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Experts on Inclusive Employment Urge Corporate America to Increase Neurodiversity in the Workplace

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10.31.17
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Press Release
October 31, 2017

Experts on Inclusive Employment Urge Corporate America to Increase Neurodiversity in the Workplace

San Mateo, CA –  More than 200 people attended Gatepath’s second annual Distinguished Speaker Series to hear a panel of four experts shared their findings on the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, as well as their strategies for accelerating corporate inclusion policies that open more doors to individuals with developmental disabilities.

The conversation, funded by the Peninsula Health Care District and hosted at GoPro corporate headquarters in San Mateo, CA, was moderated by KCBS In-Depth radio host Jane McMillan. The panel included a range of perspectives by four panelists: Jack Hogan, co-founder of Buzz Hero and Autism Advantage, a training and job placement program for individuals with autism; David Kim, Head of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility at Electronic Arts (“EA”); Steve Silberman, award-winning author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity; and Joey Travolta, founder of Inclusion Films -- a teaching studio for aspiring filmmakers with developmental disabilities.

While having different areas of expertise and varied backgrounds, the panelists all share two common goals: to give individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to work, and to shift the unconscious bias that is prevalent in today’s office culture, which limits diversity, to a more open-minded approach to hiring.

EA’s Kim says corporate hiring managers and staff must “change their mindset about working with those who have a disability from not only being accepted, but how all employees can thrive. Companies that recognize and accept and embrace their employees’ differences are more likely to spark innovation and creativity in the workplace.”

Silberman, who gained accolades for his New York Times best-selling book NeuroTribes, popularized the term “neurodiversity,” which means all humans learn differently and are diverse in their abilities, interests, and development, as well as in the ways they process information. Echoing the hiring philosophy of Kim, Silberman says, “there should not be any labels in the hiring process. A workplace thrives when there is a variation of human beings, or neurodiversity.”

While the panelists applauded the many Silicon Valley companies that currently hire individuals with disabilities through partnerships with Gatepath and other organizations like Hogan’s Autism Advantage, they collectively agreed that there was an immediate need for more companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices.

"The time is now to start hiring people on the autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities. There are jobs that need to be filled, and candidates to fill them; companies simply need to widen the hiring funnel and consider this untapped pool of talent,” Hogan said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 18 percent of adults with disabilities in California are employed, even though four out of five want to work. In contrast, the employment rate among those without a disability is more than 65 percent.

“We are fully committed to breaking down the barriers that exist today, so we can increase employment opportunities for people of all abilities,” said Bryan Neider, CEO of Gatepath, a 97-year-old nonprofit that provides job training and placement for adults with disabilities. “We want everyone to have the equal opportunity they deserve and the best chance to succeed.”

Travolta, who operates filmmaking schools and summer camps across the country, says his company is “creating those opportunities” by teaching social skills, life skills, collaboration, and project management through hands-on experience. “It is not only preparing our students for the workforce, but it’s also creating independence and building self-confidence for future success in all aspects of their life.”

In discussing a recent meeting with a Hollywood film studio, Travolta told the audience that he was pitching his film crew for a project and the studio executive asked him why he should hire someone with a disability. Travolta’s response: “Why shouldn’t you?” His message was clear: the industry needs to do better at seeing potential employees for their abilities, and not by labels or a diagnosis.

This is the second Distinguished Speaker Series event generously funded by the Peninsula Health Care District. “It is extremely rewarding to watch individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities in our community flourish and reach for their dreams,” said Cheryl Fama, CEO, Peninsula Health Care District. “We are delighted to be able to support Gatepath in raising awareness and promoting healthy communities that accept, respect and include individuals of all abilities.”

The timing of this event coincided with October’s National Employment Disability Awareness month, which is meant to raise awareness about the value of hiring those with disabilities.

To learn more about becoming an employment partner with Gatepath, please click here.

 

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ABOUT GATEPATH

Gatepath has been a cornerstone of our community for more than 97 years, providing support services to individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Our mission is to empower people with special needs to achieve their full potential through innovative, inclusive programs and community partnerships. With educational, therapeutic, vocational, and family support services, we provide support to an individual throughout his or her lifetime. We collaborate with businesses, third-party providers, local nonprofits, and various other organizations to bring the highest quality services to the children, youth, and adults in our programs. Together, we are creating a world where people of all abilities are fully accepted, respected, and included in all aspects of life – in the classroom, in the workplace, and in our communities.

 

For more information, visit Gatepath.org. Our local online resource center is available at Smcfrc.org, where families can connect to invaluable resources and support services.

 

ABOUT THE PENINSULA HEALTH CARE DISTRICT:

Founded in 1947, the Peninsula Health Care District serves the communities of San Bruno, Millbrae, Burlingame, Hillsborough, San Mateo and Foster City by supporting the unique health and wellness priorities of our vibrant Peninsula communities, and safeguarding access to health care services, today and in the future. PHCD fulfills its commitment to the community through oversight of District assets and infrastructure, planning for future health care needs, and investing taxpayer dollars in local health-focused organizations and programs.

Contact:  Julia Ballantyne, Gatepath
Cell: 916-390-4671
jballantyne@gatepath.org

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