Microsoft's Commitment to "Impact Sourcing"

In May 2017, Autism Speaks was proud to partner with Microsoft at its annual Microsoft Supplier Program (MSP) Summit in Redmond, Washington. Beyond Microsoft’s exciting direct Autism Hiring Program, the summit presented an opportunity to promote the employment of people with autism and other neurological differences to a much larger audience – the tens of thousands of members of Microsoft’s global supply chain.

Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services at Autism Speaks, served on Microsoft’s Coalition for Disability Inclusion (CDI) Advisory Committee along with representatives from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), the Employer Assistance Resource Network on Disabilty Inclusion (EARN), the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and others. A key portion of the summit focused on the business case for disability inclusion and was entitled The Infinite Perspective – Untapped Talent Conference.

As a featured part of the conference, Kearon introduced the topic of autism in the workplace and detailed the common strengths shared by many adults on the spectrum, followed by some brief success stories of businesses that have benefitted from employing people with autism. He then facilitated a discussion between Randy Lewis, former Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics at Walgreens and the author of No Greatness Without Goodness, and Paulette Penzvalto, a woman with autism who is also a Program Manager in Corporate Engineering at Google. Lewis and Penzvalto shared their respective personal experiences including some challenges facing both job seekers with autism and the business world, as well as strategies for how businesses can better support and capitalize on the unique talents of the underutilized autistic workforce. Several hundred Microsoft suppliers attended the session in person, and thousands more tuned in remotely.

The conference was also accompanied by the release of the Autism Empowerment Kit, produced by Karen Streeby of Microsoft. Autism Speaks and others served as advisors and sponsors of the tool kit, which “provides employers with guidance, recommendations and resources for providing support and workplace accommodations to empower autistic employees throughout their employment lifecycle – from recruitment to training and career development.” The kit is available for free download thanks to the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), a forum of the world’s leading companies committed to incorporate and scale impact sourcing as a business strategy. Members of the coalition, including Microsoft, advocate for inclusive employment practices and are committed to providing skills training and career advancement opportunities for individuals around the world who previously had limited employment prospects. Download the Autism Empowerment Kit here.

Autism Speaks thanks Tim Hopper, Microsoft’s Manager of Responsible Sourcing Initiatives, for his team’s commitment to increasing neurodiversity and autism employment, and for Microsoft’s wider commitment to impact sourcing and disability inclusion. As Hopper says, "For Microsoft, impact sourcing is about knocking down artificial barriers to employment and allowing high-potential individuals to bring their strengths to the marketplace. By partnering with our suppliers, we can bring people in who would not otherwise have an opportunity and support their success in the workplace."