Maybe Gen Z will lead the way to a neurodiverse workforce
We cannot erase stigmas surrounding any historically-excluded groups without first acknowledging their existence.
The past 15 months have been an interesting one for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
We use the word ‘interesting’ because we’re trying to be neutral — and we’re trying to be neutral because as time marches on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the widespread diversity efforts that sprung up in the public and private sector and all through college campuses have done little to address and correct the systemic barriers that uphold the current status quo.
Is it all a wash? It’s too early to tell. But here’s a positive: Younger generations are paying close attention to the state of the world and – judging by the results of a recent survey – may be the ones to create lasting change as they gain a greater share of the workforce.
According to the survey, conducted last month by the networking platform Tallo, Gen Z (adults born after 1996) value racial diversity and neurodiversity in the workforce.
Of the 1,400 people surveyed, 99 per cent said workplace DEI is important to them. Only 38 per cent of the respondents said they consider the average U.S. workplace to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Making accommodations for workers, especially individuals identifying as neurodivergent, was another key factor identified in the survey. Nearly 20 per cent of the participants said they did not apply for a job because the company had a weak track record when it came to supporting this population segment, and 80 per cent said they’d be more likely to apply for a job at a company that made space for the neurodivergent workforce.
‘Neurodiversity’ is an umbrella term encompassing neurological differences. ADHD, the Autistic spectrum, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and Tourette’s syndrome are some examples of these differences.
“Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome,” John Elder Robison, a scholar in residence and a co-chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William & Mary who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 40, wrote in 2013.
“Indeed, many individuals who embrace the concept of neurodiversity believe that people with differences do not need to be cured; they need help and accommodation instead.”
Thanks to improvements in diagnoses, many individuals have become aware of their neurodiversity later in life. It’s believed as many as one in eight people may be neurodiverse, and some people who are may be unaware.
The growing support for a neurodiverse workplace, led by Gen Z, may help shed negative stereotypes and connotations. Businesses are beginning to realize that neurodiversity offers a competitive advantage – but in order to tap into this largely underutilized talent pool, employers will have re-think recruitment and retention strategies.
“Not only is it difficult for neurodiverse people to get employment, but it’s even tougher for us to keep gainful employment because we think differently and therefore behave outside what most people might think of as ‘usual’,” Rick Rowley, a neurodiversity advocate, told the NZ Herald.
Businesses can begin to bridge this gap by creating welcoming spaces for different working styles, personality types, and abilities.
When discussing intersectionality, it is important to keep neurodiversity in mind. We cannot erase stigmas surrounding any historically-excluded groups without first acknowledging their existence.