By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon
The social impact nonprofit and lifelong guide for those with learning and thinking differences, Understood, released insights from a new study called the “Employee DEI Experience Study.”
Their findings suggest that while the commitments American employers made to increase workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) seem to be resonating, with 85 percent of employees stating their employer is inclusive and embraces employees as their true selves, there is room to grow when it comes supporting neurodiversity.
According to the study, 64 percent of American employees feel their place of work values diversity and shows it in their actions, but less than half of employees (47 percent) saw neurodiversity as something that was supported by their organizations. In comparison, among the 64 percent of employees who say their employer values diversity:
- White employees (68 percent) are more likely than Black employees (53 percent) to feel their employer values diversity and shows it in their actions.
- 65 percent say their employers show it by supporting and/or empowering women.
- 55 percent say their employers show it by supporting and/or empowering individuals with physical disabilities.
- 50 percent say their employers show it by supporting and/or empowering the LGBTQ+ community.
The study also dissected how companies are setting up employees to thrive in the workplace, unveiling that 28 percent of employees say they have struggled with not having the right office set up, technology or tools (accommodations) needed to do their job properly.
54 percent of respondents in the “Employee DEI Experience Study” said they have asked an employer for an accommodation to help them do their job better; however, there is still work that companies must do to make sure all employees feel empowered and supported, as:
- Employed men (54 percent) are significantly more likely than employed women (37 percent) to have asked for an accommodation that was granted.
- Hispanic and Black employees (15 percent each) are significantly more likely to have asked for an accommodation that was denied versus white employees (8 percent).
What do these study findings tell us? While companies have made notable strides to increase their DEI efforts, they are falling short in considering the one in five employees in the U.S. who have a learning or thinking difference.
To help combat this disparity, organizations should seek additional knowledge and relevant DEI training. For example, due to their study findings, Understood unveiled a comprehensive (DEI) program that includes on-demand and virtual live, disability-inclusion training, as well as workplace assessment and action plan services for employers invested in building inclusive workplaces.
The fact remains that not everyone experiences the workplace in the same way. People with disabilities are continuously left out of recruiting and hiring efforts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2021 unemployment rate for people with disabilities was twice that of people without. A key reason for this may be that 61 percent of managers and 51 percent of HR professionals have never participated in disability and inclusion training, according to Understood and Society for Human Resource Management’s Employing Abilities @Work Report. Meanwhile, the same study showed that less than 15 percent of organizations invest in disability inclusion initiatives at work.
As companies focus on improving their rhetoric and actions around neurodiversity, workplace programs like this are imperative and should be considered relevant to all levels and functions of an organization. By breaking down stigma and misconceptions, educating staff and enhancing the capabilities to implement disability inclusion, employers can support and enhance their company’s commitment to making workplaces more equitable, supportive and productive for all.