$2 Million Donation for Neurodiversity Aims to Create Opportunities in the Workplace

By Thomas Price Sunday, October 4, 2020

Of the many different areas of inclusion in the workforce that are overlooked, perhaps one of the biggest places for greater improvement comes from the area of neurodiversity. Despite the fact that the majority of those who are neurodivergent do, in fact, desire to have a full-time job, only a very small percentage of them actually do. While this is a clear gap within the workforce that has yet to be fully addressed, there have been clear efforts from organizations and philanthropists to help even out this gap in employment for the neurodivergent. This effort has most recently been headlined by Lisa Yang and the nonprofit consultancy, Neurodiversity in the Workforce.

Current State of Neurodiversity Employment

As it stands right now, the neurodivergent are severely underrepresented in the workplace. 10% of the world’s population is currently neurodivergent, yet their presence in work settings is very low. Of those on the autism spectrum, 73%, almost three quarters, want to be working full-time jobs. Despite this fact, in the United Kingdom, only 16% of adults with autism have achieved any kind of full-time work. In the United States, only 58% of individuals with autism have gained part-time or full-time work.

When expanding this field to all individuals with learning disabilities, the likelihood of gaining paid employment over the course of their lives is at a paltry 6%. The unemployment rate for those on the autism spectrum is three times higher than those with a disability and an astounding eight times higher than those without a disability. In a similar vein, adults with Tourette’s Syndrome will experience higher unemployment than those without it. Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) will also experience higher unemployment and are 60% more likely to lose their job than those who do not have ADHD. In spite of these higher numbers, it could be extremely beneficial to lower the unemployment rate of the neurodivergent. In Australia, it is estimated that every 100 neurodivergent individuals who gain employment through the Dandelion Program — another organization focusing on employment for the neurodivergent — could save the government over $16 million in tax gains, reduction in welfare costs, and savings in unemployment services costs.

Lisa Yang and Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Due to the levels of discrepancy in employment for those who are neurodivergent, individuals and organizations have been trying to take action to change this front. The most recent of which comes in the form of a $2 million endowment from Lisa Yang to the nonprofit consultancy, Neurodiversity in the Workplace. Lisa Yang has been partnered with Neurodiversity in the Workplace for several years and has been instrumental in raising awareness and creating solutions for the neurodivergent outside of the organization as well. Lisa Yang is personally responsible for the creation and founding of five different organizations at the academic and professional level dealing with autism and neuroscience, including ones at Cornell, MIT, and Harvard.

As for Neurodiversity in the Workforce, the main goal of the organization is to partner with different businesses and provide them with a framework as well as support in hiring and seeking out autistic and neurodivergent employees who could be beneficial to the company. The process includes identifying the fields of work neurodivergent workers can thrive in, providing readiness training, providing services for integration on the company side, and having help in the form of consultants, training providers, and employment agents. Neurodiversity in the Workforce has already seen quality results for those using their programs as well. The organization has already recruited over 1,200 different candidates, placed 160 of them into full time positions, and have maintained a 96% retention rate over five years. Of the notable partners already in direct use of Neurodiversity in the Workforce’s services include Dell Technologies and SAP Software Solutions. While the organization is still small, the results up to this point have remained extremely positive. Due to the organization’s size, the $2 million endowment will have extremely beneficial effects. It would be able to allow Neurodiversity in the Workplace to expand the number of candidates, partner with more businesses, and create more comprehensive training on both sides of the equation.

Final Conclusions

Neurodiversity is still a major hurdle for the business world to overcome. Neurodivergent individuals are still wildly underemployed and receive a more difficult path to change that. However, there are clearly positive signs pointing toward the future. With the help of philanthropists like Lisa Yang as well as organizations like Neurodiversity in the Workplace, the path toward creating higher employment in the neurodivergent community is getting slightly easier. Especially when considering the placement fields of the organization, there is help to better utilize the skills that their neurodivergent candidates already have at their disposal. The employment process is antiquated in many ways, but bridging that gap by partnering with nonprofits has already led to new jobs.

About the Author


Headshot of Thomas Price

Tom Price is a writer focusing on Entertainment and Sports Features. He has a degree from NYU in English with a minor in Creative Writing. He has been previously published for Washington Square News, Dignitas, CBR, and Numbers on the Boards.

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