Seeking Needed ‘Strengths,' Microsoft Focuses on Hiring Workers With Autism

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

June 10 — Microsoft has become the latest technology company to express public willingness to trust the popular perception that people with autism may be good at the kinds of math and engineering skills necessary to succeed in tech fields.

In an April 3 blog post, Mary Ellen Smith, corporate vice president, worldwide operations for the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant, announced “a new pilot program with Specialisterne, focused on hiring people with autism for full-time, Redmond-based Microsoft positions.”

Specialisterne identifies itself on its website as “a socially innovative company where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Employees work as business consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming and data-entry for the public and private sectors.”

Smith noted in her blog post that her own son has autism, and said the program represents Microsoft's commitment to diversity in hiring. She also noted that some people diagnosed with autism “have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”

Microsoft is not the first software developer to see potential advantages in hiring individuals with autism; SAP launched a program to recruit such candidates in May 2013 (32 HRR 1237, 11/24/14).

“Microsoft believes that diversity enriches our performance and products, the communities where we live and work and the lives of our employees,” a spokesperson said in a June 9 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA.

“This program is part of our employee recruitment and retention and career development strategy related to diversity and inclusion. It is intended to help contribute to the recruitment and retention of employees with autism by providing resources to help them onboard into a new role and ultimately increase the percent of employees with disabilities at Microsoft.”

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