Recently, I had a really interesting conversation with Jim Hogan, an author, fellow diversity professional, and self-described autism activist, and my ATR colleagues Laura Curtin (VP of Sales) and Patrick Barnsley (Client Account Executive). Our conversation with Jim happened when he accepted Laura’s invitation to be part of one of our first podcast episodes. Yes! ATR does podcasts now. There will be more information about that soon, but our conversation with Jim was so interesting that I couldn’t wait for the official launch to share it!
I encourage you to watch the full interview. The emotion, honesty, and graciousness with which Jim shares his experiences convey both the human and business cost of ignoring the issues surrounding inclusion and equity in the workplace—especially the human. He thoughtfully uses his own experience to educate and provide advice and practical actions we can all implement to make a difference. Beyond that, Jim shares his personal journey from being bullied and marginalized to becoming an activist and champion for himself and others. It’s truly an inspirational story and we are so grateful that he accepted our invitation to share it with us.
Again, watching is best, but I will do what I can to summarize a couple of key points that really made an impression on me:
- How Language Matters – A True Story: DE&I best practices recommend reviewing job descriptions, application portals, HR documents, and other text to remove biased language. It’s easy to be unsure what this means, what to fix, or even why this is important enough to command scarce resources and budget. Jim gives an excellent real-life example of this when he discusses the difference between the phrases “autistic person” or “person who is autistic,” versus “person with autism.” He explains the connotation with sickness—of catching a disease—that using the word “with” implies. His example that we do not say “a person with female” but we do say “a person with cancer” was a proverbial light bulb moment for all of us on the podcast. It just so clearly demonstrated how words matter and can create and reinforce bias and exclusion. (You can hear it at about minute 13:00 of the recording.)
- How to Support an Autistic Person: Jim gives some great advice specific to supporting autistic people in the workplace, and in doing so, reminds us that it holds true across the board. In order to create a welcoming environment conducive to success, we need to recognize where bias and discrimination exist, consciously or unconsciously, and take steps to eliminate them. Jim gives the example of the standard expectation that when a person doesn’t make the right amount of eye contact, it’s a sign they are dishonest and untrustworthy. This idea wreaks havoc during the interview process for an autistic person and usually results in negative comments, a bad recommendation and, too often, good candidates being rejected. Jim suggests addressing this by retraining interviewers to recognize the bias, but also changing the process to eliminate any requirement for feedback based on body language or facial expressions, instead focusing on things that indicate a real ability to do the job.
We also discuss the difference between inclusion and true belonging, the important role of ERGs, the power of allyship, what “nothing about us without us” means, the importance of sharing to educate, Jim’s book, and so. much. more. Please listen to the whole interview because I cannot possibly do it justice in this space!
That’s why we’re launching our podcast: because hearing other people’s stories in their own voice is incredibly powerful. We want to be part of that.
Listening to Jim tell his story—about activism, allyship, and wanting to educate and help others—was an inspiration and a reminder of why I love the work I do for a company that is similarly committed. Thank you so much to my colleagues Laura (who met Jim first and extended the invitation) and Patrick for successfully creating our first podcast together and, most importantly, THANK YOU, Jim!
To learn more about Jim Hogan, connect with him on LinkedIn.
Interested in discussing DE&I, or staffing or workplace issues, or something else interesting on our not-yet-but-soon-to-be-official-podcast? Contact me. Want to be notified when the podcast officially launches? Sign up below!