spirit people, and all people of marginalized genders or of no gender.
- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN): ASAN offers resources and support for individuals with autism who are interested in pursuing careers in technology and related fields. They provide mentorship, job listings, and guidance throughout the job search process.
In addition to learning more about the amazing community of people on the autism spectrum, consider these calls to action to support people with autism and neurodiverse populations within the tech workforce in general:
- Pass equal pay for workers with disabilities.
- Develop formalized accommodations policies and ensure that employees are not punished for using them.
- Remove ableist language from job descriptions. Instead of using language requiring a specific ability (e.g., speak, lift, walk, etc.) use language that describes the intended action (e.g., communicate, move).
- Train managers on addressing ableism in their management, including learning and attention disabilities
- Embrace Autistic Pride: recognize that autism is a natural part of human diversity, celebrate the unique strengths and abilities of individuals with autism, and challenge negative stereotypes and stigma associated with autism
- Create inclusive environments that accommodate diverse needs
- Advocate for accessible education and employment opportunities
At AnitaB.org, we are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive community where everyone can thrive. Join us in celebrating Autistic Pride Day and advocating for neurodiversity in all aspects of life, and become an AnitaB.org member to experience more diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) focused events, networking, mentorship and more!
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