Autism Forward and our corporate partner Credit Suisse are delighted to join Women in Data for the first time this year to harness the collective power of Women in Data to establish neurodiversity firmly within the broader diversity agenda and inspire more employers to recognise the value of a neurodiverse workforce where difference is celebrated and groupthink is challenged.
Jane is one of the founders and trustees of Autism Forward which launched in 2018 with the aim of improving employment opportunities for autistic people. It has long been recognised that unemployment rate for autistic people is unacceptably high, but there is still little support available to help them navigate the transition into work. Most employers are also unaware of the adjustments to recruitment process and workplaces that would enable more neurodivergent people to access employment and progress in their careers.
Having witnessed family members and colleagues struggle with the challenges that autistic people face accessing employment, Jane and fellow trustees, Ann Leverett and Elif Gokcen, set up Autism Forward to tackle these issues. Autism Forward funds specialist mentoring support to help autistic job seekers find work in their chosen field. Over 80% of the people we supported last year are now in paid or voluntary employment across a broad range of sectors including data, financial services, tech, accountancy, retail and the creative industries.
Autism Forward works with corporate partners such as Credit Suisse, our sponsor for WiD UK, to improve employment opportunities and inclusion for autistic people. Jane is a former City lawyer uses her network of contacts to bring together a wide range of employers, autistic employees and professionals to discuss initiatives such as Credit Suisse’s highly successful internship programme for autistic candidates. By sharing best practice in this area, our corporate partners can drive change forward faster and more effectively.
As well as co-ordinating our fundraising, administration and corporate supporters, Jane analyses the feedback and reports on the progress of our beneficiaries and works with autistic colleagues to inform and develop neurodiversity policy for employers to ensure that the talents of autistic people are no longer overlooked.
Autism Forward is forecasting continued growth in the data landscape that presents new opportunities for businesses and individuals. As we see the democratisation of data, companies are changing in their approach to problem solving, hiring strategy, and the diversity of their organisations. We can definitely see supply not meeting demand already – luckily there is a rich talent pool of autistic individuals who with minimal adjustments can not only bridge that gap but excel in these roles.
One case study performed at our corporate partners Credit Suisse in London looked to prove that neurodiversity in your workforce drives new ideas, new perspectives and better teamwork. Having a clear focus on how teams use data and support one another in those aspects is heightened when you have to consider how to communicate in a neurodiverse environment. The data landscape in these firms grows faster and with wider support.
Autism Forward and our corporate partners believe that incorporating neurodivergent people as part of our workforce, combined with a data led strategy, will improve performance as a business and deliver a better service to their clients.
Autism Forward is a registered charity which launched in 2018 to improve employment opportunities for autistic people by funding specialist mentoring support to help them find work in their chosen field and fulfil their potential in life. Autism Forward also works with corporate partners including Credit Suisse, our sponsor for WiD, to develop workplaces where neurodivergent people can thrive and different ways of thinking are valued.