By Raza Nowrozy
Being employed or getting hired for a job is a fundamental factor in the life of all individuals, including autistic people. There are many indications that hiring opportunities for people on the autism spectrum are growing. However, the employment rate of autistic people remains low. As estimated by the National Autistic Society, only 32% of autistic adults have paid jobs – which is very low compared to the employment rate of those with other disabilities of 47%, and 80% for non-disabled individuals. Hence there is an unemployment crisis for autistic people (Romualdez et al., 2021). The factors linked to this low job attainment include workplace difficulties, often in social communication with coworkers. Research has shown that colleagues’ knowledge and attitudes towards individuals with autism really help in assimilating these people into day to day working culture (Waisman-Nitzan, Schreuer and Gal, 2020). Sometimes such individuals do not disclose their autism to their colleagues and employers due to the anxiety of discrimination. But studies have also found that employers are three times more likely to retain those people who disclosed their autism compared to those who did not disclose.
Until now, the majority of jobs created for autistic people have been more technical and related to the information and communication technology (Karin van den Bosch et al., no date). Below are some examples which demonstrate the involvement of autistic individuals in work related to cyber security and communication technology.
In a recent study involving c.3,000 CIOs, 65% indicated their organizations was not capable of adequately advancing in areas such as cyber security and data science because of inadequate talent (Carrero, Krzeminska and Härtel, 2019). Research and evidence also recommends that mildly autistic people exhibit an outstanding combination of capabilities which are in strong market demand – including in the areas of cyber security, software engineering / testing and data analytics.
Some other researchers conducted a study related to phishing detection (Neupane et al., 2018). The two study groups; autistic and non-autistic were assigned a task to differentiate the actual versions of some specified websites from their lookalike copies. The results indicated that the autistic group was not susceptible to phishing attempts. This is because of the heightened abilities of autistic people for pattern recognition, information analysis / processing, keen eye for detail, strong memory of fact-based data and diverse critical thinking.
Another researcher presented a solution for improving cyber security resourcing globally by involving autistic graduates in active monitoring of networks and data flows (Patel Founder, no date). However, few companies across the globe have adopted this concept and are instead hiring autistic people for onsite software testing. In Belgium, Passwerk is a social enterprise which has applied this idea and is achieving good business outcomes, tributes and awards. There are many different software testing and cyber security firms which offer an improved technical and societal work environment for autistic workers as part of a diverse team. Now at the global level, governments are changing employment regulations to achieve unbiased hiring of individuals with disabilities and establishing employment quotas.
Precise knowledge and insights of autism should be encouraged by spreading factual information through news media. Spreading positive success stories about autistic employees as role models must also be shared among organizations and communities to overcome the stigma surrounding autistic people in workplaces.
Carrero, J., Krzeminska, A. and Härtel, C. E. J. (2019) “The DXC technology work experience program: Disability-inclusive recruitment and selection in action,” Journal of Management and Organization, 25(4), pp. 535–542. doi: 10.1017/jmo.2019.23.
Karin van den Bosch, N. E. et al. (2018) “Nothing about us, without us: A case study of a consumer-run organization by and for people on the autism spectrum in the Netherlands”, Journal of Management & Organisation, Cambridge University Press
Neupane, A. et al. (2018) “Do social disorders facilitate social engineering? A case study of autism and phishing attacks,” in ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. Association for Computing Machinery, pp. 467–477. doi: 10.1145/3274694.3274730.
Patel, V. (2012) “A practical solution to improve cyber security on a global scale A world first technical socio-ethical approach to cyber security”
Romualdez, A. M. et al. (2021) “‘People Might Understand Me Better’: Diagnostic Disclosure Experiences of Autistic Individuals in the Workplace,” Autism in Adulthood, 3(2), pp. 157–167. doi: 10.1089/aut.2020.0063.
Waisman-Nitzan, M., Schreuer, N. and Gal, E. (2020) “Person, environment, and occupation characteristics: What predicts work performance of employees with autism?,” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 78. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2020.101643.