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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Microsoft Launches Pilot Program to Hire People with Autism

From the HuffPost Business Blog

By Jenny Che
April 6, 2015

Microsoft is making big strides in creating an inclusive workplace. 

The company will launch a pilot program in May to hire people with autism for full-time positions at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft expects to kick off the program with 10 candidates, a company spokesperson told The Huffington Post.

“Microsoft is stronger when we expand opportunity and we have a diverse workforce that represents our customers,” Mary Ellen Smith, Microsoft's corporate vice president of worldwide operations, wrote in a company blog post on April 3.

“People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability [sic] to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”

Smith, whose 19-year-old son was diagnosed with autism at age 4, went on to write: "At Microsoft, we encourage all employees to realize their full potential. This belief and the inspiration I get from my son is what drives me personally and why I was honored to speak."

The program is part of a larger movement among companies to bring more individuals with autism into the workforce. It is a collaboration with Specialisterne, a Danish firm that trains and finds employment for people with autism.

Specialisterne worked with German software giant SAP last year to introduce a similar initiative to several of SAP’s North American offices after a successful pilot program in India, Germany and Ireland, the Wall Street Journal reports. SAP hopes to hire around 650 people with autism by 2020, which would represent 1% of its total staff, per WSJ.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The company has been active lately in aiming to create higher labor standards. This new move comes less than two weeks after Microsoft announced it would require its major U.S. contractors to offer employees 15 days of paid leave, an issue that even the White House has been reluctant to pick up.

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